Solaris Prism: A scalable solar-powered water heating unit
Using solar energy to produce electricity is undoubtedly all the rage, but it is easy to forget that using it for heating applications is its original and most efficient purpose.
But despite this being the case, solar water heating is not as ubiquitous as we’d expect, partly because of historically cheap gas prices but also due to a lack of innovation.
Enter Scottish firm Solariskit, which has come up with a disruptive solution that is affordable, simple, and scalable.
This article introduces this new technology and its potential to reduce global carbon emissions from heating water.
- Why is solar water heating so important?
- What is the S400 Solar Collector?
- Why is Solariskit different to prior solutions?
- The power of simple yet disruptive tech
Why is solar water heating so important?
It is well-known that heating applications require large amounts of energy, most of which is produced from burning fossil fuels that emit global warming CO2.
Decarbonising water heating is therefore essential for fulfilling UK climate commitments of net zero by 2050 and can be achieved by replacing combustion boilers, with low-carbon, renewable energy solutions like the solar water heater proposed in this writing.
Thermal solar collectors are not new and are common in the sunniest areas of Spain for water heating, but these traditional models are not as easily scalable as they still rely on bulky, non-modular equipment that often requires specialists to install and manage.
What is the S400 Solar Collector?
This is Solariskit‘s flagship thermal collector, a transparent prism measuring a mere 55cm at its base that contains a black-coloured coiled tube that can absorb the sun’s radiation and conduct the heat into the water flowing within it.
The panels making the prism are transparent, and the coil has an entry and exit point to connect to any pressurised water system that requires heating.
Essentially, this unit is connected to a water system in the same way a gas boiler connects to the water pipes of a property, except that it requires exposure to sunlight and not a gas connection.
Unlike a gas boiler that emits CO2 and requires its users to pay for gas, this solar collector heats the water for free without emitting carbon.
Why is Solariskit different to prior solutions?
The S400 Solar Collector seeks to be the “IKEA solution to solar hot water”, which means their ambition is to disrupt the solar collector market with an affordable, easy-to-install and effective product.
The following are some of the main reasons why this product could be highly disruptive:
The water heater unit weighs only 10kg and can be flat-packed into a small, shippable 55 x 55 x 17cm box.
Assemblage and installation take minutes and don’t require any tools, just exposure to the sun and a connection to the existing water system.
The unit can be disconnected and packed away in minutes, making this a fixed and portable solution.
In comparison, traditional solar water heaters tend to be large, fixed onto their hosting structure and require a specialist for installation.
Being a modular solution means that more of them can be connected to make it scale to larger heating or volumetric requirements, as well as being adaptable as a stand-alone solution without needing a pressurised system (see below).
If you need to heat water at higher latitudes with variable weather and sunlight hours (sounds a lot like the UK, right?), you can install more units in series to make up for the lack of Sunpower and still reach significant heating.
If you need to heat more significant volumes of water (e.g. for a large commercial/residential property), you can install these units in parallel to process a larger volume of water simultaneously.
Since the units are small (prisms of base = 55cm), adding more units does not require significant space, and the system can be connected to virtually any pipe material.
The same company can provide a stand-alone portable water tank for a totally independent water system, like a campervan shower.
Keeping the product as simple as possible has translated to affordability, with each unit costing a mere £139.00, significantly cheaper than available solutions.
Also, this means that its manufacturing is scalable and potentially replicable anywhere globally with few constraints and a small carbon footprint.
This product is EU-certified, which meets stringent European safety and quality standards.
On top of this, it is designed to heat water to a maximum of 70C to limit any potential burning, which is possible in extremely hot and sunny locations.
This is a common risk with traditional water heating solutions in developing countries, like utilising kettles that heat up to boiling point.
The power of simple yet disruptive tech
We have all seen how Ikea went from being a little-known Swedish department store to a disruptive, globally-recognized brand by providing affordable yet reliable furniture for a changing world.
We speculate that simple, scalable solutions like this water heater can be equally disruptive, especially since they come accompanied by direct climatic and financial benefits.
Technologies like this that cost less than the average smartphone have the power of making its users agnostic to things like gas shortages or astronomical gas prices, while directly reducing emissions.
Environmental regulation is only becoming more stringent, so it is only a matter of time before polluting becomes more expensive than being clean.
Finally, if European governments (including the UK) cannot guarantee energy security for their citizens, this provides an opportunity for taking matters into your own hands.
- US Environmental Agency
- Estif.org (European thermal collector regulations)
- AquaSwitch Medium
- AquaSwitch Blog
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