The company, which is a subsidiary of Eskom Enterprises, is hoping to set up 500 to 1 000 distribution centres for its products, which include a paraffin water heater and stove, around the country. More cost-efficient than liquid-petroleum-gas products and more environment-friendly than coal-fired appliances, the products combine conventional paraffin technology with twenty-first century innovation, for use in households where there is no electricity, reports MD Herman de Vries .
It is estimated that about 18,6-million people in Southern Africa do not have access to electricity in their homes.
“About 30% of the country’s households are already dependent on paraffin, wood and coal for energy and thus, we decided to base our desi gns around existing paraffin technology,” explains De Vries.
“However, the last technology using paraffin was patented in the 1930s and, therefore, it needed to be updated with modern techniques to create products that were cost-efficient and safe to use,” he tells Engineering News in an exclusive interview.
At the core of this technology is a patented Universal Paraffin Energy Source (UPES) – not unlike a gas bottle – which holds up to five litres of paraffin.
The unit features an ordinary car tyre valve on one side and, as a safety feature, a pressure-release valve on the other side, which releases pressure at 1,3 bar.
From this unit, a water heater and a two-plate stove can be energised at the same time.
The appliances can be energised for about four-and-a-half hours, using only a litre of paraffin.
This means that all the energy needs for a family of five can be met with less than 15 l of paraffin a month, or about R50 at present paraffin prices.
Moreover, the emission levels, when burning paraffin gas, are lower than when liquid paraffin is used, and there is no smoke. “It is estimated that 90% of the infants that die in Africa, die of water-related causes and, therefore, the provision of clean water is a high priority,” reports De Vries.
“The Amazing water heater, which can heat up more than 400 l of water on a litre of paraffin, can be used to boil water and kill waterborne diseases, as well as provide warm water for showering and cleaning purposes,” he reveals.
The triangular-shaped product is lightweight and easy to install.
A two-plate stove, which can carry up to 50 kg a plate, has also been developed by the company.
Using similar technology to a primus stove, namely pressurised paraffin, the stove is easy to operate and maintain.
Safety features include a flame cut-off device, which has never before been developed for products using paraffin.
Both the stove and the water heater consist almost entirely of high-quality stainless steel for durability. Initial prototypes have been well received locally, and the company now hopes to extend its market into Africa and even abroad to South America, Australia and Europe.
However, the South African market remains the priority market.
Manufacturing of the products is outsourced to Johannesburg firm Domestic Engineering Concepts, and the units will be sold and installed by emerging firms.
In this way, the company is stimulating the economy and it is estimated that, in the long term, hundreds, even thousands of jobs may be created directly or indirectly through this initiative, says De Vries. The company is also continuing its vigorous research and development programme to further improve the existing products.