9 Oct 2012

North East invention turns up the heat on old storage heaters

A North East invention designed to make old electric storage heaters smarter, efficient and more cost effective has taken a significant step towards being launched following the announcement of a series of trials in Sunderland.

North East based people, property and planet organisation, Gentoo, has offered to trial the start-of-the-art technology of Thermionix, which was developed with the support of Newcastle Science City’s business support team.

The control system works by anticipating daily energy requirements of individual heaters according to the weather forecast rather than relying on users setting their heating each day.

Gentoo customers will test the invention of regional entrepreneurs Tony Gair and Mike Hartley over the next few months to find out how much easier it makes their storage heaters to use, how much more comfortable it makes their living conditions and how it impacts on their energy bill.

Once their feedback has been gathered and analysed a second, larger trial is planned within Gentoo properties, with Tony and Mike planning to use the data gathered to finalise the product and ultimately launch it to large landlords and individual homeowners.

Tony said: “Electric storage heaters aren’t the most intuitive systems to work with and depend on the user setting a dial the night before to anticipate how much energy they will need the next day.

“They are often used in social housing and quite often the people trying to manage them are elderly, or vulnerable. People often find they are either too cold or too hot – resorting to opening their windows to try to control their room temperature, which is an unnecessary waste of energy and money.

“The beauty of Thermionix is that it is incredibly easy to retrofit – fitting neatly between the power cable and heater. We are delighted Gentoo has given us the opportunity to trial the product with its residents and they clearly see the potential benefits to their customers, to the environment and to their heating engineers who dedicate a great deal of time to answering calls from residents struggling to understand their heating.”

Tony originally brought his idea for the product to Newcastle Science City via a business support competition which he won. The business support team introduced him to Mike Hartley, of business and management consultants Kepier & Company, and the two joined forces to develop the business.

Simon Green, head of business support of Newcastle Science City, said: “Thermionix is a great example of the way innovation should happen. Tony identified an issue from his own experience and was determined to come up with a solution. We’re really looking forward to seeing the results of the trial.”

Thermionix is one of hundreds of North East science and technology businesses that Newcastle Science City has worked with to commercialise new insight-led ideas, helping them to innovate and grow.

Luke Gallagher, green futures manager at Gentoo said: “At Gentoo we are all about improving our customers ‘art of living’ and this technology could be a practical solution to help them save both energy and money, while ultimately helping to alleviate fuel poverty.”

For more information visit: www.thermionix.com

Newcastle Science City is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, securing £2.3million of ERDF investment. The ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-2013 is bringing over £300m into the North East to support innovation, enterprise and business support across the region.


Editors: For more information, contact Laura White, on [email protected] 0191 211 3021 or 07739 126 152 or Helen McLoughlin, on [email protected] or 0191 211 3020

Photo caption: Whatever the weather, North East invention Thermionix will get the best from storage heaters. (Left to right) Luke Gallagher, green futures manager at Gentoo, Tony Gair one of the inventors of Thermionix, Simon Green, head of business support at Newcastle Science City, and Mike Hartley, of Thermionix.

About Newcastle Science City

Newcastle Science City is funded by Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council and to help the region realise the full economic potential of its science-based industries.

It delivers a range of activities including the development of a close-knit scientific community and encouraging more people to work in scientific industries. Key to its remit is creating innovative high-growth businesses.

Newcastle Science City key achievements

–          Created 23 companies that are now trading in the North East of England

–          Worked with 446 regional companies to commercialise new insight-led ideas, helping them to innovate and grow

–          Promoted Newcastle as a city of science on a regional, national and international level

–          Reached over 6,000 schoolchildren across the city with the Science Education Innovation Partnership (SEIP) programme, which aims to make science more fun, engaging and relevant to students and offers support to teachers

–          Reached 1,373 residents with its community engagement programme of events and activities designed to enable people to use science to help drive change in their communities. It has also assisted 142 residents with skills and personal development and has assisted 72 people with their efforts to get a job.

About Gentoo

Gentoo is a North East based people, property and planet profit-for-purpose organisation with a vested interest in sustainability. Within its Group structure Gentoo has a Registered Provider of Social Housing with a portfolio of around 28,500 homes.

Improving the energy efficiency of its stock and helping its customers reduce their energy bills is something Gentoo take very seriously. Gentoo is one of a small number of social housing providers that has committed to delivering the government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme – the Green Deal, which launches this autumn. Also within the Gentoo Group, is Romag, the only UK owned, UK based manufacturer of solar photovoltaics (PV). 

For more information, please visit www.gentoogroup.com.

About ERDF funding

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme which runs from 2007 to 2013. This is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development.

The ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-13 is focusing on:

Innovation – promoting science technology and innovation in businesses and institutions across the region.

Enterprise and business support – encouraging more people to start up in business, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, and helping established businesses develop, grow and innovate.

Over £300m ERDF is available for the region from 2007-13. ERDF investment is limited to 50% of total eligible cost and must be matched by other public and private sources. For every pound of ERDF investment, we lever another pound for the key priorities of innovation, enterprise and business support.

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