With a fairly simple and clever idea, Radiator Lab, a team which comprises of students from Columbia University, has won the MIT Clean Energy Prize of $200,000 with their controllable box that can be attached to radiators to increase the effectiveness of steam heating systems and hot water. A heavily padded box covers the radiator which in turn traps heat in the system and controls the amount of heat that is let into a room. This prevents houses from becoming over heated while the wasted heat which isn’t radiated into a room stays in the system.
A fan is used to control the heat transfer. The radiators are installed with valves which can be lowered down or completely turned off, if and when heating is not necessary. It can be said that Radiator Lab’s system is a boon – provided individuals turn down their radiators or thermostats when temperature in the room becomes a tad too high instead of opening their windows.
The team’s technology can also be used in other systems that do not come along with valves as well as older systems whose constant adjustment of valves could possibly lead to damaging the system. Even senior citizens who would find operating radiator valves challenging may find the technology easier to operate.
Judging by the schematics, it seems Radiator Lab has plans to introduce the technology to apartment blocks. If you have a heating system that’s controlled by a thermostat, Radiator Lab’s controllable box may be capable of bringing down utility bills by breaking down the system into zones which prevents excess heat in rooms that are rarely used.
Since the technology was founded by Columbia University students, the first tests on the system were conducted at the university itself during the 2011-2012 heating season. The team is now preparing itself for a large scale scheme for the 2012-2013 season.