Keeping heat under wraps: Radiator cover could revolutionize apartment dwelling

Keeping heat under wraps: Radiator cover could revolutionize apartment dwelling
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

It’s getting hot in here, so put on all your throws.

A Downtown startup is looking to solve the age-old New York problem of out-of-control steam radiators that turn apartments into the Mojave Desert during the winter with a computerized take on a simple concept — tossing cozies on them. The company’s founder said its system could have a real impact on heating efficiency in the city.

“What we’re doing is the only thing that can make a big difference,” said Marshall Cox, who lives in Brooklyn Heights and came up with the idea after becoming frustrated with the radiator in his apartment. “We’re incentivizing people not to open their windows, which is a huge source of lost energy.”

Radiator Labs’s device is supposed to trap heat from the radiator, and a small computer and thermometer activate a fan to push out the hot air as needed, keeping the room at a steady temperature. The company is currently working on a phone app that would let users control the thermostat remotely.

A cozy on one radiator is nice, but when installed throughout an entire building, heating becomes much more efficient, Cox said.

“For an individual it only works on a comfort value level, which is important,” he said. “But for a landlord, it can really save them a lot of money.”

When a whole building is hooked up, the cozies talk to each other through a mesh network, and the data they generate can be used to tell the boiler when to turn on and off. It can also help identify apartments in the building that seem to be losing heat, according to Cox.

The company is installing its system in about 600 apartments this winter, he said, all of which are in buildings where the landlord has signed on for the whole property.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority likes the idea so much it is footing 60 percent of the bill for the installations. The units run about $300 per radiator. Older boilers could require an upgrade that costs around $5,000, but Cox said the money would be made back in less than a year through energy savings.

Individuals cannot yet purchase a unit, but Cox is working on it.

“Everyone’s clamoring for a consumer version,” he said.

Help is coming through the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, for which Radiator Labs is a finalist. The company could win $1 million but will receive at least $250,000, money Cox said will be poured into developing the self-service version of their product.

The company still has to make a cozy user-friendly enough for a person to install it alone, and wants to insure that it will work on most makes of radiators.

“The biggest problem we have is that every radiator is a different size,” he said. “We want to make something that my mom can install.”

Radiator Labs’s devices can do a lot, but they don’t mute the maddening clinking sounds that come from the pipes. They do dampen the hissing noise radiators make when they release steam, though, and with the cozy installed, the top is cool enough to use as a shelf.

Techno Files

State Sen. Martin Golden (R–Bay Ridge) is working on legislation to protect the online privacy of people and businesses. The law would create a state Office of Online Privacy and Internet Safety that would develop policies to help combat the theft of sensitive information, work with businesses that store the data, and help inform the public after a data breach occurs. It would also bar employers, academic institutions, and landlords from requiring access to an individual’s social media accounts, and require the destruction of personal information by a business once a user cancels her account.

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Buzz is swirling about Etsy’s plans to hit Wall Street. Bloomberg News reported last week that the online marketplace for craftspeople could raise as much as $300 million with an initial public offering of stocks. Citing anonymous sources, the site says the company is working with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and that the offering could come as early as this month. Etsy becoming a public company of that size would make a powerful statement about the health and potential of Brooklyn’s tech scene.

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The engineers over at Kickstarter have been busy. The Greenpoint fund-raising platform rolled out a new version of its mobile app last week, overhauling its design for iPads and iPhones. It also launched a website and newsletter called Happening that features original stories and interviews about Kickstarter projects and the people behind them.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Cozy, isn’t it?: The cover traps heat created by the radiator and holds onto it until the room is cool enough to need it.
Radiator Labs