When is the last time you got excited about advances in ceramic tile technology? Get ready – Spanish tile manufacturer Ceracasa just unveiled a new breed of high-tech tiles that could cut your energy bill by 16%. The phase-changing tiles feature nano energy storage cells that excel at absorbing thermal energy – meaning they keep interior spaces comfortable for longer with less energy input from climate control systems. They’re also stain-proof and incorporate a glaze that breaks down bacteria and odors. We caught up with this promising passive building material on the floor of Cevisama 2011 – read on for an exclusive first look!

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Ceracasa is on the cutting-edge of ceramic tile tech — they’ve partnered with up with the Polytechnic University of Valencia to develop a proving grounds to evaluate and test new materials (we’ve already featured their air-purifying Bionic Tiles in the past). Ceracasa’s Ecom4 Tiles have been tested to reduce energy use by 16% in a 1,000 square foot space, and they are so efficient at absorbing and releasing ambient heat that air conditioners or heaters can be switched off for 1-2 hours each day.

Here’s how they work: the phase-changing materials contained within the tiles start to fuse together when a room hits 22 degrees celsius, at which point they begin to store thermal energy. This stored heat is then released to warm the room later when the temperature drops below 22 degrees celsius. This evens out the thermal profile of a room over time and reduces the amount of energy needed to maintain a comfortable temperature.

The phase-changing capabilities of Ecom4 tiles also gives them a surface temperature that is roughly equivalent to the temperature of ambient air in a room, so they are comfortably warm to the touch. The tiles are suitable for floor or wall installations, and the more surface area you cover, the better your energy savings will be. So far prices for the new line have not yet been determined, but it is expected that Ecom4 Tiles will debut at a price point 15-20% higher than current lines.

+ Ceracasa

+ Tile of Spain

Lead photo by Mike Chino for Inhabitat