When temperatures soar to 110 or higher, there is no substitute for air conditioning.

But there could be an improvement on the old standby.

A Sacramento company has taken the technology used to cool movie theaters and grocery stores and created a residential air conditioner that cools better at higher temperatures and will cut utility bills.

The technology is called AquaChill, and it uses water instead of air to cool its refrigerant coils. Water absorbs heat more efficiently than air, resulting in energy savings of 25-40 percent, according to an owner’s manual.

But don’t just take the manufacturer, Villara's, word on its energy efficiency.

Based on the technology's energy effiency, SMUD offers a $1,100 rebate for the purchase of an AquaChill unit, and PG&E is buying them outright for its customers (who must pay for installation).

When AquaChill first hit the market a few years ago, SMUD launched a $2,000 rebate program, but the technology was slow to take off, said Jim Mills, program manager for home performance and equipment efficiency for the residential sector at SMUD.

Some were hesitant to switch to an AquaChill unit because it uses water, and during the drought, this was perceived as undesirable. While it uses water, it isn’t like a swamp cooler. The water stays contained in the unit, and does not create moisture or humidity in the house.

Only a small amount of water is used, said Mary Almas, marketing director for Villara Building Systems, manufacturer of AquaChill, adding the technology saves water that is used in electricity generation.

Lincoln resident Jim McCormack is a satisfied customer

When it came time to replace one of his two central air units two years ago, the PG&E offer was appealing.

He was willing to take a chance on the first one because the price was right – and the first one worked so well, when it was time to replace the second unit it was a no-brainer.

The PG&E program is helping to overcome reluctance to embrace new technology, said Duane Knickerbocker, part-owner of Brower Mechanical, one of three contractors in Sacramento certified to install AquaChill condensers through the PG&E program.

The reason energy efficient air conditioners are important, both to energy providers and society at large, is because they are among the biggest energy users, making the hottest days of the year the peak time for energy consumption. During peak times, utility providers rely on reserve plants that can cost up to 10 times for the same amount of electricity during non-peak times, according to a 2004 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.