Radiator Lock Boxes Slash One-Fifth Off Two Buildings’ Heating Costs
Observer, August 4, 2016
The heat of summer can get brutal inside my Crown Heights apartment, but winter is the real scorcher. When there’s snow on the ground, the building-wide steam heat cooks the insides of my first floor digs. This is not unusual for city dwellers in old buildings.
One Brooklyn-based company claims it has a solution for both the discomfort shared by so many apartment-dwellers and the money pouring out landlords’ windows as people like me leave them open when the weather gets cold. That said, we hear from tech companies that claim to be able to deliver dramatic results every day. Results in productivity. Results for teams. Results for your love life. Radiator Labs has brought a new wrinkle to its promises: third party verification.
The hardware startup has built a system called Cozy (not to be confused with Comfy, the A/C demand control system from Building Robotics) which encloses steam radiators in what amount to insulated boxes, then parcels heat out using small fans when the temperature in the room calls for it.
Owners of multi-million dollar assets like apartment buildings want more than intuitive sense, so the company was eager for an opportunity to verify the system works. “Getting to this point, it’s been a long road,” Cox said. “Understandably, real estate is just a very conservative world, and when a kid with a PhD says he can solve a 100 year-old problem, no one believes him.”
Radiator Labs was approved for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Emerging Technologies and Accelerated Commercialization program. This meant that the state committed to subsidizing most of the cost for a limited number of installations in order to prove the technology. Radiator Labs had to sell a landlord on the deal, and that landlord had to agree to let NYSERDA hire an engineering firm to verify the results of the installation. Columbia University agreed to install the company’s system in two of its dormitories, Claremont and Watt, which together house 280 students.
Energy and Resource Solutions released its report in July, which offered a positive if guarded review of the deployment. “At this stage, ERS has found substantial evidence of energy savings through its analyses of the two test buildings,” the report says. “Data has not been collected for a sufficient quantity of buildings to predict the magnitude of savings for other buildings, or to understand the impact of variables such as building or heating system type.”
One building saw a 20 percent reduction in heating costs, and another saw a 24 percent reduction. Net savings to the university worked out to $31,770. According to College Factual, campus housing there runs about $7400 per year, so that shaves the cost of housing four students off the university’s budget.