Energy efficient ‘shoebox’ water heaters stamp out legionella

THE makers of a shoebox-sized instant hot water system with a mechanism to kill legionella bacteria are targeting the potentially huge Chinese market.

South Australian electronics manufacturer Elwa Pty Ltd has incorporated a legionella cleaning cycle in its compact water heaters that not only helps to remove harmful bacteria but is also highly energy efficient.

The company exports to Southeast Asia and Europe and is in talks to take its electric water heaters to Shandong in northeast China.

Elwa CEO Jan Antonides said the products main features were its ability to heat water instantaneously, its compact size, which made it easier to install in commercial and residential buildings, and its built in legionella cleaning systems to kill the bacteria that settled at the bottom of heating tanks.

“Normal hot water storage tanks need to be kept at a really high temperature to kill off the bacteria growing in the bottom of the tank. For hot water you need to have a temperature limit so that people can’t scald themselves,” he said.

“Our instantaneous water heaters never have that problem. We have a digital controller where we can program any temperature into any water heater that we have. That makes it safe but also super energy efficient.

In April, Elwa was part of a 160-strong delegation of government leaders and representatives of more than 100 local companies to Shandong, which was led by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

“We have quoted for a large hospital project in Yantai, in the north of the Shandong region, where we have been on the trade mission with the South Australian Government,” Antonides said.

“Each unit costs about $500 to about $1100 (AUD). The order for China, which would be our biggest single order we have ever had in South Australia, could be massive for us.”

The water heaters come in three sizes: small (186x150x95mm), medium (315x204x130mm) and large (459x260x138m).

Legionellosis varies from a mild illness to a fatal form of pneumonia and is often caused by exposure to legionella bacteria found in mists, jets or water sprays. It can also occur by aspiration of contaminated water or ice in hospitals.

There are about 10–15 cases detected per million people in the United States, Europe and Australia.

“For schools, health care and aged care facilities there are mandatory maintenance calls to do legionella prevention,” Antonides said.

“So sometimes three-monthly, six-monthly or annually a technician needs to go there and clean the lines of shower heads and chemicals or run really high temperature water through them to kill off legionella that builds up in systems, especially if they are not used for a period of time.

“For that reason we built in a legionella cleaning cycle so a service technician can put it into a cleaning cycle and it will run for 10 minutes at 65°C and it will kill off legionella that might have built up in the showerheads.”

Elwa also manufactures smart LED lights that can be installed in car parks and emergency stairwells.

If they are rendered inactive they reduce light emission to about 20 per cent but increase to full power when motion is detected.

The business mission to China in April coincided with the 30th anniversary of South Australia’s sister state relationship with Shandong, a province of almost 100 million people.

“If you consider the scale of the Shandong market, the size of their economy, the size of the population there, there’s more than enough opportunity for us to work towards – and it’s a place where we’ve worked very hard in recent years to flesh out the real, medium to long-term opportunities for bilateral trade,” South Australian Investment and Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said.

“We are building on a long and rich history of government, institutional and cultural exchange and that positions our businesses to advantage in a very competitive market place.”

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