NYC’s Radiator Labs Nabs MIT Clean Tech Prize, Vies for New US Crown

6/5/12Follow @arleneweintraub

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heat than they need. There are 14 million steam-heated apartments in the U.S. that waste $4.5 billion a year in heating oil, according to figures collected by Radiator Labs.

The first version of Radiator Labs’ device uses a standard wall-mounted thermostat, but the company has big plans for future iterations. Cox is developing a building-wide system that would connect to the Internet and allow apartment residents to control their heat via the Web or their smart phones. The founders plan to market their technology both to building owners and to individual consumers, though they are still working out the specifics of the marketing strategy, Cox says. “Some people care about it because they want to be more comfortable,” Cox says. “Different people care about it because they want to save energy and money.”

At the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, Radiator Labs will spend three days fine-tuning its business plan and meeting with potential financing sources. The company will compete against five other University teams from across the country, all of which won regional competitions that feed into the national program. The grand prize is $100,000, but Cox says the connections he expects to make through the program will be much more valuable than the money. “The major compensation is going to be exposure, and meeting those institutions that can help us.”

The DOE established the national competition this year with the goal of fostering student-run businesses focused on clean tech. The six regional business plan competitions leading up to the national prize were held in the spring. MIT, which has sponsored a clean tech business plan competition for the past four years, was chosen to be the northeast regional lead.

After the national competition, Radiator Labs plans to raise about $750,000 in seed financing to fund several pilots, Cox says. “I’ve gotten e-mails from Greece, Australia, England, Canada. They’re all asking us to do a pilot,” he says. But first the company must complete its initial pilot in New York—a test that will be essential for demonstrating that its little device can provide big value to building owners, Cox says. “The data from my apartment shows we can increase comfort. That’s proven,” he says. “But we need to be able to certify an energy-efficiency case.”

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  • ngmdisqus

    It’s also inefficient with rooms have electric or gas heat individually simply for living on an upper floor. There needs to be a way to send heat back down if possible.

  • Master Plvmber

    As a steam-heating installation and repair contractor, I certainly applaude your efforts in identifying a problem and offering a remedy. However, there are already non-electric options on the market that deal with this by reading the room air temperature and opening and closing an individual radiator’s air vent, thus dis/allowing steam to travel into the unit and heat the room. Surely, in your research you’ve come across thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs).
    It’s this product that could use improvement as I do believe that non-electric is the way to go when trying to reduce overall energy consumption.
    Thanks,
    John Cataneo
    Gateway Plumbing and Heating
    New York, NY