Industrial Design Consultancy (IDC) announced its latest product development; an inflatable solar collector called SolarStore. The SolarStore harnesses the sun's natural energy to warm domestic water and can heat up to three full tanks of water per day at temperatures close to 80°C.
For consumers in the UK, the SolarStore could provide a cheap source of domestic hot water; with an initial cost of under £100 per product, trial data has shown that the system will pay for itself in only 6 months. This compares extremely favourably to conventional domestic solar hot water systems, which cost in the region of £2000-3000 and have payback times of around 10-20 years. It is anticipated that the product will also be extremely beneficial in developing countries, where a reliable electricity supply can be a problem. Other applications for the SolarStore include hot water for camping and caravanning holidays or for hot water in remote locations.
The simplicity of the device is remarkable. When deflated, it is small enough to fit into a rucksack, yet SolarStore inflates to nearly 2m2 for maximum solar absorption. SolarStore works by allowing sunlight to pass through a clear outer layer to a black inner layer which holds the water. By a process of heat transfer, the water is then heated up. The surrounding air between the clear and black layers then acts as insulation to help keep the heat in.
Although the SolarStore is inflatable, the structure of the system is strong and robust and it is anchored down by the weight of 30 litres of water. It is manufactured from a heavy-duty polymer that is designed to protect against dirt and rain. SolarStore is an eco-friendly solution, which saves nearly 0.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.