MIT Clean Energy Grand Prize Won By Radiator Labs

If you’ve ever experienced a New England winter, you know that it’s not just cold, it can also be expensive. Especially if your primary source of heat is an old-school radiator. But now, there just might be a solution. A new company founded by Columbia University students called Radiator Labs has come up with a way to increase the energy efficiency of steam-fed radiator heating systems that can waste as much as 30 percent of the energy output due to overheating.

Their invention is actually a retrofit design that can prevent radiators from overheating by adding a low cost, “drop-in radiator enclosure” to control the amount of heat transferred in a room. In addition, they’ve also created a wireless system that can help control the entire boiler system to equalize temperatures across building spaces to burn fuel only when necessary to increase thermal comfort. Those inventions have landed the company the grand  prize at this year’s MIT Clean Energy Prize.

image via MIT Clean Energy Prize

“This is an exciting and innovative design that when commercialized will noticeably reduce the cost of heating apartments, offices and other types of buildings in New England and other cold weather regions,” Tom May, President and CEO of Northeast Utilities, the parent company of NSTAR and a major sponsor of the competition, said in a statement. “This competition has shown once again that the road to clean energy is being paved by young entrepreneurs.”

The MIT Clean Energy Prize is a national competition that was started by MIT, the U.S. Department of Energy and NSTAR to grow the ranks of clean energy entrepreneurship. This is the fifth year the contest has been held, having been responsible for the launch of about 30 new companies who’ve raised a total of $90 million in venture capital and government funding for clean energy products and technologies. The competition is open to all university students.

While we’ve brought you news of different companies that have focused on creating more energy-efficient and aesthetically-pleasing radiators, such as this snowflake design radiator we recently reported on, there haven’t been too many options for the large numbers of folks who have to deal with existing, outdated heat sources. In fact, the inventors of this new retrofit technology at Radiator Labs say their low-cost fix could be a viable solution for  thousands of people with inefficient radiators. At the same time, it could also reportedly save millions of dollars in energy costs.

“Adopting this cost-effective technology in the millions of existing U.S. housing units with steam radiator systems has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs per year and reduce carbon emissions by over 6 million tons – equivalent to taking 1.25 million automobiles off the road,” Marshall Cox of Radiator Labs said in a statement. “Winning this competition enables us to help bring this technology to the marketplace so these benefits can be realized.”

Click here to learn more about Radiator Labs and see who else took home awards at this year’s MIT Clean Energy Prize.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.