Member Article

The heat is on for North East invention

A North East invention designed to make old electric storage heaters smarter, efficient and more cost effective has taken a significant step towards being launched following the announcement of a series of trials in Sunderland.

North East based people, property and planet organisation, Gentoo, has offered to trial the start-of-the-art 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 regional entrepreneurs 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 their feedback has been gathered and analysed a second, larger trial is planned within Gentoo properties, with Tony and Mike planning to use the data gathered to finalise the product and ultimately launch it to large landlords and individual homeowners.

Tony 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.

“The beauty of Thermionix is that it is incredibly easy to retrofit – fitting neatly between the power cable and heater. We are delighted Gentoo has given us the opportunity to trial the product with its residents and they clearly see the potential benefits to their customers, to the environment and to their heating engineers who dedicate a great deal of time to answering calls from residents struggling to understand their heating.”

Tony originally brought his idea for the product to Newcastle Science City via a business support competition which he won. The business support team introduced him to Mike Hartley, of business and management consultants Kepier & Company, and the two joined forces to develop the business.

Simon Green, head of business support of 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. We’re really looking forward to seeing the results of the trial.”

Thermionix is one of hundreds of North East science and technology businesses that Newcastle Science City has worked with to commercialise new insight-led ideas, helping them to innovate and grow.

Luke Gallagher, green futures manager at Gentoo said: “At Gentoo we are all about improving our customers ‘art of living’ and this technology could be a practical solution to help them save both energy and money, while ultimately helping to alleviate fuel poverty.”

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Newcastle Science City is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, securing £2.3million of ERDF investment. The ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-2013 is bringing over £300m into the North East to support innovation, enterprise and business support across the region.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Laura White .

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