By: Evan Marshall
Heating a house takes a lot of energy. Whether your heating system is electrically powered, or oil powered, or you’re just throwing wood in the fireplace, heating your home in the winter is a hassle and a cost. But a new way to make use of naturally occurring heat might be on the horizon. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) have developed a technology that allows heat to be stored almost indefinitely, so the summer heat could warm up your home in the winter.
The technology uses the chemical sodium hydroxide (NaOH), commonly known as lye, to store the heat. When dry sodium hydroxide is exposed to water, it undergoes a chemical reaction that releases a large amount of heat. In sunlight, that water evaporates, drying out the sodium hydroxide and resetting the reaction. The dry sodium hydroxide is very stable, which means it can be stored for months or even years as long as it isn’t exposed to water.
The principle may be simple, but the application is not, and that’s where this new technology shines. It optimizes the concentration of the NaOH to ensure minimum heat loss, ensures the corrosive material can be contained safely and for long periods of times, and makes it so that the generated heat can be dispersed usefully into the home’s heating system. This part of the tech is still in a prototype phase, the researchers are actively looking for a commercial partner to bring it to market. Soon, you may be able to use this tech to cut down on your winter heating bill and save some money.