Shower Power: Making Wasted Hot Water A Smart Source Of Energy


Shower Power: Making Wasted Hot Water A Smart Source Of Energy

By Arora Attenborough, NoCamels -

As the world becomes ever more concerned with the impact of climate change and increasing levels of greenhouse gasses, one company is on a mission to revolutionize the way we heat water – a major strain on energy usage.

Sowillo Energy, based in the community town of Mikhmanim in northern Israel, has developed a system to use energy from the hot water wasted when we bathe or even when we wash the dishes or our clothes.

When a person takes a shower and the hot water goes down the drain, the Sowillo system catches it before it enters the municipal sewer system, directing it instead to a proprietary tank that contains a special coil.

The excess hot water heats up the coil, which in turn is then used to create more hot water for the building.

“The vast majority of the heat [from water], around 80 or 90 percent, is wasted in the drainage systems,” Sowillo COO Maxim Goldshtein tells No Camels. The company, he explains, is simply collecting and using that heat in an effective way.

Heating water is costly in terms of both price and impact on the environment. According to the United States’ Natural Resources Defense Council, hot water for homes and commercial buildings in the US alone generates 520 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually. This is comparable to the emissions from 113 million cars each year.

In fact, Goldshtein says, the Sowillo system is more efficient than traditional heating systems, which require far more kilowatts to heat the same amount of water as the startup.

“For each kilowatt of energy, we are actually getting 5.2 kilowatts of heat,” he explains. This is because the Sowillo system is not creating new heat, but rather transferring existing heat from one place to another.

The technology is flexible, allowing Sowillo to connect to existing gas or electricity heating systems, without having to dismantle or replace them, but can also be introduced as the sole water heater.

The company also created accompanying artificial intelligence that studies a location’s patterns of hot water usage via the boiler – should the system be connected to one.

It then seeks to reduce the cost of heating water such as only using the boiler when electricity tariffs are at their cheapest (for example during daytime hours) or by using the peak shaving technique.

Peak shaving aims to reduce electricity bills, whose prices are set by what are determined to be peak levels of consumption. To reduce the peak, a business or even a household will spread their electricity consumption over a longer period, thereby reducing the highest amount used at any given time – and the prices they pay.

“The system operates autonomously and [makes] models in a learning algorithm to make it more aligned with the user,” Goldshtein explains.

It can even know when a family is on vacation, he says, negating the need to heat the water in advance.

The AI also monitors any existing hot water systems for potential malfunctions. And, should the Sowillo system underperform, it will automatically revert back to the original boiler alone.

The technology can be used with water from showers, dishwashers, washing machines and even toilets.

To uphold global standards for water safety, the system involves two walls of separation between sewage water and clean water, meaning there is no possible contamination of clean water sources – even by graywater.

Founded in 2013, Sowillo – whose name derives from the ancient rune for “sun” – began by creating software to efficiently manage hot water systems through Internet of Things technology (attaching online capabilities to everyday objects so that they can be controlled via computers).

The company then developed the technology for heating water, which currently caters primarily to institutions with high usage of hot water, such as hotels, laundromats and hospitals.

“These kinds of businesses have really significant expenses for water heating, and for us, this is where we began to enter the market,” Goldshtein says.

Since 2016, the company has received over $1 million in funding. Most recently, it was awarded 1 million shekels by Israel’s Ministry of Energy late last year, and is now looking for an investor to match that sum.

Sowillo’s clients include Kfar Maccabiah Hotel near Tel Aviv, which every four years hosts the Maccabiah Games (aka “the Jewish Olympics”), as well as a major Israeli organization that is spread across multiple sites.

The system can cater to residential buildings but only for up to 30 apartments. Beyond that, more systems must be installed to cope with the increased demand. Each system is currently available as a one-off purchase with no further costs.

In the future, Sowillo does envision moving more into the residential sector – making hot water into a service that removes the guesswork from heating costs by ending random pricing.

“We aim to be a hot water provider,” says Goldshtein.

“We want to provide our system and provide the maintenance [so that] the customer will only pay for the hot water that he consumes. We see the future as a service.”


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