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Sustainable HVAC Alternatives

Wearable technologies that reduce demand for today's greenhouse gas-intensive HVAC systems

Photo of Gerry DeSeve
24 11

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The Issue

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?


HVAC Today

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.


Our Solution

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.

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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.

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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.


Our Company

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.


My Story

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.

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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.



Evaluation results

10 evaluations so far

1. #Design4Climate Social Share: Are you so passionate about this Climate Innovation Story that you would tell all your friends?

I just did! - 60%

I prefer to write my responses in the comments section below. - 40%

24 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
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Photo of Matthew Ridenour

Gerry DeSeve CONGRATULATIONS on being featured as an Honorable Mention for the challenge! Keep up the fantastic work with Climateon! 

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Photo of paulette

Amazing new idea. It seems so simple and of course that is why it will work.  All the best.

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Photo of Jill Murray

What a wonderful idea.  It is such a waste to heat/cool an entire building when you only need to keep the individuals warm.

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Photo of Christopher Strom

This is the kind of idea that could have an outsized impact on the global climate. The economics from the scale of energy savings described are so compelling that this could become a standard item in people wardrobe.

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Photo of Jennifer Begonia

I find this idea of making individualized temperature control to be revolutionary. I would definitely like to see how it becomes productized; the many potential applications are persuasive.

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks for all of your support Jenny! I really appreciate it!!

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Photo of Susan

I think this is a good idea on so many levels.  Along with a healthier environment personal comfort promotes health in individuals.  It makes me wonder how many people in the world could live healthier lives or how many lives could be saved in extreme situations due to a personal heating/cooling device.  Gerry's idea encompasses so much and needs to be developed.

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks for your support Susan! Part of the idea is definitely that less thermal stress will improve the lives of users in addition to saving energy. Glad to see you liked the idea!

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Photo of Sheldon Strom

Seems like an interesting idea.  Certainly, should be taken to the prototype stage to evaulate effectiveness and market acceptance. 

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks Sheldon - we're looking forward to doing testing soon on the warming prototype you saw in the picture, and on the cooling prototype this summer. I appreciate your taking the time to comment!

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Photo of Brook Lau

Gerry's idea is truly inspiring;  building on his prior work experiences and knowledge, he has made a leap to an elegant solution to one of the most urgent issues of our times.  
 The idea of personalized temperature control which enables individuals to adjust their own internal response to external temperature mirrors that of other areas moving toward personalization such as individualized medical care.  Gerry's idea increases autonomy while reducing environmental costs of HVAC. This climate innovator would be an ideal match for your fellowship. 

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Brooke - thank you so much for your wonderful, amazing comment! I really appreciate it!

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Photo of Kerry

This idea inspires me because it was motivated by the innovator's firsthand encounter with startling evidence of climate change, and because it seems readily achievable and can have significant impact in a reasonably short period of time. Like others, I personally am often frustrated by overheated or overcooled environments and by my lack of ability to control my own physical comfort. Mr. DeSeve's proven track record of experience in the field of climate control and innovation and clear passion for the mission make him an excellent candidate for the support of the fellowship. 

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Kerry - thanks for your kind words and support for the idea: it means a lot to me. Best, Gerry

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Photo of Kerry

Power to the people. Literally.

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Photo of Jennifer Williams

Its always angered me when I've entered a city apartment or my daughter's school classroom in the middle of winter and the windows are open because the heat is blasting. Or I'm at my office with a sweater on in July because the AC is on so high. We spend a lot of time complaining about this issue and feel totally powerless as individuals to change it. Gerry's idea empowers the individual. We can control our comfort and help save the planet while saving money. Sign me up!

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks for your support Jen - I really appreciate it! Best, Gerry

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Photo of Kar Vivekananthan

At a time when the climate is in focus worldwide, we are all becoming aware of issues and behaviors that affect us now and will have repercussions on the planet that our children will inherit. It will take a lot of work to slow down this destructive process and, I think, should involve each of us sharing this common interest.
It's refreshing to see an idea that allows each of us to personally take control of our part in this endeavor. We all strive to be comfortable. And, we know that cooling and heating our homes and businesses can be extremely expensive. We also know that heating and cooling of our indoor spaces affects the environment on a very large scale. 

This particular idea lends itself to both being comfortable and, in my opinion, being more responsible today than yesterday. This allows us to reduce our carbon footprint and, more immediately, reduce our financial obligations to the energy companies. Who doesn't want that?

Imaging the cost savings and carbon footprint effect if everyone could turn their room thermostat up or down a few degrees every day and just adjust your wearable device to your personal level of comfort. 

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks Kar - this is really great! I appreciate it very much. Best, Gerry

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Photo of Diane Baisch

This idea for personalized heating/cooling is a great idea!   Who wouldn't want to help the planet,  have control of your own heating/cooling wherever you are,  AND save money?!?!

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks Diane - glad to see that the idea really resonated with you! - Gerry

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Photo of Heather Mullett

I like this idea because it can be an answer to the question "What can I do?" posed by a concerned individual.   Too often the response to this question is something like "Don't run your dishwasher until it is full".  Most proposed solutions tend to be industrial scale or global level concepts that most of us feel powerless to implement.  Devices such as Gerry is investigating may not be useful for everyone in the most extreme climates, but for many others they could be practical.

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Photo of Gerry DeSeve

Thanks Heather - I really appreciate your support! - Gerry

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Photo of Rebecca Torpie

Combatting global warming, quite literally, at the personal level is not only energy efficient, it places the responsibility and commitment to care for our environment on the backs of every one of us to do something about it. It's an important reminder that we each take part in a larger system in small but impactful ways.