It’s a dilemma many, particularly on the East Coast, have faced – do I let my radiator heat up the room so that I am sweltering, or do I open the window and let arctic blasts blow through in hopes of my room not becoming a sauna? Most people just dealing with this issue live in buildings where they don’t have to pay their heating bill, so any energy loss with the heat being sucked out of the window isn’t a huge deal.

But in reality, that energy loss is a big deal. Even if tenants do not pay for their own heat and thus isn’t a concern how much they use, it is for the building owner. With radiator units, about 15 percent to 30 percent of the steam heat is lost in the system. Green Tech Media reports that in Manhattan alone, it is estimated steam heat loss costs about $700 million per year.

So what is an occupant to do when faced with the cold or the sauna, and how can building owners and operators seek to save money when it is out of their control? These are the kind of issues innovative start-up Radiator Labs seeks to address.

Radiator Labs, a start-up out of Columbia University, pitched their idea through the MIT Clean Energy Prize and took a top spot and earned its way to compete in the 2012 National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. And it is rapidly moving forward from concept to deployment.

Radiator Labs have devised a retrofit solution designed with the intent of saving energy while improving occupant comfort. Their solution is built around an insulating sleeve that covers the steam radiator and a temperature-controlled fan that delivers heat only when the room is too cold.

And these retrofits won’t just operate as a standalone solution. Radiator Labs technology have installed ZigBee radio in every unit, so that when the devices are installed in an entire building, they can communicate node-to-node and down to a boiler. Additionally, they are considering adding Wi-Fi so that individuals can control the radiator from the internet or a smartphone.

Recently, Radiator Labs publicly unveiled an ongoing pilot-scale demonstration project currently being carried out in conjunction with Fraunhofer CSE at a Columbia University residence hall. Radiator Labs is being supported by the Fraunhofer TechBridge, who also leads a DOE Innovation Ecosystem Grant Award, which has funded over 15 projects to date, including recent awardees NBD Nanotechnologies and Coincident. Fraunhofer CSE regularly works with early-stage companies like Radiator Labs through their TechBridge program, which offers funded services for the testing and evaluation of early stage technologies through a range of competitive solicitations. To date, TechBridge’s portfolio companies have received more than $28M in follow-on funding. 

For more information on their demonstration project, you can visit the Fraunhofer CSE blog:

Green Tech Media also has a great writeup on Radiator Labs’ efforts and how the company is seeking to address some of their initial design issues:  


IMAGE SOURCE: Radiator Labs