Heat Pumps, Star Wars, & Death Star HVAC
If Star Wars were real, the Death Star would have been an amazing engineering feat. It’s a man-made moon for crying out loud! However, from an HVAC perspective, properly heating and cooling the thing would have been a daunting prospect. Would our modern HVAC technology be up to that challenge. And, if so, what system(s) would work best? I’ve got my own ideas, so let’s talk Death Star HVAC.
Death Star HVAC – Definitely Mostly Made Up Science Speculation
How did we get here?
Star Wars movies are a big deal and the Internet is all abuzz. Which got me thinking about Star Wars. You’ve got princesses and space ships and laser swords and, of course, the Death Star. Being an HVAC guy, I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone would manage air quality and comfort for something that dang big. Any installation would have to overcome a couple of major difficulties to say the very least.
Now, let’s start with a few caveats. The Empire must have the technology to create artificial atmosphere to make something like the Death Star work in the first place. They also generated their own gravity, since we don’t see people floating around like drunken cosmonauts. These are good things for us, since both mean a relatively mundane HVAC unit can operate on the Death Star without a lot of hassle.
That being the case, I am going to argue an energy efficient heat pump, MrCool brand or otherwise, would be the best way for the Empire to condition Death Star air.
Death Star HVAC for a Million of the Empire’s Finest
The Internet informs me that there were a few million Imperial servicemen on the Death Star. That’s a lot. While I’m sure the evil Emperor was not too worried about creature comforts, all those troopers have to stay at least sort of alive.
Why would heat pumps be exactly what the Empire was looking for when it came to comfort for those guys and gals?
An energy efficient heat pump can heat, cool, and dehumidify. The latter is just as important as the former two for Death Star HVAC, because a few million people breathe out a lot of water vapor every single day. Our own atmosphere deals with that easily, but the Death Star doesn’t have a natural atmospheric cycle. Artificial systems would be required to manage the problem. Heat pumps could dehumidify as they conditioned the air, and combining solutions like that is always a good way to simplify.
Size Matters and Causes Problems
The Death Star is a space station in the same way that a toy car is an automobile – only technically. It’s more accurate to say that the Death Star is an artificial planet. Unless you’re using space magic, the Death Star would not, could not, have had a centralized heat pump system. It would be impossible to build an HVAC system big enough to push conditioned air through a space roughly the size of our moon. The engineers wouldn’t even try.
Nor would they need to do so. Large portions of the Death Star must have been unmanned, mechanical spaces. Those you wouldn’t have to worry about so much. From a designer’s perspective, you really only need to heat and cool the places where all those aforementioned people are going to be living and working.
Which still ain’t easy.
Since you can’t build an HVAC system large enough for the entire station, your obvious solution is to use multiple, smaller-scale systems. We know from practical experience than energy efficient heat pumps work well in exactly those sorts of applications.
How Many Heat Pumps Would You Need?
Short answer: a lot.
Long answer: hundreds of thousands at a minimum. All the interior compartments necessary to house the crew, support staff, and troopers would sprawl over thousands of miles. Even if we ignore those mechanical spaces, we’re still left with city-sized areas requiring human-survivable, conditioned air. As I discussed above, you couldn’t use a single system. Instead, the Empire would install individual heat pumps in the necessary sections. This would mean Death Star HVAC would be a decentralized web as opposed to a single, communicating network.
The ease with which modern heat pumps can be installed would be a real boon to those harried Death Star HVAC technicians working to keep everyone from freezing to death in such a huge system.
But Could a Heat Pump Heat in Space?
A heat pump would not work if forced to interact with the void of space. A heat pump provides heat by drawing it out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Space doesn’t exactly have that, but heat pumps on the Death Star would have an alternate environment with which to work.
The Death Star would have to have an absolutely huge nuclear reactor, maybe a couple, providing power. Why nuclear? Nuclear provides a lot of energy, lasts a long time, and it means you don’t need gigantic fuel tanks which would be a pain to refill. Nuclear radiation also provides heat.
Dangerous, murderous heat, but whatever. It’s not like the Empire cares.
The heat pumps the Empire would use to keep individual compartments hot or cold could work in conjunction with the artificial interior atmosphere kept at a relatively stable temperature by the Death Star’s nuclear reactor heart. Sure, you would have to filter out the radiation in some way, a problem for us on Earth, but the Empire built a giant space station that can move faster than light. I’m fairly certain they can handle a little problem like stopping deadly radiation.
What that radioactive heat means for my theory is you would then have a source for all those compartmentalized heat pumps to draw on. Which means those heat pumps would actually function. Which is important.
Energy Efficiency & Low-Temp Heating
There are reasons other than capability and installation-ease to choose heat pumps for the Death Star.
First, there’s energy efficiency.
Yes, the Death Star has a big reactor, but it’s also got to make sure there’s enough juice to fire the super laser at unruly planets. This means that the subsystems, like HVAC, are going to be optimized for efficiency. Hey, we don’t call them energy efficient heat pumps for nothing! These HVAC systems would cut down on overall power consumption even while they keep things comfortable in Darth Vader’s personal sauna.
Second, low-temp heating.
Air-source heat pumps used to be problematic when it came to providing heat when outside temperatures dropped too low. At first glance you might think this would be a black mark against heat pumps for use in a giant space station with, most likely, fluctuating interior temperature levels. Not so fast! The latest generation of heat pumps like our own MrCool Advantage can keep heating down to -10 degrees below zero. It’s safe to assume Imperial-brand heat pumps could do something similar.
Death Star HVAC Certified Heat Pumps
Are you a REAL Star Wars fan? If so, you owe it to yourself to invest in the only modern HVAC system that could fit the needs of a galaxy-roaming, planet-killing symbol of Imperial power. Heat pumps – they’re just that good.