Virginia-based Sunnovations takes the existing “mouse-trap” of traditional active and passive solar water heating systems and combines their best features into a better mouse-trap. Solar water heating is a large international market north of 180GWth, with China leading at approximately 70% of the world’s capacity and Europe a distant second at 12 percent.
The US domestic market hasn’t seen the same penetration of solar hot water heaters in commercial and residential buildings even though hot water production is the second largest use of power and source of GHG emissions in the home in the United States. The low penetration is largely because of high upfront costs, low consumer awareness, and poor marketing by manufacturers and installers. Sunnovations believes its unique passive pump system will enable installers and customers to overcome these hurdles.
Developed by two serial entrepreneurs, Sunnovations’ solar hot water system combines industry best practices with some new technical bells and whistles in the system design. Like existing closed loop solar water systems, Sunnovations uses a heat transfer fluid (HTF) to indirectly heat water. While most active systems use an electric pump to circulate the HTF, Sunnovations utilizes a geyser (or bubble) pump. The geyser pump passively circulates the HTF, which gives the Sunnovations system the passive and low-maintenance features of a passive system, but the efficiency gains of an active system. The geyser pump is best suited for smaller heating loads, such as single family or small commercial buildings. In addition, the system utilizes standard thermal collectors and PEX tubing (in lieu of copper or corrugated steel piping). All put together, the Sunnovations system takes the best features of active and passive systems with few of their drawbacks. Installers like the Sunnovations system because it is easier to install and customers like it because of its relatively lower costs.
Sunnovations is targeting the US residential retrofit market, which they estimate to be a 7MM unit or $5.3B annual market size. They are advised by some key industry experts including current and former executives in HVAC, smart grid, and energy efficiency companies. The company is currently seeking a $2M Series A round to build out a national sales team and expand its market.
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