5 Companies Making Old Houses More Energy Efficient

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted February 24, 2014

This winter has been quite the doozy for North America. Between the polar vortex from a few weeks ago, treacherous ice in the south, a blizzard in the northeast, and more freezing temps to come – there is nothing quite like home.

As we’re sitting around the house, instead of singing the blues and waiting for spring, maybe we could be giving our dwellings a little tender loving care, and making sure things are in tip top shape.

I’m talking energy efficiency. We can use less energy, conserve our precious resources, and put extra money in our pockets, all at the same time.

There are tons of new and even exciting ways that maybe you haven’t heard of; they’re all energy efficient and designed to make us all feel right at home.


While most centrally heated homes have had to crank up the heating this winter, clunky old radiators have had apartment dwellers cracking their windows as they blast out sweltering steam heat. While they increase a room’s temperature, they do so unevenly and with a great deal of moisture. That just doesn’t work in the dead of winter.

Radiator Labs has the solution. Not only can they make apartments more comfortable, but the company’s new technology can cut boiler runtime by as much as 20 percent.

Radiator Labs Design

The New York City startup installs giant cozy-like gloves around a steam radiator. They fit right over top. In the process, they block hot air and infrared light from rising out into the room. There is also a built-in fan that moves air into the room when a temperature sensor reaches a certain threshold. This can all be controlled directly from your smartphone.

Right now, the company is working to scale its technology to be used for big business, something it hopes to have ready for next winter. It has already been able to enhance its boiler connection and control algorithms in the past year, and it also has a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign to get its consumer design out into the hands of the public.

New York City wastes about $2 billion annually in steam heat, and it’s a great opportunity for the company.


Water is the most precious resource we have. The problem: places like California are in the middle of their worst drought in recorded history, and there are no signs of it ending any time soon.

Watersmart Software has engineered a plan that helps homeowners reduce water demand by five percent in just six months by transforming meter data into a highly efficient conservator of resources.
This San Francisco startup delivers its software so that all the utility company has to do is export its usage data to the platform with no integration work whatsoever.

The company has been touted for its efforts by The New York Times and Forbes, and has become increasingly important in places experiencing drought. As of summer 2013, they expanded their software to a national scale, and were continuing to receive accolades for environmental efforts.

The water industry as a whole is open to a lot of opportunity. With drought a persistent problem in highly populous regions in California, water technology is gaining a lot of attention. Unfortunately, it has also proven difficult to make a return on investment in the water technology market.

Still, there are plenty of new projects going through the pipeline.

Leak Defense Alert is one of them. Set for release in the second quarter, the technology detects leaks much like a smoke detector detects smoke. It will be inexpensive, can be installed without a plumber, and can be linked directly to a home security system.

Water leaks alone can be the cause of billions of dollars in losses if not cared for properly.

ReWater Systems too, is innovating its use with greywater (sink, shower and laundry water) irrigation and retrofitting it into homes; something it began doing way back in 1990. It has home systems and commercial systems, all of which are backed up by potable water.

The ReWater Systems package captures and filters water that goes unused and runs through its specialized filter which then feeds its irrigation system and creates the total package: The ReWater System.

This system decreases energy costs significantly and can be formatted for just about any structure that creates water runoff.


Acuity Brands (NYSE: AYI) moves us away from water and into lighting. Acuity’s LEDs, wireless lighting controls and smart management systems can be incorporated into either residential or commercial settings.

The savings on energy and maintenance costs alone make this company one to check out, and its portfolio of promising lighting properties keeps growing. In 2013, Acuity acquired a number of promising companies such as eldoLED, a company that makes intelligent LED driver controls, and Ardura Technologies, a company that makes wireless controls for lighting systems.


We may not think of paint when we’re talking energy, but the U.S. consumes 76 quadrillion Btu of energy each year, according to Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions. That’s enough energy to light one home for 20 billion years, over half of which is used for heating and cooling.

With a new type of ceramic paint, houses have been shown to enjoy substantial savings in both heating and cooling costs.

The amount of savings, of course, depends on many factors, like where you plan on putting the paint, how many coats, the colors, the construction of the home, and ventilation.

If it’s done right, the savings can be dramatic. If you don’t want to start painting everything in sight, the highest energy savings returns are found here: the roof, attic, exterior walls, interior ceilings, and interior walls.

This new ceramic paint provides both low VOC and high durability. The only problem is, you might not find it at your local hardware store quite yet, but if you reach far enough it is obtainable.

There are a handful of other companies making ceramic paints, including Michigan-based O’Leary Paint Company, Chicago-based Graham Paint Company, and New York-based Muralo Company.

The Result

You can play with this information a couple of ways. Firstly, you can improve energy efficiency of your own home, a sound investment for streamlining consumption and reducing your bills. Depending on where you live, and the type of house you’re in, you can significantly cut down on your costs with a combination of the methods I mentioned above.

Secondly, you can invest companies that provide these services individually, or in a packaged form. This isn’t an immediately easy task. Most companies dealing with retrofitting are private…But it’s relatively easy to track occupancy rates and gauge the popularity of flipping in major metropolitan areas. The infrastructure lying underneath old buildings is slow to change, but flippers are often the first to snap up quick fixes. Follow them.

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