Beccles: Inventor drives down cost of installing solar water heating

A SUFFOLK entrepreneur has launched a device aimed at making solar water-heating more affordable.

Tom Seppings, of Beccles, has created the SolaPlug, which aims to make the heating of water cheaper and also easier to fit.

The invention is a flanged adaptor which connects solar heating panels to an existing hot water tank, meaning that the cylinder can be retained rather than scrapped.

Mr Seppings, whose family-run dried flower business Winter Flora, in Weston, near Beccles, said he came up with the idea when he undertook a plumbing course in installing solar heating in 2007.

The graduate of engineering science used his passion for renewable technologies, together with his degree and new skills to identify an opportunity in the market.

Mr Seppings noticed through the course that a lot of plumbing work was required to install the technology and that the benefits were not big enough for many people to be able to afford it.

“Environmentally, solar water heating makes perfect sense,” he said.

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“The main obstacle has been the high cost of fitting it into existing homes. I looked at ways of making it cheaper. Fitting a new tank is a third of the cost so I looked at alternatives.

“I came up with the flanging arrangement and did some research and I was amazed no-one else had done it. It was almost too good to be true.”

Mr Seppings applied for a patent in August 2007 and exhibited a prototype in 2009, since when he had continued to fine-tune the product for the market place.

SolaPlug is now recognised by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and is eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive/government heat subsidy.