07 Nov '14
Adapting to a more sustainable society is not just a moral choice, there are various external factors driving this movement [...]

Adapting to a more sustainable society is not just a moral choice, there are various external factors driving this movement too. For instance, rising energy costs, coupled with recent legislative changes, are fuelling a market for more renewable energy features in our homes.

Adapting to a more sustainable society is not just a moral choice, there are various external factors driving this movement too. For instance, rising energy costs, coupled with recent legislative changes, are fuelling a market for more renewable energy features in our homes. Solar energy is a big area of focus for this but it can be costly and complicated to exploit. Solaform is bringing innovation to the domestic energy market by rethinking the design of an old home heating solution.

Solaform has created a new type of water tank for providing low cost, eco-friendly water heating to the home. It works essentially like a traditional black tank, sitting outside the building to warm up in the sun. But this Solacatcher tank has been built on the University of Ulster’s expertise in energy science, resulting in a new technology for home heating. The tank has been designed to act as a thermal diode so heat is trapped in the tank and held there for much longer. This feature uses a state-change process of evaporation and condensation, similar to that used in fridges and air-conditioners, except this is much less complex, requiring few parts and no electricity.

New and refurbished buildings are now required by law to have some kind of sustainable energy system installed. Social housing in particular is feeling the effect of this new legislation, and that’s where Solacatcher is perfectly targeted. Existing black tanks typically require an expensive installation, with the disruption of plumbers in the house and roofers on the roof for a couple of days. However, to install one of Solaform’s tanks should be a much cheaper and simpler process, reducing the time it takes to make a return on the investment through energy bill savings. This should not only appeal to the social housing sector but also potentially to the growing market for DIY eco-conscious homeowners.

This kind of tank technology is not expected to solve all the sustainability needs of a home but instead be part of the emerging mix of renewable solutions aimed at reducing fossil fuel usage and cutting energy costs. Being simple to install and low cost, Solaform can apply its innovation to most of the world. Currently the company has pre-commercial trial models installed on a pair of homes on the university campus that are specifically designed to provide realistic family lifestyle use-cases. The results are showing a big reduction in hot water bills. Now the company is exploring manufacturing partners and licensees to take the product global.

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