A simple ”smart control” box invented by a PhD student at Lund University in Sweden has made it possible to connect solar panels to your boiler - without making any changes to the existing hot water system.
”With current technology, if you want to install a solar panel and connect it to your hot water tank, you’d have to throw out your old boiler and get an entire new system”, explains Ricardo Bernardo, now an assistant senior lecturer at Lund University.
Most hot water tanks only have two pipe connections, which isn’t enough for existing methods of connecting solar collectors.
Bernardo’s patented solution, however, uses the two existing pipe connections, but instead controls them with an add-on ”smart control” box, meaning there is no need for more connections or pipes. The system has the same performance by simply using the two connections in a more efficient way.
The technique makes connecting solar collectors to a boiler up to 40% cheaper, and saves between 60-80% energy, depending on solar radiation levels.
It also means that it only takes around four years to pay for the initial installation through energy cost savings, increasing the long-term cost-saving incentive for households.
With 50 million hot water tanks for domestic use in Europe alone, the potential for replacing traditional energy sources with renewable energy is significant.
Following a report this week from the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicting that solar power could be the world’s largest power source by 2050, Bernardo’s simple solution could be one step in the right direction.
The box, SolarFlex, is currently being installed by Bernardo’s company Efficax Energy at several locations in Sweden.
Assistant Senior Lecturer, Lund University