The morning alarm sounds. You wake up, hop in the shower, turn on the tap and … wait. The water might be ice cold for 10 seconds or more, as hot water makes its way from the heater. A Portuguese startup has developed a line of PCM-based products designed to eliminate the wait – and the waste.
Heaboo’s Hoterway shower fixture incorporates a thermal battery that heats the water instantaneously until hot water arrives from the heater. The PCM then recharges as heated water passes through the battery. A thermal mixing faucet automatically keeps the incoming water at a constant temperature.
Heaboo, which delivered its first units to Kickstarter backers last year, also offers standalone thermal batteries designed to supply hot water to sinks, tubs and other fixtures.
Rui Teixeira, Heaboo founder and general director, talked about the products in an e-mail interview:
Q: What kind of PCM is used in the products?
A: “We are currently using a paraffin with additives in our products. We are also trying to use more conventional paraffin to reduce the cost of the PCM. The one that we are using has a heat storage capacity of 230 Joules per gram.”
Q: What is the PCM's peak melting point?
A: “It depends on the specifications of the markets we are addressing. The first product uses a PCM with the melting point 45ºC, but for example in France they would prefer to have a PCM with a melting point above 50ºC; as they supply hot water at the temperature around 60ºC. There is not a big deal because we just need 4-5ºC of temperature differential to ensure that the material melts during the shower period.”
Q: How much PCM is used in each Hoterway?
A: “We are optimizing it, but right now we should be talking about 5 kilograms.”
Q: Who is your PCM supplier?
A: “We currently have two European suppliers, but the main one is still Rubitherm from Germany.”
Q: What material is used to contain the PCM?
A: “We use a PVC extruded pipe with some particular design."
Q: In addition to Kickstarter, where you raised about 26,000 euros, what are your funding sources for this project?
A: “We had to seed investors in the R&D phases. We have four products already in the market and the sales are growing but not as we would like. :)
“We are also looking for industrial partnerships in order to adapt the technology to other applications to diversify our source of income in this early stage and beside that we are looking for an additional investment mainly to optimize production process and increase the go-to-market strategy.”
Q: Heaboo announced a partnership with the Portuguese manufacturer OLI last year. Is the Hoterway manufactured entirely in Portugal?
A: “The partnership with OLI was mainly commercial for the Portuguese market. Currently we have a partnership with an important French manufacturer but I can't reveal the name yet because we are still finishing details about the project. We will adapt the technology to other products related to domestic hot water; the production is still 100% Portuguese but we include accessories that are not made in Portugal, the PCM itself and also the thermal insulation. We use silica vacuum panels to ensure a great insulation with low thickness.”
Q: Will OLI also serve as a distributor of the Hoterway?
A: “OLI is our distributor for Portuguese market but not in exclusivity; in France and Italy we are also developing a distribution network to bring the product there, hopefully during this year."
Q: How many units have you delivered so far, and how many do you expect to sell in 2018?
A: "Right now we have about 60 units delivered and most of them are installed already; we would like to finish 2018 with 500 units sold."
Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from consumers?
A: “The feedback is great. The product does exactly as we announced and the users just get rid of the problem they had before. You simply install the product and the waiting time is gone.
“We announce the capacity of the device to be 10 liters after 24 hours from last use, but normally the customer has less quantity of water stagnated in the pipes. That means that they actually still got instant hot water even if they don't use the shower for 48 hours and sometimes 72 hours. This is something highly valued by the customers because it seems that the device works better than we actually said to them.”