The newest trend in home heating might not have anything to do with your home heating system at all.
In a study recently published in Nano Letters by a group of Stanford University researchers, something called “nanowire clothing” could be popping up on the market as an alternative way to conserve thermal energy.
Unlike your classic thermal underwear, nanowire clothes are coated with tiny pieces of silver wires that keep your body warm; unlike traditional chain mail metal suits, these wires are bendable, minuscule bits of metal which allow the skin to breathe, letting sweat escape but keeping body heat in.
The nanowire cloth works in two ways: the wires reflect warm infrared rays inward rather than allowing the body to continue emitting the rays (and subsequently losing heat), and the cloth was can even function as a pseudo-electric blanket if placed near any electrical device from which the wires could soak up electrical currents.
The research team has noted a variety of reasons why the wired clothing would be beneficial: not only could it help your body maintain a stable internal temperature in order to ensure proper health, and not only would it be breathable and affordable (about $1 worth of silver could provide enough metal for a blanket to cover the entire body), but it could really cut the costs of energy bills — especially during sudden cold snaps.
The problem, however, is that the people inside a house aren’t the only ones who need heat; besides the obvious pets and plants that need to be kept in comfortable environments, it could actually be dangerous to the internal structure of the house itself if a homeowner suddenly turns the HVAC system on or off.
“Although this technology is quite innovative and interesting, it’s not a replacement for a home heating system,” says Tom Casey, Owner of Climate Partners in Milford, CT. “Keeping household members warm is just one reason to keep a heating system at a comfortable level in colder temperatures. For example, if it gets too cold in the house water pipes could freeze which could lead to broken pipes and flooding. That being said, one could save money by adjusting their thermostat down 5-10 degrees.”
Nanowire clothing isn’t yet available on commercial markets, as the research team has noted that the cloth is still in its early stages of development.
While it may not be able to take the place of a building’s entire HVAC system, nanowire clothes certainly take the phrase “Just put on another sweater!” to a new level.