Students Cram More Efficiency Into Home Appliances

Our homes continue to be a major hurdle to achieving a truly sustainable lifestyle. No matter how many lights we turn off or thermostat adjustments we make, it seems that our utility bills never get much smaller. A competition from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Energy Efficiency Standards Group hopes to uncover new solutions to this old problem.

The Max Tech and Beyond Design Competition will challenge 10-20 collegiate teams nationwide to design and test appliance innovations in the interest of significantly reducing energy consumption while providing a level of service comparable to or better than current best-on-market products.

Team UMD Dryer

Image via Team UMD Dryer

The competition, only in its second year, supports faculty-led student design teams at universities and colleges across the United States as they compete to create the most cost-effective, ultra-efficient prototypes of tomorrow’s home appliances.

A panel of Berkeley Lab and DOE sector experts selected eight teams following a solicitation at more than 90 universities, reports Energy Manager Today. The eight teams chosen for this year’s challenge are from the University of Maryland, Cal Poly Pomona, Tufts, Ohio State, Santa Clara University, the University of Nevada, Stony Brook University, and the University of California, Berkeley. he chosen teams receive up to $20,000 to test and implement their ideas.

Team projects include a high performance clothes dryer that uses nearly 50 percent less energy than current U.S. models; a user-centric model-predictive lighting retrofit system; and automated window shades that could reduce space heating costs by as much as 50 percent.

The competition culminates in a national webinar on May 23, 2013, in which the student teams will demonstrate their prototypes (webinar is open to the public). Winners announced in August 2013.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog