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Totally tubular: Innovative fans redistribute hot ceiling air to the floor for warmer rooms & lower heating costs

By Derek Markham

These lightweight tube fans can easily be hung almost anywhere, allowing you to recapture the warm air that you've already paid for.

One of the big inefficiencies in most home heating systems comes from the natural tendency of warm air to rise, which leads to hot ceilings and cool floors and frequent on-and-off cycling of the systems. Considering that all human activity in homes and offices takes place in the bottom 6 feet of a room, not up near the ceiling, that rising hot air can add up to a lot of wasted energy, money, and cold toes.

A bid to reduce this heating inefficiency during the cold Maine winters spurred one man's search for a solution, which has yielded a novel invention that functions like a focused ceiling fan to redistribute warm air from the ceiling to the floor. Bill Zelman's Hot-Tubes, which use a tall Tyvek tube and a small fan to move the air, are designed to be low-cost, simple to install, and easy to use, and could end up saving homeowners a fair bit of energy and money every winter.

My house is about 100 years old, and has ceilings that are 10 feet high, which means that a lot of the heat from our woodstove ends up far above us, while our floors stay cool. While a ceiling fan helps to redistribute that heat downward, it also generates a constant breeze, which is not the most pleasant feeling in your home in the winter. Because the Hot-Tubes are claimed to not cause a breeze, due to the fact that the warm air comes out of the bottom of the tube near the floor, instead of being blown downward by a large fan, they may be a more comfortable and efficient solution to more efficient winter heating.

Zelman's experience of a large temperature difference between the ceiling and the floor in his own home led him to start experimenting with a warm air recirculator of his own design, which has since been developed into the Hot-Tubes device.

" ... my interests in home energy efficiency reached the tipping point one beastly cold winter day when I was working over my head, about 25 feet from the heating stove. It was much hotter than where I had been sitting with chilly feet just a few moments earlier, a mere 10 feet away from the stove. I thought it was ridiculous. A digital thermometer and FLIR confirmed it, 75 degrees vs 62 degrees." - Bill Zelman

The goals for the Hot-Tubes design were four-fold - the device had to be effective, lightweight, attractive, and affordable - and according to the information available on the website, it appears that those goals were achieved. The devices can be quickly installed by hanging them from a wire hook without using any tools (in a typical drywall ceiling), can pull warm air down to the floor with "almost no heat loss" and very little noise, and can run 24/7 for a full month using just 20 cents worth of electricity.

With a Hot-Tube in place and operating, Zelman claims that the air in the room is less stratified (hot air at the ceiling, cool air near the floor), which not only reduces cold spots in the room and helps make it more comfortable, but also keeps the thermostat and heating system from cycling on and off as frequently.

Source: Treehugger, Sept.10, 2014

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