There is huge global demand for comfort. Being comfortable dramatically improves the quality of our lives: when we no longer feel the stress from being too hot or too cold, we do better at work and at school.
But today’s approach to heating and cooling buildings is not sustainable.
How can the billions of people who want comfort get it without ruining the climate?
Today, building heating and cooling systems rely entirely on treating air to keep you comfortable. This is incredibly inefficient: people only occupy a small part of buildings, and any treated air that isn’t next to people is wasted.
Globally this waste creates more than 2.75 gigatons of greenhouse gas pollution each year. These emissions create a vicious circle, as increased global warming drives new demand for unsustainable sources of comfort. At the same time, the high price of buying and using HVAC systems means most of the world’s population can’t get the benefits of being comfortable, even as the planet grows hotter.
We felt there had to be a better way. Comfort should be affordable. It shouldn’t pollute. It should be personalized for each individual.
Our solution doesn’t use treated air. It maintains comfort in an entirely new way, by working directly with the body’s physiology. The solution can be integrated into wearable technology, clothing, bedding, furniture, and seating for cars, busses and planes.
The solution keeps people comfortable in hot or cold weather. It is portable, and works indoors or outside so people can be more productive wherever they go. The initial cost is a fraction of the price of a traditional HVAC system. It uses 99% less energy than today’s heating and cooling options. This means it is affordable to operate and creates only a small amount of carbon pollution.
Our solution is meant to be an alternative to HVAC for people who can’t afford today’s systems, or who want a sustainable option. For people who already have HVAC systems, our solution enables them to reduce their energy use and emissions without sacrificing comfort.
Soon we will be testing the warming prototype solution shown below.
We’ve also made a proof-of concept cooling version and had success testing it. We will develop this version more if we are chosen to be part of the OpenIDEO Climate Innovator fellowship.
Climateon is a public benefit corporation, which means achieving our social mission is as important as financial goals. Our mission is to keep more people comfortable while lowering global greenhouse gas emissions from HVAC by at least five million tons annually – the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road.
Eight years ago, I was a vice president at a Fortune 500 company. I walked to work and started seeing newborn birds dead on the sidewalk. A short time later, I watched An Inconvenient Truth, which described what I was seeing as consequences of climate change. The birds were dying because they were being born after their food supply arrived – a shift caused by global warming.
Before the movie, I’d thought climate change was something we would have to deal with decades in the future, and that it would affect far-away environments. But the movie showed me that I’d already seen climate change: it was taking lives in my city.
Not long after this realization, I changed my career to focus on sustainability. I created a cloud database platform governments and schools used to inventory their greenhouse gas emissions and keep track of their sustainability plans. I also taught sustainability to graduate and high school students, and lowered my own carbon footprint as much as possible.
Later I became an energy engineer for a management consulting firm, working on efficiency programs for large electric and gas utilities. The building HVAC efficiency projects I worked on saved substantial amounts of energy when compared with inefficient alternatives. But they still generated many tons of CO2 emissions annually – especially when looking at the full emissions lifecycle of the equipment. These buildings were more efficient, but they still weren’t sustainable.
This bothered me the most when I was in large rooms that were occupied by only one or two people: these spaces were the least sustainable of all! After seeing too many of these, and reading about the climate impact from the global growth in HVAC sales, I set out to find a way to reduce HVAC emissions that was sustainable, affordable and portable. I'm confident that, with my contribution as well as contributions from other Climate Innovators and the global community, that we can begin to stop climate change and reverse global warming.