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Energy Savings In Hot Water

3 September 2001

Innovation from a Tauranga company could help New Zealanders dramatically reduce electricity bills.

Simple solar system technology and equipment has been boosted by research carried out by Sola60, assisted by funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Originally developed for the semi-equatorial climate of the Pacific Islands, the system has just undergone a revamp, resulting in an all-plastic, super-insulated solar storage vessel that meets export market needs and more than doubles the life expectancy of the units.

Sola60 director, Lindsay Richards, says the opportunity to make significant cuts in electricity bills is huge and particularly attractive in the light of the energy crisis.

“Hot water is the biggest single user of domestic electricity, at nearly half of all power used in the home. We’ve carried out tests with EECA ( Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) which show a Sola60 water heater can supply two thirds the hot water heating needed for a family of six, making major reductions in the average power bill.”

Mr Richards says most people buy the solar system because of the technology and its environmental friendliness as well as its independence from conventional electricity companies. “People know they’re going to get their investment back, ultimately several times over,” he says.

Although most of the solar systems are exported throughout the Pacific, Sola60 is also keeping the New Zealand dairy industry and holiday homes in hot water. The company recently completed installation of 170 systems for Housing NZ in Auckland, and Sola 60's largest installation is heating a 200,000 litre swimming pool in Queenstown.

Funding from Technology New Zealand brought in expert advice so Sola60 could develop a better understanding of how to incorporate plastic into its systems and so avoid using parts that would eventually rust.

“The funding helped us move quickly and also lessen the risk of trying out new technology,” he says. “Although we’ve been manufacturing for more than 20 years, this innovation has given us a real boost in our export markets.”

Mr Richards says the challenges of the Pacific Islands called for a solar water heating system rugged enough to withstand weather conditions yet lightweight and easy to install. “We found that there was a real demand for low cost efficient solar systems, where water pressure and looks were not as important as ease of installation and maintenance.”

The company is now investigating a request from Tahiti to look at supplying water heating in government-supplied housing and Mr Richards believes that as the cost of power rises in New Zealand, so too will interest in systems that will reduce power costs to the householder.


Ø Technology New Zealand is a set of government-funded business support schemes which provide funding to support R&D projects in business.

Ø Around $35 million is available each year to help companies develop new products or processes, build human capital within businesses and provide access to information and expertise.

Ø Technology New Zealand is part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

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