First presented in 2019, the storage tank collector Sunpad has now been delivered in 66 countries on five continents. The manufacturer Greenonetec from Austria confirms that the product sells especially well in South America, Southern Europe, the Middle East and in selected African countries. We spoke with two resellers – one in Egypt and one in Saudi Arabia – about their experiences and sales activities with Sunpad. Increasing electricity prices have triggered demand in Egypt, while sales have risen in Saudi Arabia because of a strong governmental awareness-raising strategy for reducing overall electricity consumption. PV water heaters are not yet seen as a competitor to thermosiphon systems in either country. The photo shows an installation of several Sunpad units for a new sports club belonging to the army in Egypt.
Photo: Summit Solar Technology
Greenonetec took advantage of the high number of international visitors to present the Sunpad for the first time in 2019 at the ISH fair in Frankfurt, Germany. It is a thermosiphon system with the special feature being that the collector and the tank are merged into one unit. Hence building owners no longer have to have large metal vessels on their roofs, as is usual for thermosiphon systems.
Greenonetec has developed its Sunpad as a cost-effective solution for sunny regions. The casing consists of EPP (expanded polypropylene) components pressed together. The storage compartment is made of stainless steel and also forms the absorber. It is painted black to avoid high stagnation temperatures. A tube-form, stainless-steel heat exchanger has been integrated into the upper section of the comparatively flat Sunpad storage tank.
“In principle, we offer Sunpads worldwide, but special focus countries have emerged in recent years. The units are also sold as OEM products and then offered under the customer’s own label”, explained Patrick Vallant, Head of Marketing and Sales at Greenonetec.
Sunpads at a hotel in Ivory Coast Photo: Greenonetec
Sunpads sell because of nice image and modern look
Summit Solar Technology has sold Sunpads as solar water heaters since it was founded in 2019. The company based in Cairo also offers solar pool heating solutions and PV systems – both roof-mounted and building-integrated. In the area of water heating, the company relies solely on Sunpads and does not offer any other thermosiphon systems.
“Sunpads are particularly valued in newly built houses; they have a nice image and look modern”, said Mohamed El Sokkary, Co-founder and Chairman of Summit Solar Technology. “We install them in private homes, but also in public and office buildings and to a lesser extent we sell them to other installers.” As it is an instant water heater, there is no problem with Legionella.
The demand for solar water heater solutions has been triggered by increasing electricity prices in Egypt, confirmed El Sokkary. There is, however, no government support for solar water heaters. He added that an obligation to install a solar water heater exists only in few modern residential compounds and in the new administrative capital of Egypt.
When asked whether PV-driven water heating solutions are a competition for Sunpad in Egypt, El Sokkary answered with a clear “no, not at all”. “There are products like Nexol photovoltaic boilers available on the market, but they are inefficient and not popular at all”, he added. According to Sokkary, solar electricity is too expensive and difficult to harvest to use it for electric heaters, as they are old technology, voracious consumers of energy and obsolete in many modern countries.
Sunpad installation for a single flat at worker accommodation. Photo Cleantech SA
Sunpad installation does not require high technical skills
The company Cleantech SA from Saudi Arabia was also one of Sunpad’s early resellers. “We bought the first Sunpads at the beginning of 2019,” confirmed Ahmed Selim, Co-founder and COO at Cleantech SA. We now sell around 300 systems per year – including exports to neighbouring countries, especially to Jordan.” Sunpad solutions are popular among mid to high-income villa owners, resorts, compounds, and construction camps: “Approximately 98 % of our Sunpad sales are bulk orders of 20 units or more”.
Selim sees one important advantage of Sunpad being that it can be sold to subcontractors, “as it doesn’t require high technical skills, providing confidence for self-installation”. Another outstanding factor is the slim design of Sunpad, outshining traditional thermosiphon systems, added Selim. Cleantech SA has different solar water heater solutions in its portfolio aiming at providing tailor-made solutions to meet each client´s unique requirements.
When asked about the factors driving sales in Saudi Arabia, he answered: “The demand is primarily driven by government initiatives promoting a sustainable future and increased awareness, with consultants mandating solar water heaters in all new construction projects across the Kingdom”. Rising electricity prices like in Egypt are less a factor for triggering demand in Saudi Arabia. Subsidies for solar water heaters are not in place. “However, it is an unofficial mandate in all new projects, both commercial and residential, to specify solar water heating solutions,” Selim concluded.
Selim does not really see PV water heaters as a competitor for Sunpad either: “PV water heaters have yet to penetrate the market due to lower efficiency, larger roof area requirements, and no competitive advantage in terms of pricing.”