AN invention to make electric storage heaters more efficient is being trialled by Sunderland-based housing group, Gentoo, and could be launched in hundreds of homes across the city as early as next November.
The property organisation has offered to trial the technology of Thermionix, which was developed with the support of Newcastle Science City’s business support team.
The control system works by anticipating daily energy requirements of individual heaters according to the weather forecast rather than relying on users setting their heating each day.
Gentoo customers will test the invention of Tony Gair and Mike Hartley over the next few months to find out how much easier it makes their storage heaters to use, how much more comfortable it makes their living conditions and how it impacts on their energy bill.
Once feedback has been gathered and analysed a second, larger trial is planned, with Hartley predicting a year until the product’s launch on to the market.
He said: “There are a number of tower blocks using electric storage heaters in Sunderland and I have got my eye on all of those. The plan is then to roll it out across the UK and then further afield.
“The product has no boundaries because electric heating is used all over the world.
“We’ve had great support from Newcastle Science City and Northstar Ventures, who provided us with our first piece of funding. We hope if the trial is successful Northstar will support us again in bringing the product to the market.”
The system was invented by software engineer Gair, who brought his idea to Newcastle Science City via a business support competition which he won.
The business support team introduced him to Hartley, who runs his own business and management consultants Kepier & Company, and the two joined forces to develop the business.
Gair said: “Electric storage heaters aren’t the most intuitive systems to work with and depend on the user setting a dial the night before to anticipate how much energy they will need the next day.
“They are often used in social housing and quite often the people trying to manage them are elderly, or vulnerable. People often find they are either too cold or too hot, resorting to opening their windows to try to control their room temperature, which is an unnecessary waste of energy and money.”
Simon Green, head of business support at Newcastle Science City, said: “Thermionix is a great example of the way innovation should happen. Tony identified an issue from his own experience and was determined to come up with a solution.”