New technology uses heat from underground parking lots to warm apartments

The good news is that Switzerland's fossil-fuel reliance should decrease in the coming years.

In Switzerland, more than 78% of the heating in buildings today is provided by boilers fuelled by oil, gas, or wood. The remaining 22% is provided by electric radiators, electrically driven heat pumps, and district heating networks.

Almost 60% of the heating used in Swiss, generated from fossil fuels. This makes Switzerland the biggest such consumer in Europe.

New technology offers hope that the country’s resilience to fossil fuels could soon decrease. All thanks to incentives by the federal and cantonal governments, advances in insulation materials, and new technology.

Most of the building owners are installing hybrid systems to capture different types of energy to limit fossil fuels.

A new technology developed by EPFL spin-off Enerdrape is for precisely these kinds of systems. The technology recovers heat from underground parking lots and uses it to warm the apartments above.

The technology comes with geothermal wall panels that need to be installed in underground structures. The panels then recover the heat located in the soil.

The technology aims to maximize the use of underground walls and exploit a natural, sustainable resource in places where it goes wasted. The panels measuring 1.3m x 0.7m are made from a metal no thicker than a painter’s canvas. Each ten blue-and-white panels works as a heat exchanger that captures both geothermal and ambient energy.

The equipped heat pump circulates the captured energy throughout the building above, hence providing a constant supply all year long.

Margaux Peltier, the CEO of Enerdrape, said, “The soil temperature doesn’t vary once you get a few meters below ground. That means the energy generated by our panels isn’t dependent on weather conditions or the time of year.”

Thanks to the stylish design of the panel, it gives the dreary parking lot walls a facelift.

Alberto Simonato, director at Realstone – company, said“We often encourage startups that are developing innovative technology for reducing CO2 emissions – an issue on which we take a proactive stance and are one step ahead of Switzerland’s federal and cantonal building standards.”

“We’re also working with another EPFL startup to install remote meters on some of our buildings’ heating and water systems.”

“If Enerdrape’s panels prove to be as effective as we expect, we could install them on the soil-abutting walls of a 275-place parking lot or in some of our other buildings.”

Enerdrape’s panels could feasibly be installed in new and existing buildings over the next few years at a cost comparable to other systems and with a yield that’s at least as good, if not better.

The technology can be used in underground parking lots and in tunnels, trains, and subway stations.

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