Heat pumps aren’t exactly a new idea. At the simplest level, they’re just a way to transfer energy. What makes the Aquafire different is that it’s built for New Zealand conditions.
We’ve all seen the ads on prime time television: Switch power companies and save money. Be energy efficient. Insulate your home to make it warmer, drier and healthier. Pick an electricity provider that supports renewable energy resources. Turn appliances off at the wall.
If you’ve watched even a few government-funded power-saving public service announcements, you’ll already know hot water heating is the biggest drain on your power bill – in fact, it makes up about a third of it if you’re running a hot water cylinder.
However, short of wrapping that cylinder up in wool or fibreglass, there’s not much else you can do to save precious dollars on that particular component of your bill.
Unless you get yourself an Aquafire system.
"What’s that?" you may ask.
In short, it’s a hot water heat pump, an appliance considered to be a solar water heater. But these don’t rely on sunshine to function, like conventional solar panels.
According to Chris Rankin from Aquafire, hot water heat pumps work by extracting free thermal energy from the air to heat the water. Because there’s always thermal energy in the air, the Aquafire system can work between temperatures of negative 15 degrees and 43 degrees Celsius.
No need to relocate to Nelson or the Gold Coast, and no need for back-up generators, batteries or candles.
It turns out, too, that hot water heat pumps are more efficient than conventional water heating systems. The electricity being used to run the heat pump powers a pump, a compressor and a fan to extract the energy out of the air.
And just in case this isn’t as clear as mud already – it’s the energy from the air that’s actually heating the water.
Rankin says this makes the Aquafire up to 70 percent more efficient than an electric water heat system – translating to some serious long-term savings on your power bill.
The development process started six or seven years ago.
“My business partner, who’s an engineer, designed it to be powerful enough to work in the extreme colds of New Zealand, so down in Invercargill and Dunedin and those sorts of areas.”
The smaller, Australian-made heat pumps on the market just don’t cut it in the deep south.
“It’s weather-based, so you need to have either a powerful machine or very hot air temperatures,” Rankin says.
And because New Zealand’s weather can often run the gamut of four seasons in one day, the Aquafire is unique in that it’s got more grunt than the competition.
“You’re talking about a device whose efficiency relies on ambient air temperatures and weather conditions – you have to design it with the environment in mind.”
Even though it is a slightly higher output system, this doesn’t mean its more expensive than smaller machines, Rankin says.
“Whether it’s an air conditioning heat pump or a hot water heat pump, if it’s inappropriately sized – in other words, it’s too small – it will have to run a lot longer and a lot harder to get the job done.”
It’s all in that efficiency, you see. Not to mention those power bill savings.
“The Aquafire saves the home owner about 35 percent of their overall power bill, or about 70 percent of their hot water heating component,” Rankin says.
“The long and short of it is it’s a massive power saver, and one which has been, by and large, overlooked in New Zealand.
“Everybody’s talking about home insulation and home heating and really neglecting that water heating is in fact the biggest user of power.”