Home » 4 Energy Department Inventions Saving Consumers Energy and Money
4 Energy Department Inventions Saving Consumers Energy and Money
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Loose-Fill Fiberglass Insulation
In 1992, private insulation manufacturer Energy Savings Solutions, Inc., reached out to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to find ways to improve loose-fill fiberglass insulation. Oak Ridge researchers provided the guidance necessary to substantially improve the insulation’s performance, sparking an industry-wide reformulation of loose-fill fiberglass insulation for better fiber dispersion. Today, nearly 75 percent of homes use this type of improved loose-fill fiberglass insulation, and researchers estimate the changes have helped consumers in cold climates save 5-10 percent on heating costs.
Image: Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Lab
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Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters
In the late 1990s, the Energy Department began exploring electric heat pump water heaters, laying the groundwork for the electric heat pump water heater market. In 2009, Oak Ridge National Lab worked with General Electric to bring the GeoSpring water heater, the first ENERGY STAR-qualified electric heat pump water heater, to the market. Today, seven manufacturers offer ENERGY STAR-qualified electric heat pump water heaters under more than a dozen brand names, and the technology helps save consumers $300 a year on water heating costs based on 2012 electricity prices. Pictured here are early prototypes of GE's Geospring water heater installed in Oak Ridge's test facility for accelerated life testing.
Image: Oak Ridge National Lab
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Energy-Efficient Refrigerator Compressor
Between 1978 and 1980, researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab and Columbus Products Company developed a fridge compressor that was nearly 50 percent more efficient than the typical compressor at the time. Manufacturers incorporated the new advanced compressor into multiple refrigerator lines throughout the 1980s and 1990s -- helping save consumers $6 billion in energy costs over that same period. Today, more than 100 million refrigerators in homes across the country use an advanced compressor that can trace its roots to the Department’s pioneering research and development in the late 1970s.
Image: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon
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Beyond Double-Pane Windows
While the invention of double-pane windows dates back to 1935, a true turning point in the technology came in the 1980s with a collaboration between the Energy Department, private industry and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Initial research and development by Berkeley Lab and a start-up company, Suntek Research Associates (now called Southwall Technologies), led to the commercialization of low-emissivity coatings (a technology applied to glazing layers that allows visible light to pass through a window while trapping heat). Today, more than 80 percent of residential windows and nearly 50 percent of commercial windows sold every year in the U.S. have low-e coatings, saving consumers billions of dollars in energy costs.
Image: Roy Kaltschmidt, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab