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Oregon BEST Helps Commercialize Thermal Window Technology
Portland company innovates low-cost alternative to double-pane window replacements
Entrepreneur Sam Pardue loved the old, wooden, divided-light windows in his historic Portland home. Although gorgeous, the single-pane windows were anything but energy efficient. Pardue considered replacing the 24 windows in his home with new double-pane windows. But he discovered the cost would be prohibitive, the installation process invasive and time consuming, and in the end, the house would lose much of its historic character and charm.
So Pardue, ever the entrepreneur, asked himself: could he design a window insert that would be as energy efficient as double-pane window replacements, cost a fraction of the price, and be a snap to install?
Pardue suspected he could.
He and a partner designed a preliminary prototype made of acrylic glazing edged with a proprietary silicone strip, that is pushed into the existing window frame from the inside of the home to form an airtight seal and create a thermal airspace between the acrylic glazing and the original window.
In September 2010, the partners displayed their prototype at Oregon BEST FEST, an annual gathering in Portland of university researchers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs engaged in renewable energy and the sustainable built environment. At BEST FEST, Pardue met what he calls, “An amazing array of industry and academic players.”
One of those players was David Sailor, a mechanical engineering professor and Oregon BEST researcher who directs the Green Building Research Lab, a signature research facility of Oregon BEST located at Portland State University.
The connection clicked, and Pardue tapped the lab’s research capabilities to complete a range of acoustic, air flow, and thermal performance testing of the window prototypes. The results of this lab testing showed that the prototype windows installed over a single-pane window outperformed standard double-pane windows on air infiltration and sound transmission, and had an R-Value of 1.87 vs. 2 for double-pane windows. These results gave Pardue’s fledgling company – Indow Windows – the data it needed to move to the next level. (Thermal image shows the difference in surface temperature between a single-pane window with and without an Indow Window installed; darker color indicates colder surface temperature on single-pane window.)
Two months later, Pardue officially launched the company with 3.5 employees. Since the company's launch, it has grown to 14 employees and distribution of its products in more than 21 states, thanks in part to Oregon BEST’s involvement, encouragement, and support.
“The test results from the Oregon BEST facility at Portland State definitely helped Indow Windows launch and build momentum,” Pardue says. “We have used those initial lab test results as a cornerstone of our marketing to vendors, the media, and individual customers.”
Pardue then teamed up with Sailor to apply for an Oregon BEST Commercialization Grant – funding awarded to industry-university teams in Oregon working to commercialize new technologies related to renewable energy or the sustainable built environment.
In early 2010, Pardue and Sailor were awarded one of the first four Oregon BEST grants, receiving $73,000 to expand the research and testing at the Green Building Research Lab and add pilot deployments of Indow Windows at several sites where researchers have monitored energy use, weather patterns, and cost savings over the long term.
“Winning the Commercialization grant from Oregon BEST was another huge boost,” Pardue says. “We couldn’t have funded these pilots without the support from Oregon BEST, and the grant instantly added credibility to our story, both to the media and to investors. David Kenney, the president of Oregon BEST has also introduced us to key industry players, which is enormously helpful.”
Indow Windows won the Innovation in Sustainable Product Award from the Portland Business Journal, was one of two runners up in the Clean Tech Open competition, won approval from Clean Energy Works, was a finalist in the Edison Awards 2012 Best New Product in building materials, and was named a 2011 "Top 10 Product" by Sustainable Industries Magazine. The company has been a finalist in several angel investment competitions, including Angel Oregon, and one of the reasons cited is the Oregon BEST Commercialization Grant and the opportunity it represents, Pardue says.
Pardue expects the pilot deployments to give the company the data it needs to win utility and government support across the United States as it ramps up for national distribution.
Sailor says he is pleased to be contributing to a local company’s success.
“This is one of our main goals at the Green Building Research Lab: helping commercialize technologies and research into new products that lead to new jobs,” he said. “To be able to help a startup company like Indow Windows succeed is a win for everyone, from the students working in our lab, to the company, to the economy of Oregon.
In the six months since its launch, Indow Windows has installed its inserts – which cost 70 to 90 percent less than traditional double-pane window replacements and take only a few hours instead of days to install – at more than 100 homes and businesses in the area.
With ongoing help from Oregon BEST, Pardue is looking forward to growing Indow Windows, improving their product through additional research, and creating more green jobs at their Portland factory (pictured, above).
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