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Entrepreneurs look to beat the winter chill with solar energy

Solair co-founders photoshopped

BRIGHT IDEA: Tyler Byers and Lisa McLaren are not worried about a damp launch for their new product.

LOCAL entrepreneurs are looking to counter New Zealand’s winter with a new low cost, energy efficient product.

Their product, called a Solar Space Heater, uses solar power to provide heat to houses during the sunshine hours of the day.

The company Solair, which launches tonight, is part of Wellington City Councils Smart Energy Challenge and is aiming to raise $6000, which will be matched by council if it’s raised by May 16th.

Solar Air display

HOT STUFF: The diagram depicts how a solar space heater works.

The money will help Solair kick start their project.“We want to install at least 5 Solar Space Heaters into community buildings, schools, low income housing or student flats,” says Co-Founder Tyler Byers.

Ashton Kelly a trainee doctor at Wellington hospital sees the heater as a way to help people, especially children, living in cold, damp and mouldy houses.

“The most common health problems that children experience from living in this type of housing are lung diseases, such as bronchiolitis, asthma, and pneumonia,” he says.

Mr Kelly says Solair will best benefit low income families if it can be distributed at an affordable rate.

“These families are also the most likely to be suffering from fuel poverty, meaning they need to spend more than 10% of their household incomes on heating. This means they often need to sacrifice other household necessities like food and healthcare costs just to heat their house,” he says.

He also believes that if the project is a success the government should get behind it.

“It makes sense for the government to fund a form of heating that costs nothing to run, utilises an abundant source of renewable energy and can be installed at minimal cost and labour,” he says.

Co-Founder Lisa McLaren says she is amazed the idea had not been grasped in New Zealand already, especially because of the success of solar space heaters in northern Europe.

“We couldn’t figure out why they hadn’t been introduced here before,” she says.

After the Smart Energy Challenge finishes Solair want to continue supplying the heaters in New Zealand.

“We would love a contract with a low income housing provider to get these out in bulk to a lot of people that need them,” says Miss McLaren

BY Josh Price

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