This article was originally published in the January/February 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1997


New Technologies Showcased at E-Source Forum

In the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Aspen, Colorado, about 250 members of the Boulder-based E-Source gathered for the ninth annual Members' Forum. Suffering from the altitude and distracted by the wonderful weather, participants spent two and a half days attending sessions on new technologies and learning what the coming years of utility reorganization might bring. Since 1987, E-Source has gathered professionals from the energy sector to discuss the latest in electricity conservation technology.

E-Source's Michael Shepard updated the audience on phase-change wallboard, which uses a paraffin/silica mix in the gypsum board, allowing the material to serve as low-tech, inexpensive thermal energy storage. While this technology isn't new (see Passive Solar Design: Housewarming with Many Efficient Returns, HE May/June '91, p. 15), recent simulation results and lab tests are promising. Simulations by Los Alamos National Laboratory showed that 90% of the Dallas cooling load could be shifted off peak, and equipment sizing could be reduced by 30%; Oak Ridge National Laboratory found a one-third reduction in peak heating demand in Tennessee; and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that some California climates could eliminate air conditioning altogether. While the phase-change wallboard would probably cost two or three times as much as gypsum board, the downsizing of heating and cooling equipment and ductwork would help offset the cost. Time-of-use electric rates would help owners to pay off the remainder. Manufacturers are approaching the innovation cautiously, uncertain about product demand.

HE Editor Gets Egg in Face. Chris Calwell and Dave Houghton demonstrated how much waste heat halogen torchieres give off by frying an egg over one in three minutes. Technical editor Steve Greenberg, who ate the egg, declared it an excellent over-medium by chef Houghton.
Residential cogeneration systems (supplying both heat and electricity) are enjoying increasing use. The Intelligen unit, which runs only when there's a need for heating, burns oil or natural gas and supplies 85,000 Btu per hour and 5 kW of electricity. Seventy units are running in New England. With an installed cost of about $10,000, they pay back in five to six years where electric bills are over $150 per month. Fuel cell cogeneration systems operate quietly and cleanly, with few moving parts. Fuel cells are not yet on the market in residential sizes, but prototypes exist down to a few watts.

Steve Selkowitz of LBNL talked about cool windows and smart windows, noting progress in such high-tech areas as electrochromic glazings (see Smart Windows on the Drawing Board,HE July/Aug '90, p. 6), which could be an integral part of a security-privacy-HVAC control system.

At the Members' Exchange, also known as Four Minutes of Fame, any attendee could talk about anything for four minutes before being silenced by a loud buzzer and a full-size, energy-efficient red LED traffic light. Consultant Chris Calwell noted that the EPA/DOE Energy Star Luminaires program is under development, striving to achieve energy efficiency, reliability, safety, and quality in lighting. Tim Bernadowski of Virginia Power discussed the results of a water-heating study: higher-efficiency heaters operate closer to their ratings, provide higher user satisfaction than standard units, and have adequate capacity even under load control schemes; drain water heat recovery (heat exchanger) units increased Energy Factors by 57%-73% and doubled the amount of hot water the heaters could deliver in the first hour. Jerry Kotas of DOE's Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development noted that various information and financial-assistance programs are available for communities. Evan Mills of LBNL introduced the Home Energy Saver, LBNL's interactive Web site, which enables users to access various information resources, including do-it-yourself energy use simulations (

In the lighting update, Dave Houghton noted that new ballasts are available that use standard light dimmers for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and straight-tube fluorescents. Also, 2D and circline lamps are available to retrofit three-way sockets. Nancy Clanton advocated the use of metal halide and fluorescent outdoor lighting in low-glare fixtures to replace incandescents, mercury vapor, and even the very common high-pressure sodium in order to save energy and provide higher-quality light. Chris Calwell noted that the cheap 300-600W halogen torchieres now use more energy than CFLs save (see Bright Prospects for CFL Torchieres, p. 13). He cited alternatives, including halogen-IR lamps, 2D CFLs, and triple-quad options.

At the vendor expo, there were heat pumps (Lennox models with 13.5 SEER/8.9 HSPF and integrated water heating), variable-speed blower motors, a variety of lighting products and controls, and windows using Southwall Technologies' Heat-Mirror glass. It was illuminating and informative to see all these new technologies in one place.

--Steve Greenberg


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