Egg-shaped device that boosts boiler efficiency wins CIOB innovation award
Inventor Stan Whetstone, pictured right at an Oxypod installation
A simple but transformative gadget that takes air out of domestic and commercial water-based heating systems – thereby reducing energy consumption by perhaps 15-30% – is one of three main prize winners in this year’s International Innovation and Research Awards from the CIOB.
The inventors of the Oxypod secured a £2,000 award in the Innovation Achievers category, while a wireless structural sensor device called Utterberry won the Digital Innovation category, and a Loughborough University BIM project won the Innovation in Education and Training category.
The egg-shaped Oxypod device was invented by heating engineer Stanley Whetstone with support from lecturer and builder Bob Harris MCIOB, with the patent shared with a small fuel-poverty charity in the north east.
How does the Oxypod work?
The Oxypod website explains that trapped air forms into bubbles which line the pipes and radiators with a thin layer of air bubbles causing a thermal barrier. The air bubbles also increase surface friction, which adversely affects the flow of water running through the pipes and radiators. The result is cold spots in radiators, and the need to regularly “bleed” them of air.
The website says: “This typically results in the boiler being operated at a higher temperature than would otherwise be required, leading to increased energy usage and higher bills, as well as an increase in wear and tear on the boiler.”
The Goodwin Development Trust has successfully installed and trialled the product in the Hull area, but has now partnered with eco products company, 21st Century Eco Energy, to scale up production, marketing and distribution.
Hull University has also been involved, providing the computer modelling of the “natural vortex implosion system” inside the unit necessary to achieve international patents.
A spokesman for 21st Century Eco Energy said: “Oxypod’s had 220 field trials, but now it’s undergoing further laboratory testing prior to a widespread launch.
“Bob and Stan came up with the idea a number of years ago to overcome dissolved air in water heating systems, mainly because they wanted to save on maintenance costs. But they discovered along the way that it also saves energy, as the systems run so much more efficiently – we’ve seen 15-30% energy savings. Now we’re trying to get that certified in laboratory conditions.”
The Oxypod has no moving parts, and can be installed in any closed-loop system, for example alongside a ground source heat pump. The domestic version has been installed in homes with as many as 44 radiators.
The Oxypod shared honours with the Utterberry device, invented by PdD student Heba Bevan from the University of Cambridge, which has been used by the Costain Skanska JV to monitor structural movement in underground horizontal passages between shafts for Crossrail.
And Dr Robby Soetanto from Loughborough University also won a £2,000 prize for his work on “BIM-Hub: Educating Future Built Environment Professionals to Work in BIM Environment.”
This year’s I&R awards attracted 178 entries from 17 countries. A panel of 17 judges drew up the three-strong shortlist in each category, then invited the applicants to present their ideas and take part in a Q&A.
As well as the three principal awards, there was also a research paper award, won by Dr Yingbin Feng of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, on “Effect of Safety Investments on Safety Performance of Building Projects”.
And the winner of the undergraduate dissertation award was Wei Yan (Eileen) Chin of the National University of Singapore, for her paper on “Risk Identification and Allocation of Singapore Construction Joint Venture Projects with Developing Countries”.