Using the sun to produce electricity is certainly all the rage at the moment, 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.
In this article, we introduce this new technology and its potential to reduce global carbon emissions from heating water.
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 the burning of fossil fuels that emit global warming CO2.
Decarbonising water heating is therefore essential for fulfilling 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 within it 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 up the water for free and without emitting carbon in the process.
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 a product that is affordable, easy-to-install and effective.
The following are some of the main reasons why this product could be extremely 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 takes minutes and doesn’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 a matter of minutes, which makes this both 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 together to make it scale to larger heating or volumetric requirements, as well as being adaptable as a stand-alone solution without the need for 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 simply install more units in series to make up for the lack of Sunpower and still reach significant heating.
If you need to heat larger volumes of water (e.g. for a large commercial/residential property), you can simply install these units in parallel to process a larger volume of water at the same time.
Since the units are small (prisms of base = 55cm), adding more units does not require significant amounts of space, and the system can be connected to virtually any pipe material.
In fact, 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 currently costing a mere £139.00, which is significantly cheaper than available solutions.
Also this means that its manufacturing is also scalable and potentially replicable anywhere in the world with few constraints and a small carbon footprint.
This product is EU-certified, which means it 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 utilizing 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 are able to be equally disruptive, especially since it comes 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 will be 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.