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Energy Cool possibilities at EcoBuild 2011

December 8th, 2011 · No Comments

 Trade show spaces often have interesting surprises and value at conferences. Currently on through tomorrow in Washington, DC, EcoBuild America‘s trade show has been the source of intriguing leads and items every time I’ve visited. (Note, I was told that this is free to visit if all you wish to do is go to the trade floor space in the DC Convention Center.) Ecobuild’s trade space is often of value because the conference attendees are truly knowledgeable about issues related to building energy eficiency, design, and think in systems-of-systems terms often going beyond individual buildings to understand how campuses and communities work together. The people at the company booths are often senior with real technical knowledge. Thus, more than once, the truly interesting learning has been listening in or participating in conversations between attendees and a company’s technical director (or CEO or …) delving into a product’s implications, limitations, opportunities …

Here are several of the Energy COOL items / technologies / companies that I first encountered at this trade show floor which I hope to explore further in the coming weeks:

Climate Wizard is an Australian company claiming to have a path forward for a radical shift in the energy efficiency of air conditioning which, if you are not aware, is a substantial load (roughly five percent of total demand) on the electric grid (and, in fact, is even more important than the straight electricity demand suggests since cooling loads often drive peak power and thus drive building of additional grid capacity). Take a look at the image to the left. Recognizing that this is company’s measurement system at a trade show, that EER figure of 42.1 is simply, well, astounding. This is significantly higher than any air conditioning system that I am aware of on the commercial market (or, well, anywhere near Climate Wizard at EcoBuild 2011 42.1 EER Compare this with the U.S. government’s recommendation:

Look for a thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation when the weather is at its hottest

The Climate Wizard is an “indirect evaporative cooler” which actually, according to the company, increases in efficiency with temperature increases.

According to conversations yesterday, while this is currently available only for large (commercial size) units the developing household unit should be priced in the range of current energy star air conditioners. With a reduction of energy use in the range of 70 percent even from energy star units for the same capital expenditure, Climate Wizard could create a radical shift in the opportunity to cool more efficiently even as Global Warming drives continued increased demand for air conditioning.

Kelix Heat Transfer Systems: The Kelix team has engineered a tube structure for geothermal systems that forces the fluid in the system to have greater interaction with the exterior of the pipe and, therefore, increases the thermal transfer for the same volume of fluid. This translates into, roughly, a 50 percent reduction in the number of bore holes required to support a geothermal system which has numerous advantages: reduced capital costs (drilling can be the majority of cost for a geothermal system) and reduced footprint (allowing facilities and homes with less open land to look to geothermal). E.g., lower cost install (that challenge of high up front cost for these long-term payoff systems) and smaller footprint leads to increased opportunities for installing the systems. Kelix’s business model is to partner with relatively few installers to help assure that they can provide training and maintain quality control to foster higher efficiency overall systems.  (Kelix’s CEO, Eric Wiklendt, seems to be a very knowledgeable straight-shooter and I look forward to a chance for future conversations with him.  Part of our conversation, for example, was ‘how many square feet per ton …’ and he essentially refused to answer with a strong explanation of why ‘this depends’. We also discussed the reality that HVAC loads vary greatly and that has a great impact on geothermal design. A home might be roughly balanced between heating and cooling while a hospital might require 27 times as much cooling as heating.) From Camp Pendleton in California to a GSA building in the middle of DC, Kelix systems are being installed and could help foster a growth in this path toward greater efficiency and lower total ownership costs for heating and cooling buildings.

Dryvit is a system to clad exterior walls with rigid insulation for insulation and a coating to match the look desired by the building owner (or, well, the home association rules).  For retrofits of existing and homes and buildings, this looks to be a cost-effective path to address air leakage issues and insulation shortfalls with a quality (to choice) exterior look.  Dryvit’s “outsulation” system is in (actually, around) some 400,000 buildings worldwide with a claimed average heating / cooling energy savings of above 20 percent.

Matrix Lighting (note: as of this moment, the website looks to be down) has developed a range of LED lights to cover the spectrum from replacing traditional screw-in bulbs, halogen spotlights, and incadescent tubes. In each, purchasers have the option of warm, cool, or daylight versions providing the path for purchasers to better match lighting quality against their preferences.  While Matrix is part of the overall effort to drive prices down (targeting in the range of $10 on the shelf), more efficient lighting faces a very serious cost-to-buy vs cost-to-own challenge as, according to conversations yesterday, something like 70+ percent of home light bulb purchases are at grocery and convenience stores rather than a thought through purchase decision. Having a $10 bulb sitting next to a $0.50 cent bulb when someone is there, mainly, to buy a gallon of milk should suggest how serious an obstacle this represents.

Intus Windows These are extremely high-efficient windows that meet Passiv Haus standards (note that the other half of Intus is PassivHaus consulting).  The claim: R values of 7 to 9 (short of the recommended R-13 value for wall insulation recommended in my area but, well, light years ahead of what I’m looking through right now — double glazed windows might have a R2 or R3 equivalency).  Another claim of note:  that their prices are competitive with anyone who is purchasing a reasonable quality (as opposed to builders’ grade) window with significant higher R values and (at least as a human, rather than measurement device can tell) essentially eliminating air leakage.  Without realizing it, I’d seen the Intus Windows before as they are used in one of the most cost-effective Solar Decathlon projects, the Empowerhouse, which is being integrated into a DC community.

Of course, Ecobuild is really about thinking through systems and systems integration.  Imagine …

  • A building built at lower cost due to using Dryvit Outsulation with
  • Intus windows maintaing high-insulation values and low air leading even in window space with
  • Matrix LED lighting reducing lighting energy demand (okay, already reduced due to daylighting design) with
  • Kelix Geothermal enabling lower cost geothermal systems to cover all the heating requirements, some of the hot water requirements, and a share of the air conditioning with
  • Climate Wizard handling a substantial share of the air conditioning load (addressing imbalance between a building’s heating and cooling loads).

Hmmm … those numbers would be interesting to run in terms of initial capital costs compared to ‘traditional’ building, energy demand (costs), and maintenance.  I suspect that these would combine to provide a more attractive, comfortable, and cost effective facility.

And, for anyone making their way to EcoBuild, make sure to take some time outside the exhibit hall to contemplate the traveling exhibition: Smarter Living: The 2,000 Watt Society.

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Tags: building green · eco-friendly · Energy · energy cool · energy efficiency