At Paris Olympics, some athletes distrust an unusual cooling system

Paris has been gearing up for the Summer Olympics for some time. I did not know this about their plans.

For all the steps Paris organizers have taken to put on the greenest Olympics ever, their boldest measure — the one they’ve touted again and again — pertains to the dorms in the Athletes’ Village. The rooms don’t have air-conditioning.

That is not exactly true. They’re not using “traditional” air conditioning where there is active air cooling a space. They plan to use chilled water systems with piping in the floors to “cool” athletes’ rooms.

The bid to forgo air-conditioning was just a tiny part of the overall Paris plan to reduce the footprint of a massive event. But it is highly symbolic, as it has forced participating countries to consider whether they want to participate in a sustainability experiment — abandoning conventional, energy-intensive privileges in the name of green goals. The collective decision of some of the largest countries also raises questions about equality: Portable air-conditioning represents a cost that some delegations from poorer countries might not be able to afford, meaning athletes in the same Olympic Village might be sleeping at different temperatures.

Did Paris unknowingly give “richer” countries an advantage since they could afford giving portable air conditioners to their athletes? I’d love to see the Post follow up with an analysis after the games.

Blond designs “attractive and desirable” heat pump system for Electric air

Electric Air is another company looking to make their mark with heat pumps in the HVAC residential market.

“Heat pumps, condensers and other home heating and cooling products tend to be fairly unconsidered in terms of their aesthetics because they’re often hidden away in a loft or basement,” Blond director James Melia told Dezeen.

“We felt that if you’re going to spend a significant amount of money making a big change to your home infrastructure it helps if the objects you’re buying are attractive and desirable.”

One way to help heat pump adoption among homeowners is to make them look nice. Quilt here in the US is trying to do the same thing.

Don’t Believe the Biggest Myth About Heat Pumps

Matt Simon on Wired.com:

If heat pumps don’t actually work in frigid weather, no one told the Nordic nations, which endure Europe’s coldest climates, with average winter temperatures around 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees F). As of 2021, Norway had heat pumps in 60 percent of households. In 2022, Finland installed more of the appliances per capita than any other country in Europe, while Sweden has similarly gone all-in on the technology. In the United States, heat pumps are selling like hotcakes in Alaska, and last year Maine announced it had reached its goal of installing 100,000 of the devices way ahead of schedule. These places ain’t exactly perpetually sunny California. (US-wide, heat pumps now outsell gas furnaces.)

I will professionally die on this hill. I’ll go as far as to say that people who say that heat pumps don’t work in cold climates is on par with people who don’t believe in climate change, that the world is round, etc.

Quilt rides heat pump heat wave with hefty $33M Series A

Quilt says its heat pump will address those concerns, promising a sleeker design that can be installed in more places around a room than competitors’ offerings. The company has only released a teaser image so far. It looks promising, but we’ll have to wait until it unveils the finished product on May 15 to pass final judgment. The company engineered the core of the system in-house, though it’s working with a manufacturing partner to produce the units.

Design isn’t the only challenge facing traditional heat pumps. Many customers have been turned off by the way they operate. In most homes, a single mini-split (known as a “head”) handles both heating and cooling for a single room. Each head gets its own thermostat or remote, which means if someone wants to adjust the temperature for the whole house, they need to visit every room.

This is the first that I’ve heard about Quilt, but apparently they raised a seed round last year. I admire what they’re trying to do. The HVAC industry is a traditionally “non-sexy” industry where the incumbents have been stagnant for a long time, in terms of product design, marketing, and innovation.

On the flip side, D2C companies aren’t as trendy as they were 5–10 years ago. Who can remember Casper and all those mattress companies? Allbirds went public at $29 but the stock is at $0.58 today. Turns out, going direct to consumer isn’t the best strategy in some industries.

I’ll be looking forward to May 15.