Moving beyond fire
In northern South Africa, near a desert spring known as the Oasis of the Kalahari, lies the Wonderwerk Cave.
For the past million years, combustion has been the engine of human progress. But it comes with some real downsides—like the risk of choking on fumes or burning to death. It wasn’t until 150 years ago with the invention of the electric lightbulb that we started to replace fire in the home with electricity, a cleaner and safer form of power. Unfortunately lightbulbs only solved half the problem. Today, most people still use fire to keep their homes warm, cook their food, and boil their water—just like their ancestors from Wonderwerk Cave.
We now know that fire has downsides that are harder to see but just as dangerous. At the top of that list is that combustion produces carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for Climate Change, “the single biggest health threat facing humanity” according to the WHO. The “natural gas” that most Americans burn in their home is actually a mostly-methane cocktail of gasses. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25x more potent per gram than carbon dioxide. Beyond methane, natural gas includes benzene, a carcinogen, and 20 other toxic air pollutants. Children in homes with natural gas are significantly more likely to develop asthma.
So how do we get off combustion? By completing the switch to electricity. The major uses of fire in the home are space heating (~66%), water heating (~24%), and cooking (~5%). To stop climate change and create healthier homes we need to electrify all of these.
Electrification requires great products.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the largest use of fuel in the home—HVAC—the products aren’t there yet. But we’re getting close. On paper, heat pumps are a dramatically better solution. They are more than 100% efficient and have zero carbon operation when powered with clean energy. Because of this seemingly physics-defying efficiency, over 93% of Americans would save on their energy bills by switching to a heat pump.
So what’s the issue? When evaluated as a technology, heat pumps are incredible. But when evaluated as a consumer product the options are…lacking. You have two choices: 1) A central system that works like a central furnace and AC but takes longer to heat your house and usually requires expensive duct work, or 2) “mini-splits” which means putting white plastic boxes in every room of your home, each controlled a remote that looks like it was made in the 1980s.
It is possible to create great consumer products from heat pumps.
Quilt was founded to close this gap. We are a group of people who have spent our careers learning to make consumer products out of technology. We wanted to find an opportunity to use these skills in a way that would most benefit future generations.
Our hope is to help humanity finally kick the combustion habit and move past fire. That’s a species-level transition. And we would love your help to make it happen.
Co-Founder & CEO