A new ceiling tile installed in Wellington City Hall could reduce the cost of cooling. The tile, called passive thermal energy storage ceiling tile, is best described as a sponge, said Barry Dicker, president of Decent Energy Inc. and project leader. The ceiling tile absorbs heat. Then, after temperatures drop, the tiles release the stored heat. The new tile was placed above the existing tile and under the fiberglass insulation already in City Hall.
“The minerals [of the tile] are melting during the time of peak air conditioning, and so by melting, they’re sponging up heat and that heat is being stored until a later time when the building temperature has dropped … things have cooled down, and those minerals start to rephrase,” Dicker said. “And at that point, it releases the heat out at a time when it’s not something that’s having to be cold for.” The tile installations are a partnership between Sumner County, the city of Wellington, University of Kansas School of Engineering, Sumner County Economic Development, Insolcorp, Decent Energy and PlaNet Productions.
The project is best described as a field testing and validation study, Laura Lombardi, the president of PlaNet Productions, said. The tiles are expected to go into six buildings in Wellington. So far, they have been installed at City Hall and in the Sumner County Public Health building. “We have been building some relationships here with the city and county over the past couple of years and they have a strong motivation to save taxpayer money,” Lombardi said. The goal? For other buildings to do the same thing. “[We have] buildings built in the 18, 1900s ... we know if we could prove that technology works in older buildings, it would give other building owners the incentives to take these steps and instead of tearing down buildings, we could make them energy efficient,” Lombardi said.
These tiles could have a big impact in summers like this, with the heat often in the triple digits. The point of the project is to reduce the use of electricity and, in return, reduce electricity bills. “It is a solution that has a lot of transformative potential,” Dicker said. Wellington has seen an all-time high in electric generation and consumption, Dicker said. These tiles are set up to help that.
“Anything that gives the utilities some additional breathing room by reducing those peak requirements … allows them to do some balancing,” Dicker said. “There are a lot of things that our utilities team juggle in terms of power quality that we don’t see as customers when we just go and flick on the lights.” The tile will help meet the city needs, too. “Being able to meet the requirements of the community during times of extreme weather is something where we can always use additional help,” Dicker said. “Reducing electric requirements at times of extreme weather was appealing there as well.”