Warm up without touching the thermostat

As cities grow and energy sources dwindle, engineers now turn to a little-known resource to keep your home or office cozy and warm: body heat.

Your body actually emits about 100 watts of excess heat. It doesn’t sound like much. In fact, it’s about the same as what emanates from an ordinary light bulb. Edison designed the original incandescent bulb to generate light, but it also emits heat. And if you’ve ever touched one, you know that it feels quite hot.  

Up until very recently, however, we didn’t know how to harness the body’s excess heat and put it to good use. But in Sweden, engineers recently figured it out. In fact, they use body heat to warm an entire office building! Plus, it’s clean, cheap, and surprisingly easy to do. After all, if penguins in Antarctica survive by crowding close together and capturing their body heat, why can’t we?

In Stockholm, Sweden, the winters are long, dark, and cold. Not surprisingly, energy costs there can run extremely high. But Swedish engineers cut these costs by capturing excess body heat.

Here’s how it works:

Every day, a quarter of a million commuters hustle through Stockholm’s central train station. Engineers funnel the commuters’ excess body heat through a ventilation system. The heat then warms water in underground tanks. Then, the city pumps the water through pipes to a 13-story office building about 100 yards down the block. There, the warm water becomes part of the building’s regular heat pump system. This system cuts energy costs by about 25 percent.

In France, a company called Paris Habitat designed a similar system. Their system captures heat emitted from bodies, trains, and tracks in the Paris Metro. The heat then funnels up into a public housing apartment building through pipes and heat exchanges.

These advances in body heat technology aren’t limited to Europe. In Minnesota, engineers use body heat to help warm that great monument to consumerism, the Mall of America. The indoor temperature reaches 70 degrees even during subzero Minnesota winters. The air stays warm from the combined heat of human bodies, lighting fixtures, and the sun streaming through ceiling skylights. 

You too can use some simple tricks to help you and your habitat stay warm. First, take advantage of sunshine by letting it in through your windows when the sun is out. And help capture the heat by closing curtains when the sun goes down.

Capture your own body heat by wearing sweaters and vests, for arms-free warmth, when indoors. Also, drink hot beverages. And take deep, relaxing breaths, for good oxygen. Lastly, power your cells with nutrients and herbal infusions to keep them well-hydrated and producing energy.