The buildings that we live and work in are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU - making them the single largest energy consumer in Europe. Innovation and renovation is urgently needed to help reduce buildings' energy use and cut their CO2 emissions. When it comes to individual consumers, one thing we’ve probably all heard of is smart thermostats that help us save energy and reduce electricity bills. But what about smart radiators? French startup Lancey Energy Storage has received an injection of new funds to continue its push to install its innovative smart, energy-saving and energy-storing, electric radiators. Like many “smart” heating concepts, part of Lancey’s energy-saving potential is down to the Internet of Things. Equipped with sensors and a cloud-based energy management system, the radiators learn users' consumption habits, track weather data and information about the user’s electricity provider, and adjust the heating settings accordingly. And of course, you can control all of its settings via an app from your smartphone.
But what makes Lancey radiators different is the integrated lithium battery. This allows them to intelligently store energy, charging up and storing power during off-peak hours when power is cheaper, and then switching to battery mode during peak hours. This helps relieve pressure on the grid during these peak hours, and helps grid operators avoid the use of the most polluting oil-fired and gas-fired generating plants traditionally used to bridge the gap during peaks in consumption. The battery is also able to store power from connected local solar panels or other local renewable energy generators, making it easy for solar power generators to store their production surplus and helping democratise decentralised energy production. This ability to store energy helps facilitate the mass integration of renewables into distribution grids and offsets the challenges posed by intermittent generation. Lancey claims that its radiators can cut heating bills by up to 50%.
The start-up has been in operation for three years, building its devices within France, and has, so far in 2019, has installed 800 radiators, focusing on business-installations ahead of a wider launch. The price is set to be under 1000 euro per unit and the company has ambitious plans to install more than 100,000 devices before 2025.
Price and Practicality
This raises two important questions. Firstly, how long will it take for savings to be made, given the relatively high upfront costs of the unit, the installation, and the retrofit costs?
According to the CEO and co-founder, Raphael Meyer the payback period depends on the previous heating system and thermal insulation of the building. For energy-inefficient systems and buildings with poor thermal insulation, the payback period can be as little as five years. For better set-ups, it can be up to 10 years. And when it comes to installing the system in a new building, this solution “is generally cheaper in terms of initial investment than other systems (heat pumps, gas boilers etc.), and represents a lower total cost over the lifetime," he said.
Secondly, there's the issue of heat. Lancey batteries are designed to provide power for heating, but heat is a known problem for battery life, as it affects the internal chemical reactions taking place. Given that batteries don't function as well when hot, how is the system of supplying power for heating affected by the heat in the immediate area? Rafael had an answer for that too: “The Lancey configuration has a thermal barrier between the battery and the heating part. It optimizes the battery cooling by making use of the natural convection airflow created by the radiator itself. This means that the battery remains at an optimum working temperature.” Any thermal losses from the battery could also be seen also a positive, as the lost heat also goes into warming the room.
Lancey recently received an additional 8 million euro funding to scale the business further from a consortium that includes angel investment and the European Union, which contributed 1.5 million euro. While electric heating isn't the norm in all European countries, one in three French homes is currently heated by electricity, so at least in their home country, the potential for real impact is certainly there. And as more and more energy is produced from renewables, that impact is set to grow.