WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a University of Maryland team has won its first Max Tech and Beyond Appliance Design Competition. The student challenge, which involved nine teams, aims to inspire students to pursue energy efficiency improvements in home and commercial appliances, helping to develop innovative ultra-efficient products.

The University of Maryland team chose to simplify the design of a standard wall-mounted air conditioner by separating the systems that remove humidity and provide cooling. After the students tested a fully functional prototype, they found that the design reduced energy use by 30 percent compared with typical wall-mounted air conditioners on the market. Because the current largest consumer of electricity in most homes nationwide is the air conditioning system, this design has the potential to substantially decrease residential energy use and save consumers money, said DOE.

The runner-up team from Marquette University in Milwaukee developed a prototype of a natural gas-fired combination water heater and clothes dryer that can use the waste heat from the clothes dryer to heat water for the next washing load. The team demonstrated that with this approach, they could get a 10 percent dryer efficiency improvement compared to the best comparable products on the market.

The nine faculty-led student design teams were competitively selected and funded with up to $20,000 by the Energy Department to design, build, and test their prototypes during the 2011-12 academic year. A panel of DOE experts along with those from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory judged each team’s prototype based on its demonstrated ability to reduce energy use by 10 percent or more compared to best on-the-market products, or based on the prototype’s ability to reduce production costs compared with typical high-efficiency products already on the market by 20 percent or more.

For more information, visit http://maxtechandbeyond.lbl.gov/.

Publication date: 9/3/2012