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Decoding the direction of hot water

Industry representatives affirm that the hot water system market for HVAC applications seems to be moving towards solar-powered systems, and yet product-cost continues to be seen as an influencing factor

| | Aug 18, 2019 | 5:20 pm
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Santosh Devassy

The overall market worth of the HVAC hot water systems sub-industry in the combined Gulf region and Egypt is approximately USD 500 million, says Santosh Devassy, Marketing Director, Rheem Manufacturing MEA.

Herbert B Bremstaller

The market today, he says, consists of a wide range of hot water systems across residential and light-commercial applications, and the sub-industry is driven by a number of micro and macro-economic factors. Elaborating on one such factor, Herbert B Bremstaller, Founder and CEO, ECOTHERM Austria GmbH, says that today, operators are looking for ways to reduce the operating costs associated with running hot water systems. This has led to the possibility of installing new systems or even replacing existing ones with solar-powered hot water systems, he says. The need for energy efficiency and the call to retrofit buildings, he says, is clearly seen as a potential driver of the sub-industry. “The UAE has always taken the lead to implement energyefficient systems, and the same is now being followed by other countries in the region,” Bremstaller adds.

Abhay Miglani

While the call to conduct retrofits is also a factor influencing the hot water systems sub-industry, Abhay Miglani, Business Development Manager, Armacell Middle East, asserts that the UAE is witnessing a rise in demand for solar-powered heating systems – for both commercial and residential segments. He says that the surge in solar-powered heating is in line with the UAE Vision 2030 – the Sustainable Development Goals, which put more focus on solar and alternative green energy usage.

Another macro-economic driver that is believed to have an influence on the demand for water systems in the upcoming World Expo 2020. Devassy says that the World Expo 2020 is expected to be one of the largest events in the Arab world, and with 190 countries set to be participating and an expected footfall of millions of visitors expected from around the globe, he says that the event will lead to a positive demand in the market. There seem to be growth and opportunity for the sub-industry, and a rise in real-estate would mean more supply of hot water systems, he says. Miglani, too, is of the opinion that the aim of having the World Expo 2020 is to make it the most sustainable World Expo. Hence, he adds, there is an immense amount of focus on clean energy generation and on reducing the overall carbon footprint.

Elaborating on the many applications where hot water systems are put to use, Bremstaller says that in villa applications, thermosiphon hot water systems are very popular. They are economical and are easy to install, he says. However, when talking about big applications, for instance – in places like hospitals, hotels or industrial applications, you can use the so-called ‘fresnel collector’, which can produce steam from solar heat, and this steam can then be used as a primary heat source for manufacturing processes – cooling or even to produce hot water, hence reducing the dependency on fossil fuels, he says.

Even though hot water systems have a wide application, representatives from the industry affirm that cost is a factor that is often brought up for debate. Bremstaller says that with high demand for the systems and challenging building designs, the cost of projects and the application of systems often tend to overshoot budgets, and this eventually results in owners looking at the initial cost of a system. Money is spent on the exterior looks of the buildings, but day-to-day operating systems are compromised owing to budget constraints, he says. Elaborating, he adds that this means that the cost for other systems is often compromised on. However, Devassy says that typically, cost as a factor rarely exists for high-end projects and is more of a factor for mid-end projects. Miglani elaborates on the explanation he gives to his customers on how though a product may be a little more expensive, it is still worth it. He says, “I tell my customer to not just look at the initial capex but to look at the lifecycle cost.” If we look at the lifecycle cost of a solarbased heater, it will definitely earn money for the owner, he adds. Bremstaller points to innovation as a selling point, but adds that it is still a tough-sell. “The general trend is to follow what has been done in the past,” he says. The manufacturing industry has seen tremendous growth in terms of innovation and energy efficiency, he says, but designers still follow the specifications that were followed in the last 10-12 years.

While challenges do exist, the overall sentiment with regard to the direction the hot water system sub-industry seems to be taking is positive. Though the use of solar heat-based systems and heat pumps are a big trend, there is also a possibility of suppliers trying and opting for a cheaper option, Bremstaller says. The need of the hour, he says, are new regulations, which would ensure that initial cost is not the only criterion in sourcing hot water systems, and that other attributes, like quality, reliability and sustainability are also taken into account. Devassy says that as energy-efficient sustainable products become popular, the efforts by the government and the steps taken to develop sustainability programmes represent a positive news, indeed.

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