Product Review

BuildingGreen Announces Top 10 Products for 2022

Innovative products include heat pumps that use low-GWP refrigerants, energy-saving window inserts, water-saving infrastructure, induction ranges, and more.

BuildingGreen’s editorial team has been vetting green building products for more than 30 years. This research has informed our articles, GreenSpec product directory, product guides, and our annual Top 10 green building products award, where we select products that significantly improve upon standard “business-as-usual” practices. This is the 20th anniversary of that award, and this year we showcase products that fundamentally change our building systems by conserving energy, water, and resources while reducing carbon emissions and their impacts.

This year’s BuildingGreen Top 10 winners:

Alpen High Performance Products WinSert

Alpen High Performance Products WinSert

Alpen High Performance Products WinSert

Photo: Alpen High Performance Products
Why we chose this product: Alpen High Performance Products WinSert commercial interior secondary window inserts use the company’s thin-glass window technology and narrow-profile fiberglass frames to transform aging windows into high-performance units without the need for a full replacement. 

Alpen, a 2020 Top 10 winner with its ThinGlass Triple and Quad windows, has two versions of WinSert: the single-pane WinSert Lite and the dual-pane WinSert Plus with argon or krypton gas fill. Both use the company’s thin-glass technology and are available with different coating options, depending on performance needs. Their insulated fiberglass frames include exterior-quality gasketing to create a thermal break and a novel neodymium magnetic attachment system to speed installation, simplify cleaning and maintenance, and avoid penetrations into the structure.

These inserts are engineered for commercial retrofits, supplementing aging aluminum or wood windows. They are third-party certified by the Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC), which is similar to the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) used for windows. According to the company, adding WinSerts to an aluminum-framed, single-glazed system with a whole-window U-factor of 1.12 (R-0.90) and a solar-heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.73 improves the U-factor to 0.47 (R-2.1) using WinSert Lite and to 0.19 (R-5.3) using WinSert Plus while improving the SHGC to 0.41 and 0.38, respectively. A WinSert is only 1½ inches thick, and its lightweight thin glass (similar to glass found on phones) makes it a good option in larger, historic buildings where thicker, heavier energy-efficient windows are not economically or aesthetically viable. (See more in our product review.)

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D3Energy Floating Solar

D3Energy Floating Solar

D3Energy Floating Solar

Photo: D3Energy
Why we chose this product: D3Energy’s floating photovoltaic (PV) system can outperform ground-mounted systems while reducing demands on land use and reducing evaporation.

Installing photovoltaic systems can be challenging in areas where land is expensive and space is limited. D3Energy solves this problem by creating floating PV systems using the Hydrelio system manufactured by the French company Ciel et Terre. The modular system contains a network of floats made from UV-resistant, high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Each unit contains two floats:

  • One float supports the PV panel and incorporates similar racking hardware used in ground-mounted PV systems.
  • The other float is used for maintenance access and has a non-slip surface.

Each connects to the next to form rows and, according to D3Energy, the system can be anchored to withstand winds up to 150 mph as well as freeze-thaw cycles.

D3Energy’s system can do more than save land space. On water, there are few obstacles to block the sun shining on the PV panels, yet the panels themselves provide shade to the water, so there is up to 70% less evaporation. D3Energy systems could be used to provide power while helping retain water in reservoirs used for irrigation, water treatment, or drinking water. Being mounted over water also helps keep the PV panels cool (high temperatures reduce a PV system’s efficiency), potentially improving the system’s overall performance. And because they float, they can also be used in areas prone to flooding.

Installation costs of D3Energy systems are comparable to those of ground-mounted systems, and the product comes with a standard 10-year warranty or an optional 20-year warranty.

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Garland Commercial Induction Ranges and Hobs

Garland Commercial Induction Ranges and Hobs

Garland Commercial Induction Ranges and Hobs

Photo: Garland Group
Why we chose this product: Garland induction ranges and hobs are engineered for the demands of commercial kitchens. Compared to gas, they can reduce a kitchen’s carbon footprint while helping create a safer, healthier workspace.

Garland offers the Master Series induction ranges as well as other induction hobs (or “burners”) for commercial kitchen owners looking to go all electric and avoid the use of fossil fuels. Instead of burning natural gas, induction cooktops produce an electromagnetic field that causes ferrous metal pans to heat up. The electromagnetic field stops when the pan is removed, so the cooking surface remains relatively cool. (See more in our feature article.)

Garland ranges, tabletops, griddles, woks, and other induction products include the following benefits:

  • They produce no carbon or combustion byproducts that create occupational hazards indoors and contribute to smog, acid rain, and eutrophication of waterways outdoors.
  • Induction, in general, is 80­% to 85% efficient, compared to 25%–40% for natural gas, and 65%–75% for electric resistance.
  • They require less ventilation energy. With no combustion gases, ventilation demands can sometimes be reduced.
  • Employees are less likely to burn themselves, and with no open flame there is less fire risk.
  • They produce faster cooking times and better temperature control than gas, helping speed production, minimize waste through overcooking, and maximize quality.
  • They operate at a cooler temperature (since the heat energy is transferred to the pan and food), resulting in a more comfortable working environment.
  • Their surfaces are easy to clean. 

Garland’s induction cooktops use the company’s Realtime Temperature Control System (RTCSmp), which monitors the heat of the pan to reduce “boiled dry” events or overheating pans. It can also adjust for the composition of different ferrous metal pans to optimize performance.

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Gradient Comfort

Gradient Comfort

Gradient Comfort

Photo: Gradient Comfort—Erica Hennes
Why we chose this product: Gradient Comfort is an innovative heat-pump system that provides energy-efficient cooling and heating in a package that uses a lower-global-warming-potential (GWP) refrigerant than standard heat pumps and can be installed in most residential windows.

Standard heat pumps consist of a large outdoor compressor connected to an indoor heat exchanger by two refrigerant lines that move heating and cooling energy back and forth. These lines usually have to go through the wall of the building, which is expensive to install and not practical in many buildings.

Gradient’s all-in-one system rests over the windowsill instead, using a proprietary mounting system that does not need screws, bolts, or building penetrations. The outdoor compressor is 24" square by 15" deep, and the indoor unit is 24" square by 8" deep. The entire package weighs 140 pounds and will fit into most single- or double-hung windows, as long as there is 24" of room from the windowsill to the floor. 

Gradient uses a glycol (antifreeze) loop as the heat-transfer fluid between the two units, and incorporates larger heat exchangers and a variable-speed drive to maximize efficiency. And Gradient uses R32 as a refrigerant, which has a relatively low GWP of 677, whereas most heat pumps use R410a, a powerful greenhouse gas with a GWP of approximately 2,000. This refrigerant is contained solely in the outdoor unit, and with no external refrigerant lines, significantly less refrigerant is required for the entire system when compared to a standard heat pump, and there is less chance of leakage. (See more in our product review.)

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Jets Vacuum Toilet

Why we chose this product: Jets Vacuum Toilets use specially designed toilet and plumbing systems, and pumps to remove waste using a vacuum. The system uses far less water than standard gravity toilets and can be used in green building applications where other waste systems can’t.

Jets vacuum toilet

Jets Vacuum Toilets

Photo: Jets AS

How a Jets system works: when a vacuum toilet is activated, a valve opens, accessing the vacuum and removing the waste along with a small amount of water. The waste is pulled along the pipe, through the pump (which also macerates it), and is then emptied into a conventional sewer, septic system, or composting facility. Jets’ single-pump design uses less energy than comparable vacuum systems, which rely on a pump for the vacuum and one for the discharge, according to the company.

Jets offers two systems:

  • A smaller unit for up to nine toilets that runs off a 12-volt DC,  24-volt DC, or 230-volt AC pump. It uses only one pint (0.125 gallons per flush, or gpf), compared to 1.28 gpf for most low-flow toilets, and the vacuum is on demand, turning on only when a toilet is flushed.
  • Larger systems that use 0.25 gpf and larger pumps (up to three-phase 480 Volt) and use a continuous vacuum system (CVS) where the pump is activated only when necessary to maintain the vacuum.

Jets Vacuum Toilets are available in wall- or floor-mounted versions and use 2" polypropylene pipe rather than PVC. This can simplify installation since contractors do not have to go through the floor slab, and waste removal doesn’t rely on gravity. The combination of water savings, design flexibility, and lack of Red List materials have made vacuum toilets viable options in Living Building Challenge Projects, where they are often paired with composting systems. (See more in our product review.)
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Mitsubishi Electric Heat2O Commercial Heat-Pump Water Heater

Mitsubishi Electric Heat2O Commercial Heat-pump Water Heater

Mitsubishi Electric Heat2O Commercial Heat-pump Water Heater

Image: Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US
Why we chose this product:  Mitsubishi Electric’s Heat2O commercial heat-pump water heater uses CO2 as a refrigerant, which has a global warming potential (GWP) of only 1, rather than R410a, which has a GWP more than 2,000 times higher.

With an urgent need to mitigate global warming, energy-efficient commercial hot-water systems that do not run on fossil fuels are in demand, and those that do not use high-GWP refrigerants are even more so. Heat2O’s use of CO2 means it can be used in place of standard water heaters that burn fossil fuels or heat-pump water heaters that use R410a. And it will be able to meet future refrigerant restrictions that phase out higher-GWP refrigerants.  

Though CO2 is not the ideal refrigerant for every use, it is not toxic or flammable, unlike many new refrigerants, and can be an excellent, climate-friendly choice for the right application, such as heating water. And the Heat2O has been optimized to use CO2, with variable-speed compressors and pumps, and spiraled heat exchangers between the water and refrigerant to improve efficiency further. It also comes with controls that make it capable of demand response, so it can potentially shed loads, reduce power consumption, increase capacity, adjust set points, or shut down entirely to reduce loads on the regional electrical grid during peak use.

The modular Heat2O can be connected with up to 16 units to allow capacities from 40 kW to 640 kW and can operate at 40, 50, or 60 kW (40 kW is the default energy-saving mode), so it can be used in a wide range of applications. (See more in our product review.)

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OhmConnect

OhmConnect

OhmConnect

Image: OhmConnect, Inc.
Why we chose this product: OhmConnect is a software package that connects home smart devices—plugs, thermostats, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, battery storage, and others—to the grid, turning them on and off in order to reduce energy demand during times of peak use and reduce a customer’s energy costs.

OhmConnect works as a virtual power plant by reducing overall energy demand from the grid. And the service is free. In fact, OhmConnect customers can earn money or other rewards based on the amount of power they don’t consume during these events. That’s because utilities would rather pay people to not use the power than have to turn on high-emitting, fossil-fuel-burning back-up facilities (peaker plants).

The process works like this:

  • High demand on the grid leads to a wholesale-power price spike.
  • Homes participating with OhmConnect shut down select devices. OhmConnect can automatically turn appliances on and off, but WiFi- enabled devices can also be controlled by the user.
  • The energy market pays OhmConnect for that available power.
  • OhmConnect pays the customer.

Stories of problems with electrical grids have become commonplace over the last few years in places like Texas and California. And there will be increasing electrical demand as we balance renewable energy production with the addition of electric vehicles, heat pumps, and other electric-powered devices. Though each household turning off a few appliances may not seem like much, the cumulative effect can be significant. According to the company, during the August 2020 heat wave in California, 1 gigawatt hour (1 billion watt hours) of power became available to the grid due to OhmConnect reductions.

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Opti Stormwater Management

Opti Stormwater Management

Opti Stormwater Management

Image: OptiRTC, Inc.
Why we chose this product: Opti is a cloud-based platform that uses weather data along with sensors, actuated valves, pumps, and other Internet-of-Things-enabled systems to proactively manage stormwater.

Opti’s smart stormwater system can be used to control waterflow in lakes, reservoirs, and ponds; sewers; cisterns; underground storage tanks; blue roofs; and more. It can be scaled for used by watershed managers or integrated into individual sites for rainwater harvesting and managing runoff.

According to the company, Opti’s platform can help with:

  • Combined-sewer overflow (CSO) mitigation: Opti can retain 90% of precipitation that cause CSOs by storing water upstream and managing discharge. 
  • Flood mitigation: Opti automatically lowers the water volume in a storage area before a storm, adding capacity and mitigating flood risk. It also adds resilience to communities downstream by controlling the timing of discharge to minimize flood damage.
  • Water quality improvement: Opti can increase the amount of time water stays in stormwater infrastructure, allowing for more particles to settle out, more infiltration into subsurface soils, more pollutant removal, and more nutrient availability to local vegetation.
  • Erosion control: Opti can discharge water at low flow rates over a longer period of time, minimizing downstream erosion problems and improving stream health.
  • Water conservation: Opti can store water for rainwater harvesting while doubling as stormwater control.  

Using Opti could save significant money by minimizing property damage, optimizing the performance of current stormwater infrastructure, mitigating the need for expensive combined-sewer infrastructure, and capturing water for irrigation and other uses. It can also help build a community’s resilience against both drought and flood events.

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PureEdge Lighting Lazer Line

white Lazer Line rendering

Lazer Line

Image: PureEdge
Why we chose this product: PureEdge Lighting’s Lazer Line interior LEDs look like laser beams yet provide high-quality lighting and impressive efficacy in a form that can be used in unique applications.

Winner of the Most Innovative Product of the Year award at the 2021 Lightfair International conference, Lazer Line’s patented system uses turnbuckles attached to opposing walls or ceilings along with an aluminum tape strip tightened between them. The aluminum tape acts as the heatsink and as the mounting platform for an LED strip. Power is supplied from one end or from both ends for longer runs. White light or RGB (red, green, blue) tapes can be used with the system, and the two can be mixed so that RGB acts as indirect lighting, focusing upward for example, while the white functions as direct lighting, focusing downward.

Lazer Line puts out 542 lumens per foot with an impressive efficacy (a measure of lighting efficiency) of 164 lumens per watt for a single row of LEDs at a color rendering index (a measure of the quality of light) greater than 92. (Above 90 is typically considered to be great light quality.) Lazer Line LEDs are available in color temperatures from a warm 2400K to a cooler 4000K, with tunable versions that can be adjusted from 2000K to 6500K. (See more in our product review.)

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Rheaply

Rheaply

Rheaply

Image: Rheaply
Why we chose this product: Rhealpy offers tools and services that building professionals can use to aid building and material reuse, improving the carbon and environmental footprints of our buildings through greater material circularity.

Many of today’s buildings last less than 30 years. That means hundreds of millions of tons of construction materials are sent to the landfill every year. The amount of embodied carbon in this waste is staggering, a problem that can be averted in the future by purchasing and reusing materials before they are turned to waste. But getting a circular economy to work for buildings and their materials means better adaptive design upfront, better material selection, better material tracking, and finding a viable market for materials at the end of their service life.

Rheaply provides a platform for teams to list underutilized assets and materials, or to purchase them from others for their next project, through the company’s customizable Resource Exchange Platform. With Rheaply, you can:

  • browse the availability, location, and pricing of materials in the network
  • post that you are looking for a building material or product and get notifications when it becomes available
  • track your organization’s materials activity and any next steps required
  • generate reports

Repurposing or reusing building materials should be part of our low-carbon future, but standard methods of tracking, storing, and repurposing building materials are very difficult to do cost effectively. Rheaply provides a viable method for furthering the circular economy in a simple, easy-to-use platform.

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Published January 10, 2022

Ehrlich, B. (2021, December 21). BuildingGreen Announces Top 10 Products for 2022. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/product-review/buildinggreen-announces-top-10-products-2022

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