Free cooling is an economical method of using low external air temperatures to assist in chilling water, which can then be used for industrial processes, or air conditioning systems. The chilled water can either be used immediately or be stored for the short- or long-term. When outdoor temperatures are lower relative to indoor temperatures, this system utilizes the cool outdoor air as a free cooling source. In this manner, the system replaces the chiller in traditional air conditioning systems while achieving the same cooling result. Such systems can be made for single buildings or district cooling networks.
The basic concept behind air conditioning is said to have been applied in ancient Egypt, where reeds were hung in windows and were moistened with trickling water. The evaporation of water cooled the air blowing through the window. This process also made the air more humid, which can be beneficial in a dry desert climate. Other techniques in medieval Persiainvolved the use of cisterns and wind towers to cool buildings during the hot season.