Consumer Technology

Published on February 29th, 2016 | by Jake Richardson


Intelligent Ice Battery For Homes Introduced By Ice Energy

February 29th, 2016 by  

Ice Energy has introduced the Ice Bear 20, a thermal residential energy storage solution which will be used by utilities, with a consumer product slated to come out in 2017 as well. (The California-based company has had a larger commercial product available in the marketplace, which has also been used primarily by utilities.) CEO Mike Hopkins answered some questions for CleanTechnica about the new offerings.


The Ice Bear 20 integrates with ductless mini split systems or existing HVAC ductwork.

How does an Ice Bear 20 potentially reduce a homeowner’s cooling bill?
By using less electricity and cheaper electricity.

1. Energy savings due to efficiency gains

The IB 20 cools homes more efficiently than conventional ACs by not using its compressor during the hottest hours and instead using ice made during cool hours. This can reduce total electricity consumption by about 5%.

2. Additional financial savings for homeowners who are on time-of-use rates

The IB 20 shifts electricity use from peak hours, when rates are high, to off-peak hours when rates are low.

3. Increase value of solar generation

Some homeowners depend on retail net metering rates to get a quicker return on their solar investments, essentially using solar over-generation to increase ROI. As net metering legislation is evolving with some of the payback benefits being scaled back in certain states (see Nevada), some existing solar customers might not be able to generate as much revenue as expected. With the IB 20, they can use solar over-generation to charge their ice battery rather than sell power back to the utility at a low wholesale rate, and use the stored ice for cooling when retail rates are high. Rather than getting a low price for the over-generation, they save electricity when retail rates are high.

How can it store excess solar power generation for later use?
Homeowners can use solar over-generation to make ice. They can then use the stored ice later in the day when there is no solar and cooling is desired.

Who purchases the Ice Bear 20…the homeowner or the utility?
While the IB 20 provides financial savings to homeowners and efficiently maintains cooling comfort during extreme heat, it also offers multiple benefits to utilities. These include a 2-way communication system that lets the utility manage AC load in real-time; eliminating the need for expensive peaker plants; deferring or avoiding costly transmission and distribution investments; and preventing brownouts/blackouts during extreme heat events. Utilities can purchase and deploy fleets of IB 20s to strengthen their grids and reduce operating costs, while home and business owners in California enjoy rebates and incentives that make the Ice Bear 20 a better investment than any conventional AC unit.

What is the cost per unit?
For utilities, which buy in MW scale, the pricing is similar to our Ice Bear 30, so the least cost distributed energy storage is about 50% of the cost of lithium-ion batteries on a life cycle basis.

For homeowners in California, IB 20s can be purchased for the cost of a conventional AC system.

Would a home need more than one, or just one?
The IB 20 is equivalent to a 5-ton AC unit, so it would serve a home up to 3,500 sq. feet. A home requiring two 5-ton AC units would require two IB 20s.

How much does one weigh and where should it be located?
It is installed outside the home at ground level where the AC compressor unit usually sits. It weighs 1,200 lbs. when empty and 3,900 lbs. when filled with water. It integrates directly into existing HVAC ductwork or with ductless mini-splits inside the house.

Who is qualified to install an Ice Bear 20 and what is the installation cost?
Ice Energy trains HVAC-certified installers in each territory. The IB 20 is as easy to install as the compressor unit of a traditional air conditioner, so any HVAC-certified installer can quickly learn how to install the IB 20. Installation cost varies per area (labor costs) and with each site (ease of access, number of units installed, etc.).

What are the dimensions of one unit?
79” wide x 47” deep x 40” tall

How long is the warranty and what does it cover?
Ice Energy products are warranted to be free from defects in workmanship and materials under normal use and service per the terms below.

• Tank and Ice Heat Exchanger …………….. 5 years
• Compressor ……………………………………… 5 years
• Condensing Unit Heat Exchanger ……….. 5 years
• Other Components ……………………………. 1 year

What rebates and incentives are available for the Ice Bear 20?
Each utility offers different incentives and rebates. In California, the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) can cover up to 60% of equipment and installation costs.

How does a unit reduce peak cooling load by 95%?
During peak hours, the Ice Bear 20 turns off the energy-intensive compressor and just uses its stored ice.

How many gallons is the unit’s freezing tank?
265 gallons of tap water.

Does using an Ice Bear 20 mean the owner will also consume more water, and is there an estimate of how much more?
Once the Ice Bear 20 is filled, it uses the same water for 20 years. In some climates, the Ice Bear 20 actually produces water (condensation process that happens during cooling).

What smart grid technology does the unit use?
An onboard, networked monitoring and control system.

The residential unit seems like it has a potential to become very popular – especially in areas with very hot summers. How many units do you expect to sell in the first year they are on the market?
We have interest in 1,000 units before we’ve even begun production, so we expect the product to be highly successful.

Image Credit: Ice Energy

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  • GCO

    integrates seamlessly with ductwork or duct-less mini split systems


    • Mike Hopkins

      The Ice Bear replaces the outdoor condensing unit. Nothing inside the house changes.

      • Freddy D

        Correct for commercial but Not correct for residential applications (with a tiny handful of exceptions) Residential are nearly all split systems with the only mechanism for heat transfer from inside the house to outside being a 4cm diameter umbilical of refrigerant piping and control wire.

        Ice Bear requires at least 50cm / 16″ diameter air ductwork x 2. Perhaps there are custom arrangements with cold water but this will definitely not drop right in to 95% + of US residential applications.

        Cool idea (pardon the pun) but not ready for mass market in the US yet. Good in commercial applications though.

        • Mike Hopkins

          Thanks Freddy. We are already deploying the Ice Bear 20 in a wide variety of residential applications. If you are interested in the detail, let me know,

      • GCO

        And how would this work — in a real-world situation, not merely in theory?

        At least for mini-splits, the connection between indoor and outdoor units are: refrigerant lines, power, and proprietary communication.
        To keep indoor coil(s) unchanged:

        1. The compressor would still be running during the day, to circulate that refrigerant. Ice Energy claim busted.

        2. Direct consequence: energy savings during the day won’t be anywhere near 95%. Another claim down.

        3. I’m not aware of any split system compatible with 3rd-party compressors, in no small part because most are variable-flow and the communication between the indoor head(s) and outdoor unit is proprietary and unique to each manufacturer.

        Furthermore, ending up with mismatched condenser and evaporator would kill efficiency — a topic Ice Energy remains suspiciously silent on.

        Besides Ice Energy’s own “ice-ready” matching rooftop units, meant as a replacement or retrofit for “packaged” (non split) air conditioners, which system could be used (let alone “seamlessly integrated”) with the Ice Bear? Is there any at all?

        As much as I like the idea of ice-storage air conditioning, I can’t help but think that this company is making very dubious claims.

        • Mike Hopkins

          1. Confusion between a pump and compressor. We use pump to circulate ice cold refrigerant during peak not compressor.

          2. Pump uses very low energy compared to Compressor.

          3. False premises- communication isn’t proprietary in most cases. We use the head to get a call for cooling and satisfy the call. We use existing coil and no variable flow or expansion valve devices are used to deliver cooling to split system.

          Seamlessly integrating with rooftop units – We have dozens of different manufacturer’s RTUs in field with coils designed to fit in the available space within the existing RTU air envelope without voiding RTU warranty.

          • GCO

            Thanks for the reply, but both efficiency and interoperability questions remain.
            Could you please simply give us instead:

            1&2: Efficiency rating(s), e.g. SEER or IEER.

            That storage systems can use cheaper/off-peak electricity is only interesting if they don’t use significantly more overall — and high-end mini-splits get SEERs of 30+ nowadays.

            3: List of compatible mini/multi-splits.

            Even just a couple current models from popular manufacturers (Mitsubishi Electric, Daikin, Fujitsu, Gree, LG, Panasonic…) would be great.

            (Or if you need a specific example: say I have a Mitsu 4-ton [link to specs], or if too small, a CITY 8-ton system [link to specs]).

  • Joe Viocoe

    Don’t get caught up in calling it a “Ice Battery”. It isn’t a battery, and we should not dumb down the technology just because home energy storage is trending right now. It is energy storage (negative energy really).

  • JeffJL

    Well it beats the killer of LiON batteries. Heat.

    Good to see a residential system coming out but would think that commercial applications would be ideally suited.

  • Frank

    How efficient is the compressor? What is the sear rating?

  • vensonata .

    The penny has dropped. Thermal storage is wonderful, and cheaper than a chemical battery. There are 3 huge batteries for residential use: the house itself when well insulated is the biggest battery; the hot domestic water tank; and the cooling machines of air con with ice and refrigerator/freezer. Space heat can also be stored as water in insulated tanks. Only electrical demand needs to be stored as chemical battery.

    • Freddy D

      Hopefully you’re correct. Actual dollar cost numbers seem to be hard to come by and the major AC manufacturers (Carrier, Amana, Lennox) offerings are devoid of thermal storage. It appears to be theoretical or tiny, niche players so far. Certainly from a technical standpoint, thermal storage can be far cheaper. But is there anything in the market?

      On “well insulated” buildings, the first real “well insulated” building codes of any scale in the US go into effect in 2020 in California with the net-zero insulation standards. Until then, all major US building codes remain old-school. (R-30 ceilings less in walls, less still in floor. And no validation testing or thermal bridge requirements).

      • vensonata .

        Only recently has the idea of “storage” appeared for Americans. The grid used to be the storage…it could supply any amount, anytime. As we shift to renewables we also shift “paradigms”. How to smooth variable sources, the sun, the wind, the weather, the season. In other words people used to can their excess zucchini. Now they just drop in to the supermarket. We are once again storing, and canning, and gardening our own electricity off the roof and in the backyard. Gardening is fun.

        • Freddy D

          Perhaps for residential. I formerly worked in a building (commercial) built in 1982 with ice storage for AC in the basement. Not a new idea at all. Many great technology and efficiency ideas date back to the 1970s or 1950s even. Kind of like automotive innovations – despite the obvious benefits of overhead cam and fuel injection in the 1930s and 1950s respectively, many firms in the business stubbornly clung to old tech until the last decade or two. It’s only real if it’s available. Perhaps promotion here and elsewhere will get these manufacturers to move. Or, if it’s readily available and inexpensive from overseas manufacturers, then they have a market opportunity in the US.

  • Freddy D

    As long as the costs are competitive enough, this could be a great answer for Florida and Texas with lots of sunshine, hot weather, and limited/ lacking support for solar.

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