If you are heating your home this winter, Hot-Tubes can make a big difference.
- 9/15 note: international shipping available at the $170 reward level
- 9/19 note: there's only one production run scheduled during 2014
- 9/25 note: Dropbox link with art selections, user's manuals, tech papers
We're bringing two new products to market via Kickstarter:
1. Hot-Tubes tubular fan system to bring warm ceiling air down to the floor for winter heating efficiency and comfort.
2. Cool-Tubes convertible LED lighting systems
Hot-Tubes were developed here in Maine to fix a big winter heating inefficiency; vast amounts of heated air accumulates at the ceiling. It's incredible how much wasted heat is up there, and it's been completely overlooked in homes while businesses have used reclamation systems for years. Here are links to commercial settings where installing ceiling fan systems dramatically reduced heating energy use;
- Federated warehouse - consumption of natural gas decreased by 10% using a large fan system
Testimonials from large companies - accumulated by Airius one of the leading manufacturers in the field
We've worked hard to solve the problem for homes, and are excited to bring Hot-Tubes to market with your help. We believe our inexpensive Hot-Tube fan system can save millions of people hundreds of dollars each winter and make them feel warmer at the same time. That's a really big thing and we need your help to spread the word.
Hot-Tubes work like a focused ceiling fan to bring heated air down to floor level. That makes room temperatures more consistent (fewer cold spots) and reduces thermostat cycling. The bottom line is lower winter heating bills and a more comfortable winter home.
In many ways Hot-Tubes are a significant improvement over a ceiling fan in winter. Weighing only ounces, Hot-Tubes can hang from almost any type of ceiling. To make it easy, we designed a slender wire hook that can be inserted into a drywall ceiling without any tools. That means you can place a Hot-Tube in just a few moments. Since Hot-Tubes blow warm air out through a duct at the bottom of the tube, there's no chilly breeze - often felt when using a ceiling fan in winter.
Hot-Tubes are 92" in height, 6" diameter, and work perfectly for most ceilings from just under 8 feet to 11 feet or more. They will also work for cathedral ceilings, but depending on the ceiling height, to a lesser or greater extent.
Hot-Tubes are a low cost easy to install solution that can benefit millions of people faced with winter's cold. With a successful Kickstarter campaign we're ready to fund our first production run and bring these to market in time for this winter - forecast to be another unusually cold one.
Test Results - Last winter
Last winter was one of the coldest in decades and we had several Hot-Tubes in place. The effect was dramatic, our electric bill fell 20% and gas heating bill by almost 10%. Hundreds of dollars were saved and despite the bitter cold of 2014 the house felt much warmer than it's ever been. This spring we crunched the winter data and visualized just how significant the numbers were. The difference was so dramatic we decided to form a company, complete development of Hot-Tubes as a commercial product, and bring them to market this year.
The fact that hot air rises has been known for a very long time. Another fact is the hotter something is, the faster it's heat is transferred to cooler things, such as ceiling heat lost through the roof. Getting hot ceiling air away from the ceiling, down to the floor and re-distributed in the room, is an important heating efficiency strategy. Here's a link to several papers on the benefits of "de-stratification" (mixing hot ceiling air with the rest of the room).
While I'm still waiting for Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Branson to get back to me (our schedules make it hard to get together), I'm fortunate to have Dr. Ken Buesseler for a brother-in-law, available and glad to help out. Ken is arguably the most knowledgeable person on the planet regarding radiation contamination of the oceans resulting from the Fukushima disaster. A great uncle and amazing cook, Ken's also a pretty smart scientist. Here's Ken sharing his thoughts about Hot-Tubes:
And yes, we are working on LED lighting and printed jackets for Hot-Tubes! We had to prioritize and just couldn't get it all done in time for this winter season. The accessories will be available for easy retrofitting to all our Hot-Tube models.
9/16 - just picked up a great endorsement from Dan Thayer, Engineer and CEO of Thayer Corporation here in Maine. Thanks Dan!
I’ve been licensed professional engineer specializing in thermodynamics and lighting and have owned and operated a HVAC installation and service company for over thirty years. We also do lighting design and installation. The principle of destratifing air with fans is a well proven principle that works effectively. We have used the principle for decades in large commercial applications. The Hot-Tubes product is very innovative and simple. It is an elegant packaging of this principle in an attractive and easy to apply product. The savings estimates look credible and somewhat conservative. Anyone using a wood stove or gas-fired room heaters should experience much greater than the projected savings since the stratifying effect is much greater due to the much hotter air trapped at the ceiling level.
Equally cool are the two Cool-Tubes products. It’s a creative packaging of state-of-the-art LED lighting into an attractive piece of furniture that can be customized to your interior. A perfect marriage of technology and art. I’m in !
Dan Thayer, P.E. President and CEO Thayer Corporation
Lastly from the science perspective, a visualization of Hot-Tubes at work:
The Hot-Tube story
Like many people we've always known it was pretty hot at the ceiling, and like many people, a ceiling fan wasn't an option. However 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.
That situation needed fixing and I couldn't find anything on the market to address the problem except ceiling fans and expensive door fans - and those simply blow the ceiling air from one room to the ceiling of another. Most homes in New England (ours included) don't have ceiling fans nor a proper ceiling height to install them even if we wanted to. They can also be very expensive when the cost of installation is added in.
The problem to be solved required moving warm ceiling air efficiently and quietly down to the floor. First efforts were crude but effective; the quilted fabric remnant "Rooster" print tube and old computer fan all taped together - now a household legend, and the noisy wood box with a tall plastic pipe that looked horrible and resonated through the house like a didgeridoo. All terribly flawed yet thermal improvement was noticeable. After a lot more work we developed a refined, dual wall, soft Tyvek® fabric tubular fan system that brought warm ceiling air down to the floor with almost no heat loss, and very little noise. One of the most striking benefits was eliminating the need for baseboard electric heat in one always cold room, 25 feet away from our stove. That room required a full time baseboard electric heater every winter. However because of a Hot-Tube placed in the doorway last year, that baseboard was never turned on. First time.
Over the last year we tested dozens of designs, used FLIR thermal imaging gear, sound meters, and digital thermostats to help keep things objective, and worked with a wide range of materials and processes until we arrived at the final form.
From the start we recognized Hot-Tubes had to achieve 4 goals. They had to be;
We dealt with several technology challenges. We learned that in a single fan system the fan had to be located at the bottom of the tube to balance air flow and noise. That led to another problem, how to keep a thin walled, flexible tube running up to the ceiling open under negative pressure (suction) from the fan below. We literally had to develop our own external spring system. For an adjustable duct at the bottom, we came up with a great "origami" Tyvek® solution. For support, we designed a custom wire hook that doesn't require tools to install in a typical drywall ceiling. None of these solutions existed when we started.
We're still working on adding lighting and printing, but that will have to wait till next season, and they'll be easy for the end user to install / swap out.
Here's a link to the user's manual and troubleshooting guide.
We believe Hot-Tubes represent an important step forward in home energy efficiency and would help millions of people across the country, with a return on investment in as little as one month. We're convinced and committed. However they are completely new to market, there's really nothing like them. That creates a very high barrier for typical retail channels, not to mention pause at creating a 7 foot high display.
We've approached agencies that are interested in supporting the distribution of Hot-Tubes but want a large formal study. Unfortunately that's beyond our current abilities.
The Kickstarter community is probably the best test market and study group we could ask for. A successful campaign would place Hot-Tubes with lots of motivated people now, giving us critical feedback this year. Without Kickstarter Hot-Tubes might take years to catch on.
Logistically, about $10,000 in dies, jigs, presses and machinery are needed for volume production to move forward in a cost effective way. With a new product like Hot-Tubes we also need serious market awareness and confidence in the market's interest to buy materials in volume and begin assembly.
Production Timeline, Hot-Tubes
- Order materials, electronics, dies and complete jigs
- Hot-Tube production begins at 1 or more facilities
- QA line checks
November / December - Hot-Tubes ship
What's with the Cool-Tubes?
Cool-Tube lighting is another product we've been developing for some time that just wrapped up. The final sprint to the finish line was boosted by the use of Tyvek and the production techniques we developed for Hot-Tubes, and last month we produced our first test batch of CNC parts. We went over all components and steps, and assembled a few dozen lamps for show and tell. These are just great and the local reception has been fantastic! Perfect for the study, bedroom or a whimsical night and reading light for the kids. Safe for the little ones, Cool-Tubes won't break if knocked over, they don't get hot, and there's no bulb to shatter.
I love LED lighting, woodworking, Industrial design and all things art. My wife is an artist and many of our friends are artists. In fact, we live in a town that has an art school and is full of artists. The Cool-Tube lighting concept is deceptively simple, blending several innovations into a novel, lightweight modular design that doesn't require an integral shade frame, screws, clips or fasteners. This allows a Cool-Tube to be used as a table style lamp or hung from the wall like a sconce, or even suspended from the ceiling.
All our lighting products feature dimmable 16 color remote control LED lighting and a super tough, virtually rip-proof Tyvek shade that incorporates great art as a tribute to our community, and the amazing styles found on shades in the early and mid 1900's. Great art on shades has been missing for the last 40 years, we want to bring it back.
We're making Cool-Tubes lighting with the help of many talented artists, and in several styles and 3 sizes; 14" night stand, 35" table top, and soon, full 86" room height. The brightness of the night stand size is best described as accent lighting, but can be used as a bedside reading light if the shade design selected is not too dark. The Table top size will provide some area room illumination and is a solid beside or couch side table lamp, but is also in the accent lighting category. The warm white setting on all our lamps is dimmer than the bright / cool white.
Since you're going to ask...we don't have our own battery design for these worked out yet - but It's high up on our project list!
Current status; Cool-Tubes
Fortunately there's quite a bit of overlap with the Hot-Tubes project so we're production ready. We will need a much larger and faster printer to keep costs reasonable and reach volume production, and more work refining our large format printing techniques so we can do great prints on our larger Table and Room size lights, that will take another $5,000. There's another thousand or so in misc. jigs dies and tooling. Ultimately, we may be doing another kickstarter to finish work on a battery module and full outside / weatherproof version, all in the works.
As for the Night stand and Table tops we've got great shops lined up to help us build them and our test batch of CNC parts came out great. Our assembly techniques are solid and we're printing well on the smaller tubes, we're good to go.
Production Timeline, Cool-Tubes
On guiding rule is the Hot-Tubes warm air recirculator production line must be solid before we shift gears to lighting. Helping beat winter cold trumps lighting pleasures.
We plan on having all the parts made in advance, leaving just assembly and packaging for late November / December.
September / October
- Cool -Tube parts production begins at 2 facilities
- QA line checks
November / December
- Cool-Tube assembly, packaging, shipping
The people behind Hot-Tubes
Hot-Tubes is a company co-founded by myself, (Bill Zelman) and Adam Lee. We're working with a group of well established companies to produce our products locally here in Maine. Many of our artists are local and we are actively recruiting all the time.
I'm the inventor, designer, overall production meister, and co-strategist with Adam, who brings an enormous wealth of knowledge and expertise in state and national energy and conservation issues, business, marketing and customer relations.
Adam has played a key role in many Maine institutions that focus on energy and the environment, including serving Chairmanships of the Efficiency Maine Trust, the Maine Audubon Corporate Partners, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the Maine Energy Conservation Board. Adam has also served on many other boards, including the Nature Conservancy Corporate Partners, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Maine Energy Council, and the Governor’s Advisory Council.
Adam is the President and Chairman of the Lee Group, the third generation to lead one of Maine's largest and most important car dealerships. He is outspoken in his commitment to improving efficiency standards for cars, and testified in front of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on CAFE standards. You can hear Adam speaking on this important issue in 2007
I practiced medicine in a previous life, but I've always been into technology and design. In 1990, at the start of my medical career I developed a computer system for medical records, one of the first ever. Thus began a 20 year stretch building and running a medical software company. I've had an interest in electronics since childhood, and at the turn of the millennium I started work designing and building a 16 foot battery powered boat and numerous bicycles. Although I built some pretty sophisticated stuff and totally embraced them (I commuted for years on my electric bikes), I couldn't see a viable enterprise.
Over the years I've built several unique LED lights as birthday gifts for my best friend, and 10 years ago designed and built our 20x20 trade show booth and it's LED lighting system from scratch. 2 people could set it up in 2 hours. Although common now, I believe it was the first all LED trade show booth.
Blessed with the infinite patience of my spouse, over the past decade I've added suburban homesteader to my resume and rebuilt almost 2000 square feet of leaky flat roof to incorporate passive solar features and a desperately needed water management system. I did all the work on my own - with supervision from very talented and concerned dear friends. It was working through this experience and embracing energy efficiency in my own old home, that focused my mind on winter heating problems, their solutions, and finally the Hot-Tubes concept.
Here's one simple solution for drafty window jams I placed in the public domain, maybe it will help you or someone you know. Any basic 1/4" or thicker foam will do the trick, pretty easy to cut out with a good knife:
In short, I'm a workaholic entrepreneur techy that finds excitement in everything from mastering the art of wick bed gardening to big challenging HIT projects, and now designing and building home products for energy efficiency and lighting. As long as I'm able I will continue to explore new technologies and ventures.
Risks and challenges
We've taken a lot of time designing and making prototypes, and meeting and working with suppliers and fabricators to make sure our designs can be manufactured efficiently, and to the highest standards. Our designs are finished and ready. We're currently designing and building a series of jigs and platens to gear up for volume production this fall.
Fortunately most of our suppliers and fabricators are in Maine or very close by. We know them professionally, and we know them personally. The big unknown and untested variables are securing certain supplies in high volume, and assembling and shipping lots of product.
To manage that risk, we've stuck close to commonly stocked materials and parts where possible, and secured multiple suppliers of our core materials and several production / fulfillment companies. That adds complexity and increases cost to some extent, but we feel it's an important safeguard as we start rolling.
Our parts list includes electrical components such as fans, power supplies and LED's that originate with few - if any US companies. These can only be purchased economically from Chinese sources. Getting shipments from China, in good condition and on time is a weak link in the supply chain and will be an important strategic focus.
We've never brought products like this to market before. However my history and familiarity with materials, processes, and tech is extensive, and Adam deftly manages a large state wide enterprise with hundreds of employees. We've established relationships and partnered with great local talent. Our timeline is ambitious, but we're really committed to get Hot-Tubes out in time for winter, and Cool-Tubes in time for the Holidays.
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- (31 days)