Today when you’re walking through a home improvement store, you may notice something has changed. As you gaze down those towering aisles, it's clear you have choices for upgrading anything in your home, but more recently many of those options are energy efficient, reasonably priced and can provide benefits such as increasing the comfort and decreasing the health risks of your home or office. By saving energy, you can save money.
To help bring these new or improved products to market and provide better options for your home or business, the Energy Department supports the development of innovative energy efficient products and technologies. This research and development is a priority for the Department because buildings consume more energy than either the transportation or industrial sectors of our economy. Therefore, these technologies not only save energy and money for American families and businesses, but also improve America’s economic competitiveness, increase our energy security and reduce the carbon pollution from our nation’s buildings.
A major part of this effort includes recent investments by the Department’s Buildings Technologies Program (BTP) in four main research and development (R&D) areas – building envelope, HVAC and water heating, lighting and windows. To track the commercialization and development of these kinds of products the Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) issued a new report, Buildings R&D Breakthroughs: Technologies and Products Supported by the Building Technologies Program, highlighting the results and progress made in this area.
- Building Envelope Technologies – These are the new materials, systems and designs that reduce energy losses through buildings’ walls, roofs and foundations, and include technologies and products like cool roofs and insulation. Department of Energy partners who develop technologies and products in this area include: Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), Advanced Fiber Technologies and Microtek Laboratories, The Dow Chemical Company and the National Energy Technology Laboratory as well as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction.
- HVAC and Water Heating Technologies – Space heating and cooling and water heating systems are responsible for 45 percent of energy use in our buildings and therefore are one of the biggest contributors to high energy bills. The Department of Energy has worked with companies like PVT Solar, GE, IntelliChoice Energy, Bard Manufacturing and A.O. Smith to develop products and technologies that include a waste heat recovery system, heat humps and high efficiency water heaters to help increase efficiency among these technologies, making them more wallet friendly.
- Lighting Technologies – The lighting R&D area accounted for the majority of all technologies identified in the report. The Department and partners worked to develop innovative LED devices and technologies that are on the market today, provided support for a wireless lighting control system that monitors room occupancy and daylighting and energy efficient accent lighting systems.
- Window Technologies – Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have estimated that similar “smart window” technologies could save the nation more than $10 billion in annual energy costs. The Department of Energy and its partners focused their efforts on developing dynamic windows that adjust to outside conditions along with window framing and sealing technologies that improve insulating performance to help achieve that potential reduction.
Of the 190 technology R&D projects supported by the Department of Energy between fiscal years 2005-2009 that the PNNL report studied, 11 were commercial products available today, 41 were emerging technologies that are expected to be commercialized within the next three years, and 68 were potential technologies that are still being researched but are more than three years away from commercialization.
Working with private sector partners, the national labs and our nation’s universities, the Department is supporting the development and commercialization of innovative energy efficient products and technologies so that when it comes time for you to make a choice about the investments you make in your home, it will be an easy and affordable one.