Kathryn Farrell in Bricks & Bucks
After a second mind- (and toe-, and finger-, and nose- ...)numbingly cold winter, radiators are probably the last thing on New York City residents' minds. And yet while most apartment-dwellers are taking advantage of longer days and warmer temperatures, one company is quietly revolutionizing how we heat our homes.
Meet Marshall Cox. Cox is the CEO and founder of Radiator Labs, a small tech start-up with an eye on solving one of New York's most annoying problems: overheated apartments. It's a common issue without a simple solution, particularly in steam-heated buildings. How can you quickly and easily move heat from overheated apartments to cooler ones?
Cox has first-hand experience with this unfortunate phenomenon. As a PhD student at Columbia University, his apartment was consistently overheated. But unlike most people, who just complain about the situation, he had a background in materials science and put that to good use by inventing a system, later named the Cozy, to tackle the problem.
The device itself is simple. It's made of two parts, an insulated cover and a fan attached to a thermostat. The fan pulls in the cold air from the room, and the air warmed by the radiator seeps out from underneath the cover. (The fan does not expel hot air from under the cover out to the room, as a precaution against overheating the computer element of the thermostat.) Cox explains how the device pushes heat toward cooler rooms: "When the air temperature inside of the Cozy reaches steam temperature, the condensation rate of steam within the radiator approaches zero. Since steam isn't condensing as fast inside that radiator, additional steam can't replace it, so it travels elsewhere in the building, and more efficiently, without the pressure drop that would occur if the condensation rate remained high."
The Cozy forces the cooler rooms to heat faster without wasting energy heating already hot rooms, resulting in the holy grail for green-thinking buildings: reduced energy consumption and costs.
Radiator Labs is currently housed at the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy (NYC ACRE), New York City's leading clean energy incubator. NYC ACRE is one of six clean energy business incubators across New York State sponsored by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). These incubators have helped clean energy and energy efficiency start-ups to raise a combined $163.8 million in private capital since 2009. Radiator Labs has been working with NYSERDA since 2011, and is currently testing Cozy prototypes in several residential buildings owned by Columbia University.
And the results from Columbia's prototype are encouraging. In buildings with the Cozy installed, boiler running-time decreased an average of 26 percent, and heating bills were up to 30 percent lower than in previous years. NYSERDA helped validate Columbia's positive results through its Emerging Technologies and Accelerated Commercialization program.
NYSERDA is particularly interested in Radiator Labs' technology because it offers the opportunity for energy savings in multifamily buildings. Reducing energy consumption in New York is an important part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's comprehensive energy strategy.
But the best part for New York City residents? Alan Wechsler, NYSERDA communications specialist, says: "Based on the positive interim results, the company is currently installing an additional 700 units in five buildings across New York City." Better keep an eye out — this hot new trend may end up at your building next.
Images provided by Marshall Cox
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