DOE Funds Leading Edge Building Technologies

As part of its efforts to help homeowners and businesses reduce energy consumption and utility bills, the Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $9 million in six advanced US manufacturing projects that will improve energy performance.

About $6.5 million in four projects will develop highly-efficient, cost-effective heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and about $3 million in two projects will focus on building envelope materials.

While US energy use per capita was fairly consistent from 1990-2007, efficiency improvements in space heating and air conditioning have led to a downward trend since then. It’s expected to fall an additional 15% through 2040.

Almost 60% of homes now have energy-efficient windows, compared with just 35% in 1993. Some 40 million households use caulking or weather-stripping to seal air leaks and drafts, and 26 million use better insulation than in the past, says DOE.

Still, roughly 42% of the energy consumed by a typical residential or commercial building is lost through the building envelope – doors, roofs, attics, walls, floors and foundations, says DOE.  In the winter months, windows alone can account for 10-25% of heat loss.

“A typical American family spends nearly $2,000 per year on their home energy bills, and much of that money is wasted on air leaks and drafts in our homes’ roofs, attics and walls. By bringing new, affordable energy efficient products to the market, we can help families save money by saving energy, while strengthening U.S. manufacturing leadership in technologies that are increasingly in demand worldwide,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Here’s where the money is going:

  • United Technologies Research Center (East Harford, Connecticut) – $1.5 million for a commercial heat pump system that reduces annual energy use for buildings in cold climates by at least 25%.
  • Unico Inc. (St. Louis) – $2 million for a cold climate heat pump that maintains its efficiency at very low temperatures.
  • Stone Mountain Technologies (Unicoi, Tennessee) – $1.5 million for a gas-fired absorption air-source heat pump that cuts heating costs 30-45% compared with a convention gas furnace.
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland) – $1.5 million for air-to-refrigerant heat exchangers that have a 10-kilowatt capacity and take up at least 20% less space.
  • University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho) – $1.5 million to create a "sandwich roof system" that improves building thermal efficiency while also reducing construction costs 25%.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley, California) – $1.5 million for highly insulated, easy-to-install windows that use automated shading that can capture or repel heat depending on the season.

The Obama administration has funded weatherization upgrades in a million low-income homes over the past several years as part of the Recovery Act. 

Read more about the projects the DOE is funding:

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