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Heat-Pump Business Running Hot

Date Added: October 25, 2012 10:07:35 AM
Author: connectedaustralia
Category: Business & Economy

An Auckland manufacturer is eyeing an expansion into export markets, including South Africa and Britain, for its energy-saving water-heating device. Onehunga-based Econergy makes hot-water heat pumps it says save home owners up to 75 per cent on their water-heating bills. A heat pump is a device that transfers thermal energy from a heat source to a heat sink. Heat pumps can move thermal energy in a direction which is opposite to the direction of spontaneous heat flow. A heat pump uses energy to accomplish the desired transfer of thermal energy from heat source to heat sink. Heat pumps are used to provide heating because less high-grade (i.e., low-entropy) energy is required for their operation, than appears in the released heat. Founder and managing director David Senn said he got the idea for the device while renovating a unit in Grafton. The body corporate wouldn't allow him to install solar panels and there was no access for a gas connection, leaving few options other than installing a hot-water cylinder. Senn, who was working for engineering consultants Beca, said he found imported hot-water heat pumps but they were designed for the Australian market where hot water cylinders were stored outside. "We needed something that could just connect to the Kiwi hot-water cylinder ... and start energy saving." After two years of product development the Econergy device hit the market in 2008. It uses electricity to drive a heat-pump cycle that takes energy out of the surrounding air before transferring that energy into the water. Senn said its main point of difference was that it could be retrofitted to existing hot-water cylinders. "It basically saves about $2000 on the installation cost by not having to replace the hot-water cylinder." "South Africa's got a lot of hot-water cylinders because they don't have an established gas network in the country - it's a bit like New Zealand in that sense." Senn said all three countries' governments offered grants to consumers who installed energy-saving devices in their homes. In the longer-term Econergy might also look at entering Asian markets and the United States, he said. He said a Consumer NZ report in 2009, which found the Econergy product "blitzed" its mainly Australian competition in terms of energy savings, buoyed the firm's growth. "That really established us," Senn said. "People were knocking on my doors wanting to buy me out and all kinds of crazy stuff was happening." Another helping hand came from the government, which began offering a $1000 grant to consumers who bought the device, which retails for about $4000, in March 2009. But Econergy had the rug pulled out from beneath it that year when the government killed the grant. "I told them, 'No you can't do that - we've taken on staff'," Senn said. "They just sort of laughed at me." A $500 government grant was offered for the product from February last year until June this year but Senn said it never drove sales as much as the $1000 grant. http://www.connectedaustralia.com
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