If you live in an apartment building with steam heat, you’ve probably spent your winter sweating away while your radiator turned your place into a tropical paradise. But with a new internet-connected product currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, your days of uncontrolled heat might be over.
To help alleviate residents suffering from antiquated steam heat systems, New York-based startup Radiator Labs is launching the Cozy radiator cover, which will allow residents to control the heat in their apartments using their smartphones.
Why do radiators make apartments so hot anyway? Old steam heating systems distribute heat unequally across buildings, with units closest to the building’s boiler often receiving the most heat. Landlords usually run boilers long enough to heat the coldest units to at least the minimum temperature required by law, which often heats the hottest units to unbearable temperatures.
How the Cozy Radiator Cover Works
Radiator Labs Founder and CEO Dr. Marshall Cox was inspired to create Cozy while living in grad student housing at Columbia University. “The steam heat was horrible,” Cox wrote me in an email. But while Cox could stand the varying temperatures, his brother could not. “The actual trigger was my twin brother, who was living with me in my studio apartment for six months (working in a Broadway show). He bore the brunt of the temperature swings and didn’t hold back from complaining. So I built the first prototype on my radiator to appease him. It worked so well that we brought it to a larger audience, and Radiator Labs was born.”
Installing Cozy is easy, and controlling it is even easier. To begin using Cozy, just place it over your radiator, plug it in and connect it to your apartment’s Wi-Fi. Radiator Labs guarantees Cozy will fit your radiator, so you shouldn’t have to struggle to get it to fit your apartment’s setup. Next, use the Cozy smartphone app to set your apartment’s temperature, program heating times and activate vacation settings. It’s like having a thermostat for your apartment.
Cozy works by trapping the heat released from your radiator and, once your apartment’s temperature dips below what you’ve set, blowing that stored heat into your apartment. By trapping your radiator’s heat and releasing it more evenly over extended periods of time, Cozy decreases the large temperature fluctuations common to steam heated-apartments. In the chart above you can see how Cozy leveled temperatures in two of its test units.
Working to Reduce Environmental Pollution
Due to overheating, the average radiator wastes about 20 gallons of oil every year. When you think about all the radiators in use across New York alone, that adds up to a lot of unnecessary pollution! Since Cozy eliminates overheating from apartments, residents no longer need to open their windows to cool down their apartments throughout the winter. In turn, closed windows allow heat energy to transfer to other places in the building, ideally heating colder apartments faster and allowing the boiler to turn off earlier – and use less oil. “Every radiator that has a Cozy installed helps reduce heating waste to a certain extent,” Cox said.
This sounds like a great way to reduce environmental pollution, especially if entire buildings adopt Cozy covers. When I asked Cox if Radiator Labs planned to work with landlords to install Cozy covers building-wide, he told me they “absolutely” are. “We currently have two full-building pilots with Columbia University where we are optimizing full building heating.” The startup hopes to make commercial versions of this system available by fall.
Cozy Needs Your Help
Cozy has been in development for over two years and is being tested in over 250 apartments at Columbia and New York University. Now through its Kickstarter campaign Radiator Labs will bring Cozy to market by October of this year, just when winter heating will being starting up again. If you suffer from uncontrollable steam heat, consider donating to Cozy’s Kickstarter campaign to receive your $249 early bird Cozy cover.