Future Energy Savings

Energy is responsible for so much of what powers our daily lives. It’s also a resource in which we are constantly trying to manage more effectively and efficiently to not only conserve those resources to be good stewards, but to save money, as well.

The private sector, along with the United States government, are committed to developing new technologies that use less electricity in order to alleviate environmental concerns, lower costs and stimulate the economy as a whole.  The less money a business spends on their electric bill, the more they can spend on hiring employees and expanding their business.

That’s good for business — and that’s good for America.

When you think of “new energy technologies,” you might think of simply green energy — solar power, wind farms, and the like — but this post is more focused on items and products you might interact with on a daily basis.  How can we wash our clothes and dishes more efficiently?  What about the insulation our homes and businesses use and the thermostats we use to cool them?

Let?s take a closer look at 12 products that may have the greatest impact on the sustainability of energy in our homes and businesses over the next few years:

1. Magnetized Refrigerators

Research and development of new refrigeration technologies has helped to increase residential energy savings. It is estimated that refrigerators sold in the U.S. use about 60% less energy today than they did twenty years ago. While the cost of an energy efficient refrigerator can be more expensive, in the long term, the cost to keep it running is much more cost effective than a less efficient model.

In order for companies to sell refrigerators that are eligible for energy savings, they must meet specific Energy Star program requirements. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the criteria for this program.

As part of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy?s funding program, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and General Electric have teamed up on a magentocaloric refrigeration research and development project. Their goal is to build a residential refrigerator that consumes 25% less energy than the current competition. Instead of using vapor compression, the team is using a technology known as the magnetocaloric effect (MCE). It?s a process where temperature is controlled by a changing magnetic field. This approach eliminates the use of refrigerants, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Developments in Dishwashers

Purchasing an energy efficient dishwasher can reduce an energy bill for a household (provided that the dishwasher is priced no more than $20 above a less efficient product). Similar to energy efficient refrigerators, the government requires that the technology meet Energy Star Program Requirements. This is important because many utilities also provide rebates when an Energy Star qualified dishwater is purchased.

Many new technologies have been developed to improve the way dishwashers use energy. These include, soil sensors that monitor and adjust based on how dirty the dishes are, as well as improved jets that ensure less energy is used.

The latest dishwashing technology comes from Bosch, a German engineering and electronics company. Their team came up with a way to use a mineral called, zeolite to quickly and efficiently dry dishes, while using only 0.83 kWh of electricity! At the moment, the cons might outweigh the pros, as the dishwasher is not yet available in the U.S., and the current price tag certainly isn?t cheap. However, it is clear that emerging technologies will have an impact on the future energy efficiency of this appliance.

3. Heat Pumps

The U.S Building Technologies Office is focused on developing new technologies for heat pump systems. A few recent research and development projects include:

Multi-Function Fuel Fired Heat Pump: Led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the developed product offers HVAC and water heating to homes with between 50-55% in overall energy savings. This new product is a gas engine-driven heat pump. It generates heat, cooling, hot water and emergency electrical power.

Vuilleumer Heat Pump (VHP): ? This heat pump uses natural gas to both cool and heat any space, and also generates hot water. To improve cycle efficiency, the pump was designed with an ultra-low emission combustion burner and heat exchangers. Developed by Thermolift and several partners, this product will not use refrigerants, which reduces energy costs, emits less greenhouse gases, and provides relief to the energy grid.

Heat pumps fall under the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), which require companies to meet particular standards in order to qualify for the Energy Star Program. Heat pumps are also categorized under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable energy as a new, underused technology. This has a significant impact on overall research and development goals for companies who develop these type of products. It is a good indication that even more innovative heat pump technologies will eventually reach and improve the market.

4. Washing and Drying Clothes

When it comes to washing machines, Energy Star program products include several advanced technologies to cut both energy and water consumption by a third. For example, front-loading appliances use less water because they do not fill an entire tub. This translates to reduced energy costs because less water means less energy is used for heating. These energy efficient machines also use a higher spin speed to remove water from clothing, which helps to reduce the length of time those clothes need to spend in the dryer.

Currently, a significant number of clothes dryer brands in the U.S. use electric resistance heaters. This type of technology is not very cost or energy efficient as it uses about 71 TWh per year.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (and partners) are working towards developing a heat pump clothes dryer. This new technology will include a heat pump cycle that utilizes heat input to dry clothes. It will use approximately 60% less energy, and eliminate moisture disposal issues.

5. Lighting for Homes and Businesses

LEDs are slowly changing the way U.S residents light their homes and businesses. At the moment, the best LED bulbs available on the market consume 85% less energy, which generates significant savings, lower cost and minimal maintenance.

Currently, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy is responsible for over a dozen LED research and development projects. These include:

  • Increasing thermal conductivity
  • Cost efficient, highly effective next generation luminaires
  • Ultra-compact warm-white LEDs
  • Seamless integration with systems regardless of circuit carrier type or material
  • Innovative office and classroom lighting systems

6. Smart Thermostats

There are several thermostats on the market that change the way people heat and cool their homes and businesses. While the technology itself is not new, many companies are working hard to develop thermostats that integrate with an energy consumer?s lifestyle (and other devices) to help lower both energy cost and consumption.

The latest smart thermostat products include Wi-Fi connectivity, intelligent climate control, and a sleek design. They can tell when someone is home or in the office, learn about heating and cooling preferences and allow users to monitor and control the device via smartphone.

This will likely have a large impact in the future, as new home and business owners search for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, competition is starting to pick up as this technology is catching the eye of other energy companies who are developing products of their own.

7. Clean Cooking ? Stoves and Grills

Using our ovens and stoves contributes to using energy during peak energy times. For those who use a wood stove, the time, energy and cost needed to collect the material required to light a fire doesn?t make the daily task of cooking much easier.

Named in TechCrunch?s top ten coolest gadgets at CES 2016, GoSun Stove is a new product that can cook food using solar power. Food is cooked inside a solar tube that absorbs sunlight and converts that energy into heat. The grills can reach up to 550 degrees in 10 to 20 minutes.

8. Home Insulation

There are many different types of insulation on the market. That being said, many have negative impacts on the environment, do not work efficiently, and ultimately end up raising the total amount on an energy bill.

The Industrial Science & Technology Network has recently developed a new type of foam insulation. This material is environmentally friendly, as it uses carbon dioxide instead of hydroflurocarbon to blow the insulation. It is a cost-effective solution that out-performs its predecessors. The insulation can be used in various areas, such as, building foundations and walls, and around heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

9. Self-Shading Windows

A newly developed window technology will automatically help users heat and cool their homes.

Once installed, these special windows use sensors and microprocessors to alter shade of the glass depending on several elements. These elements include, sunlight and time of day, which rely on algorithms designed with the consumer?s needs and comfort levels in mind.

10. Zero Energy Building Technology

New initiatives put in place by the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable energy will likely change the way commercial buildings use energy from day to day. Using a combination of renewable and efficient energy, a building can generate the resources needed to power and run itself. The goal is to try and achieve zero energy, so that the building does not make an impact on environmental and economical energy consumption.

The first step in this ambitious project is to construct buildings with technologies that allow for efficient systems, appliances, operations, maintenance and changes in user behavior. Alternatively, an analysis can be conducted on an existing building to determine the areas where changes can be made. Any outstanding factors are addressed by implementing onsite renewable energy generation technologies.

11. Evolution of the Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans are a useful household feature. The problem is that they haven?t really changed in over a hundred years. They are designed to blow air downwards, and can be adjusted to one of three speeds.

Similar to the smart thermostat, new technologies allow a user to control their ceiling fan from an app on their smartphone. It also includes sensors that determine motion and environmental factors that have an impact on whether or not the room needs cooling. Some ceiling fans can even integrate with other products to save users time and further reduce energy consumption.

The Energy Star program also applies to ceiling fans, primarily because they include a lighting component. Their certified products are 60% more efficient and can reduce an energy bill by $15 every year.

12. Cool Roofs

Cool roofs are a new way to better control the temperature of residences or commercial buildings. These types of roofs use a solar-reflective technology for lower temperatures. Installing a roof like this can lower local air temperature and peak electricity demand, as well as reduce carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury emissions.

The recent research and development of Fluorescent Pigments by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has improved this technology further. These pigments are dark in color but are highly effective in regards to effective solar reflectance.

Solar Panels are also seeing a shift in technology. Recent research and development projects have shown the potential in constructing panels out of perovskite instead of other materials like, silicon. This would result in a cheaper product, which could ultimately have an impact on the affordability of this product.