Faced with the age-old quandary of how to cool residential buildings during the summer without central air HVAC systems, compressors that drain the grid and cause system outages, or toxic refrigerants harmful to the environment, a San Francisco start-up has devised a window-mounted mini-split air conditioner (AC).
According to the International Energy Agency, the number of AC units in buildings across the world is projected to hit 5.6 billion by 2050. Current HVAC systems—built by industry incumbents whose product design hasn’t changed in decades —are damaging the environment.
Gradient, a technology company that has designed the first consumer HVAC device using a heat pump technology, has closed a Series A funding round of $18 million from Sustainable Future Ventures and Ajax Strategies.
“We are reimagining the HVAC industry by building products that keep homes comfortable and healthy for the people who inhabit them, without compromising the environment,” said Vince Romanin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Gradient. “Support from Sustainable Future Ventures will enable us to expand our operations, build new products, and achieve a 95% carbon reduction when our products are used to both heat and cool.”
“The global market for HVAC is $100 billion per year and growing rapidly,” said Matt Chagan, partner at Sustainable Future Ventures. “We are thrilled to support Gradient’s mission and be part of their mission-driven journey.”
Gradient’s first product, the Gradient, is a replacement for the traditional window AC, designed to give consumers the aesthetic of not blocking the window like traditional ACs do. Gradient uses heat pump technology and a climate-friendly refrigerant to create a product that the company says is quiet, effective, and energy efficient.
Gradient’s window unit requires an opening of at least 15 inches height, a window width of no less than 24 inches, and clearance of at least 24 inches below the window sill. An additional 6 to 16 inches of depth clearance into the single or double-hung window opening is also required. The unit weighs 50 pounds and produces 48 to 58 decibels of noise between low and high setting. On cooling setting, the unit produces 8,600 BTU per hour, while the heating function produces 8,000 BTU per hour and operated at a standard 120V power setting.
The first Gradient units will be shipped over the Summer of 2023 and are available for preorder on the company’s website for $1,999 MSRP, including a $99 deposit. The consumer heat pump unit includes a one-year parts and labor warranty, and can be controlled via smartphone app, which provides daily heating and cooling scheduling functionality.
The company’s Series A funding is devoted to design and development of its second product, a window heat pump unit that decarbonizes heating in cold climate environments.
Meanwhile the company is planning a marketing strategy that will focus on multi-family homes, while it adds services like hardware monitoring, maintenance, leasing, and demand response services including integration with virtual power plants. Additional funds from the round will be devoted for hiring new personnel.
Other investors in the company’s Series A round include Safar Partners, Climate Tech Circle, Shared Future Fund, At One and Impact Science. Matt Chagan, a partner at Sustainable Future Ventures, has joined the company’s board.
In August 2022, Gradient was awarded a seven-year contract by the New York City Housing Authority, New York Power Authority and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to deliver thousands of cold climate packaged window heat pump units in the New York area.
Formed in 2015 as Treau, Inc., the company does business as Gradient. The company has about 60 employees and has raised about $30 million to date from debt and equity investors.
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Great product for moderate climate areas that only need air or heating for a few days out of the week during seasonal highs or lows. West coast cities like las Angeles, San Francisco, Portland or Seatle would benefit from these units since most do not have any built-in systems and climate change will give times of extreme heat or cold for just a few days per year.
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