Super-insulated clothing could let you skip indoor heating

warm up inside
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 jamelah

Wearing extra layers inside is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce energy consumption during the winter, which both helps the planet and saves you money. We've brought you some great low-tech ways in the past to stay warm while keeping the heat set low, but a new high tech solution could help us all to warm up while using less energy.

Researchers at Stanford University have figured out a way to apply a silver nanowire coating to fabrics to make them super insulating, cutting down or even cutting out the need for indoor heating when worn.

The researchers say that the main advantage of the nanowire-coated clothing is that it reflects over 90% of a person's body heat back to the person. In comparison, a very warm wool sweater only reflects back about 20% of body heat.

The other key part of this is that even while very insulating it's very breathable. Clothing made entirely of silver would not breathe at all, but the nanowire coating has a very porous structure so that water vapor molecules can pass through and a person wouldn't be covered in sweat, while still reflecting heat back towards the body.

© American Chemical Society

That coating is also very light, adding only one gram in weight for an entire outfit dipped in the coating. Only a small amount of the mass of the coating is actually silver, so it would also be inexpensive. Using other metals in the coating like aluminum, copper or nickel would be even cheaper.

Researchers think that wearing clothing with the silver nanowire coating could save a person about 8.5 kWh of energy per day or 1,000 kWh per year assuming that a person uses indoor heating four months per year. The numbers would of course vary for each person depending on the climate they live in, the size of their house and other factors.

The energy saved is the same as what could be produced by a 2-square-meter solar panel, but the clothing would be far cheaper to buy and maintain.

Tags: Clothing | Heating | Technology | Winter

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