It’s great to get out of the office with the physical heata unit and talk things through with people - we always learn something new. The Fully Charged Live show was a great opportunity to do just that - with a sustainability minded audience.
We were also curious to see the latest developments in the wider energy efficiency space - Fully Charged has really led the way on Electric Vehicles and is also now leading the conversation and learning in the general home energy efficiency space (‘Everything Electric’). We were hoping to make some new connections, learn more about how to best explain what we’re doing and hopefully get some host sign-ups.
Andrew (Design Engineer) and Chris (Co-founder) did a great job setting up on the Thursday (a heata unit on a cylinder, a rack mount server from a data centre for comparison, plus the components that make up the installation). And over the three days of the show, co-founders Chris and Mike were joined by Andrew, Charlie (Commercial Director) and James (Project Manager). It was a good opportunity for all of us to speak to people about heata and learn from the questions… of which there were quite a few!
Positive conversations and lots of helpful questions
On the trade day on Friday there were lots of interesting, positive conversations with people in real estate, interested in how the heata concept could be incorporated into new-builds and retrofitted into existing homes. There were also a number of people working in the wider compute industry, familiar with the standard data centre setup and intrigued about how the heata unit could be incorporated into the wider cloud compute ecosystem.
We uncovered some common misunderstandings, and through talking to people with a range of levels of technical understanding we learned quite a lot about how to explain heata to different audiences. Some people got it straight away, others needed a bit of background; explanation on data centres and their role and impact, etc. It was great to see people's expressions as they understood how the elements fitted together; that we’re using the energy twice – once for compute and secondly for hot water.
Having the heata unit on the cylinder plus the components there on the table to pick up and talk people through was really helpful as was a board with the key steps taken to install the thermal bridge onto the cylinder.
The rack mount server from a data centre was useful to show people what was inside data centres (racks and racks of these!) and then explain what the heata unit was, albeit in new packaging. We were able to talk about the elements that were unnecessary (the many fans for air cooling, backup power supply units, etc), which has then enabled us to fit the same amount of processing power into a package small enough to mount on the side of a water cylinder in an airing cupboard.
A few people who are part of our Innovate UK trial came to say hi, so it was really nice to hear how they were getting on (so far, so good on the whole) with the heata unit.
An aspect that we’ve found is sometimes missed or misunderstood by potential hosts, is that the heata unit works alongside the existing hot water set-up, not in place of it. And any existing hot water programme stays the same too. This means that there’s still hot water if the heata unit isn’t processing.
Think of the heata unit providing a trickle of heat into the cylinder rather than an intense burst (like a kettle). The net result is that your normal hot water heater will be used less frequently as the water is already at temperature, or needs less time to get to the right temperature. So instead of your normal heater kicking in once or twice a day, it might only need to come on once every two or three days, and for shorter periods of time when it does.
Over the three days lots of people were interested in having a heata unit, with many signing up to our heata host’s list, now sitting at over 2,000 people. So we have a good network to call upon for piloting our unvented cylinder (eg Megaflo or Mixergy) heata unit and to expand the network generally.
If you’re interested in being a host you can sign-up here.
A few favourites from the show
We were quite taken with the Hacky Racers. They take off-the-shelf kid’s ride-on toys and put a 48V electric motor in them to run in fun races. Think of electric go karts crossed with Scrap Heap Challenge. Entries were fun, inventive (and fast!) – we especially liked the cut and shut Little Tykes car.
The EV conversion kits were also quite cool - imagine a classic Mini or an old Landrover Defender with its combustion guts removed and a nice new (and often very neat) electric drive chain inserted in its place, and you get the idea. There was something pleasing, albeit it in a strangely incongruous way, about the old being combined with the new.
As you might expect (or hope) all the buses from the car park to the venue were electric - which was great, and some of us also took advantage of a taxi service from the station run by the Tesla Owners Club. It was just a shame that private jets landing and taking off provided a backdrop to the show, or perhaps it was a good reminder of the urgency of the challenge.
Touring the halls and the outside spaces, it was great to see how much energy and innovation is being applied to challenge, and it was great to feel part of a movement that is gathering pace. And generally for us it was a great learning experience in how to explain what the heata unit is, how it works, and what we are trying to achieve.
Look out for our interview with Fully Charged / Everything Electric in July, and you can read Chris’ piece for the Fully Charged Blog here.