Consisting simply of a surface and legs, the table is one piece of furniture that has remained largely the same for thousands of years.
But now, a French design duo has come up with a way to turn the humble table into a means of climate control that doesn’t use any electricity.
The ZEF table looks like any other with a sleek design of a solid plank oak top and angled legs — but it could hold the secret to cutting energy costs by as much as 60%.
“We wanted to see if it was possible to address climate and energy issues on a furniture scale,” Lagrange told WIRED.
Beneath the oak table are a series of phase-changing materials (PCMs) placed between the wood and anodized aluminium bottom. The materials soften when the surrounding room reaches around 71 degrees, absorbing the excess heat, and then harden once the temperature dips back below 71 degrees, releasing the trapped heat with the help of the aluminium and causing a noticeable change in the room’s temperature.
That means the table is essentially working like a “thermal sponge,” as Lagrange and Ménard put it, sucking up excess heat and then releasing it once the room becomes cool enough.
According to the inventors, the table has the potential to reduce heating needs by as much as 60% and cooling demands by as much as 30%, which could save a lot of money as well as energy.
It’s a feat of engineering that makes the most sense in homes that don’t have climate control.
In climates where the temperature can drastically swing from hot to cold in short spans of time, the ZEF Climatic Table is most useful. For example, if a room heats up on a sunny day and then the temperature drops at night, the ZEF table would make the climate in that room more consistent.
The ZEF table works best in rooms that undergo significant temperature changes frequently.
It would also be best in parts of the world where air conditioning is either undesirable — like in parts of Europe where it’s thought to cause illnesses — or unattainable. If your thermostat or air conditioning unit is constantly turned on, it would be fighting the ZEF table and using more energy instead of less.
Lagrange and Ménard are planning more Zero Energy Furniture in the future, and told WIRED that they are looking into home goods as well as lighting designs in their next project.