If the energy crisis of 2008had anything to teach entrepreneurs, it’s that there’s money to be made inalternative energy solutions. But long before rolling black-outs, load-sheddingand the headlong rush to purchase generators, one group of entrepreneurs hadalready identified the opportunity and were working on maximising it.
Tappinginto free energy
Sirac Southern Africa importsan innovative product known as a heat pump. Simply put, the product works a bitlike an air-conditioner in reverse. It uses ‘free’ energy in the form of heatin the air and upgrades it to a higher temperature, via the refrigerant cycle.The product runs on electricity but as Barney Beukes, MD of Sirac Gauteng explains, isincredibly energy efficient: “For every 1 kW of electricity consumed, around 4kW of heat energy is produced. Conventional electric geysers produce just lessthan 1 kW of heat for every 1 kW consumed,” he explains.
The company started out lifeas a national air-conditioning and refrigeration enterprise, but founder DavidDeane saw a gap in the eco-friendly, cost-effective and renewable energymarket. Using his experience, David worked closely with Sirac to ensure thatthe product met with all the necessary South African standards and marketrequirements. “As the ambient air temperature increases, the heat pump becomes moreefficient, so it’s perfectly suited to our climate,” says Beukes, adding,“However, it works in a temperature range of between -15ºC to 45ºC.”
There can be no doubt that theproduct has immense potential in the private consumer market. Water heatingaccounts for 43% of the average residential home’s electricity bill, and a heatpump can save up to 70% on this portion. “Over ten years, a family of four cansave R70 000 on the water heating electricity costs alone. And that’s beforeyou take into account the imminent increases in Eskom rates that are looming onthe horizon,” says Beukes. But he adds that South Africanconsumers are not yet feeling the pinch when it comes to electricity costs.“The rise in energy costs will force people to look at cheaper ways of heatingwater in their homes so we are confident that the consumer market will grow,but in the meantime, we’re also growing other markets to which the product issuited,” he says.
These ‘other markets’ aresignificant. They include the industrial sector, which is under tremendouspressure to reduce energy consumption by 10%. “Industry needs to cutconsumption but they’re looking for ways to do it that don’t force them to dropproduction levels, and heat pumps are one solution. For example, we’ve suppliedheat pumps to some of the big mines for the miners’ change room showers,” saysBeukes. Water heating might not make up a significant proportion of industry’senergy consumption, but it’s an ‘instant fix’ that’s inexpensive relative toother large capital expenditure projects required to reduce energy consumption.Opportunities also exist in the tourism and hospitality sectors, which Sirac istargeting aggressively, particularly in the line-up for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Beukes draws on a vast contactbase established while running a successful marketing, sales and distributionnetwork for appliances in the commercial, consumer and industrial sectors. He’sharnessing this considerable infrastructure and logistics capability toestablish dominance for Sirac products in Gauteng, which represents by far the mostsignificant portion of the South African market. His expertise in these areascomplements the engineering and technical skills of father-and-son team Davidand Jason Deane.
Contact:www.sirac.co.za, +27 11 433 3997
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