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Energy Solutions

More Energy-Saving Products from the AIA Convention

An innovative ceiling fan, a phase-change floor panel, and a new LED lighting product

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Haiku ceiling fans draw only 30 watts at high speed. The fan's blades are made of bamboo.
Image Credit: Big Ass Fans
Haiku ceiling fans draw only 30 watts at high speed. The fan's blades are made of bamboo.
Image Credit: Big Ass Fans
Tate Acess Floors' new EcoCore panel has microencapsulated phase-change material in the concrete.
Image Credit: Tate Access Floors

Last week, I wrote about a number of innovative window and glazing products I came across at the AIA Convention in Washington, DC earlier this month. Here are a few other products I came across with energy-saving features.

Haiku fans from Big Ass Fans

Despite the over-the-top company name, Big Ass Fans has been at the forefront of ceiling fan development for some years now. The company is known for its large, well, big-ass fans that are used in improving comfort in large commercial spaces — overhead fans that may have diameters of up to 24 feet. Now the company has introduced a line of smaller, residential-scale fans that work in homes.

Before getting into the specifics of the Haiku fans, it needs to be pointed out that ceiling fans don’t actually cool a space (i.e., lower the temperature). What they do is make a space more comfortable by evaporating moisture from our skin. If you are normally comfortable in a space at 75°F, with a gentle breeze you can be comfortable at 80° or even 82°F. Not only do ceiling fans not lower the air temperature, they actually raise the temperature slightly — from the waste heat generated by the electric motor (so turn that fan off when you leave the room!).

The Haiku fans are exciting from an energy standpoint, because they are the first ceiling fans to use advanced, energy-efficient, electronically commutated, brushless, DC motors, and they have aerodynamically designed airfoil blades that move air more efficiently and more quietly than the blades in most ceiling fans. These features make Haiku fans up to 80% more efficient than standard ceiling fans. While a typical Energy Star ceiling fan uses about 65 watts of electricity (and generates substantial waste heat), the Haiku fans use just 2 to 30 watts, exceeding the Energy Star requirements for energy efficiency by 450 to 750%.

Haiku fans also offer highly sophisticated controls, with seven speeds, reverse mode, sleep mode, and timer controls, all handled through a slick remote control. The 60-inch-diameter blades are made from either an advanced composite material in black or white, or hand-finished, laminated bamboo in a caramel or cocoa finish. The shape is sleek and modern.

The downside? There’s a significant one: cost. A Haiku ceiling fan lists for $825 to $1,045, depending on the exact model. That cost would be hard to justify on energy savings alone, but combined with super-quiet operation and other features, this is a product well worth taking a serious look at.

EcoCore phase-change floor panel from Tate Access Floors

Phase-change materials store a large amount of heat by melting (changing phase from solid to liquid). I wrote about the BioPCM material for walls and ceilings in Environmental Building News some months ago (requires log-in). At the AIA convention, Tate Access Floors introduced its EcoCore floor panel which has a micro-encapsulated paraffin phase-change material in a concrete matrix. The phase-change material melts at about 75°F, absorbing a lot of heat in the process.

Access floors are popular in commercial building, because they provide a floor plenum that can be used to run wiring and cabling as well as to deliver heated or chilled air. Tate’s EcoCore floor panel looks just like it’s standard concrete access-floor panel — with a steel frame and waffle-like cross-section of concrete, averaging about an inch thick

The EcoCore floor panels are designed to be used in commercial buildings along perimeter walls, particularly west- and south-facing, where significant solar gain typically increases cooling requirements. The panels heat up when sunlight strikes them, melting the phase-change material and storing that solar heat rather warming the space. As the space cools below 75°F at night, the floor panels release that stored heat.

Savings are achieved both by reducing the peak cooling demand (enabling cooling systems to be downsized) and by shifting a portion of the cooling load to nighttime hours when cooler outside air can often be used for cooling and electricity prices are lower. Just introduced, the product has yet to be installed beyond prototype and demonstration projects, but the company is hearing a lot of interest in it.

The cost premium is about $1 per square foot for the EcoCore material.

Philips Ledalite’s unique light diffusers for LED lighting

In the lighting world today, it’s all about LED (light-emitting diode) lighting, which is going through technology advances by leaps and bounds. At the Philips Ledalite booth, the company’s MesoOptics technology for distributing light from LED light sources caught my eye.

LEDs offer various advantages, including higher efficacy (lumens of light output per watt of electricity consumption) than most fluorescent lighting. But light distribution can be a challenge, because LEDs produce highly concentrated point-source illumination. Philips Ledalite has tackled that problem using holographic technology in the diffusers of LED light fixtures to control the light distribution as required for the application.

Using this MesoOptics technology, Philips Ledalite can design some fixtures to deliver linear light, to illuminate a wall surface, for example, while others are designed to disperse that light more broadly for area lighting. It’s an example of the sort of innovation that is helping LEDs begin to capture market share from fluorescent and halogen (incandescent) lighting.

Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News. He also coauthored BuildingGreen’s special report on windows that just came out. To keep up with Alex’s latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed.


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