Innovator Support: Airex

Introduction

Tens of millions of homes in the UK were built with low energy efficiency standards. Residents struggle with poor insulation, leading to cold rooms and uncomfortable draughts, meaning occupants often need to turn up the heating, which in turn drives up energy bills.

AirEx believe they have a solution: a smart ventilation control – or put more simply – an intelligent airbrick, that uses sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and air quality in the home. Energy Systems Catapult has developed a Living Lab: a place where innovators can test new products, services and business models in up to 100 real-world homes connected to a cloud-based digital platform by an array of in-home IoT sensors/actuators.

The Challenge and Opportunity

Research suggests that traditional air-bricks or vents are responsible for up to 15% of heat loss in the home, while residents that block air vents permanently, can suffer condensation and damp problems, with an average repair bill of £3,000. Not to mention risking indoor air quality and occupants’ health.

The primary market for AirEx is social housing properties, with the obvious beneficiary of the technology being the tenant rather than the landlord, with improved energy efficiency leading to a reduction in energy bills of about £150/year. However, the real-time data provided by AirEx would be of significant value enabling landlords and facility managers to carry out run preventative maintenance. For example, flagging-up indicators of damp via an interactive dashboard and simple alerts, rather than carrying out expensive repair works.

While the academic trials were very useful to validate the initial hypothesis, AirEx quickly realised that larger scale trials were needed. If their customer proposition was going to exhibit clear value, real-world evidence was required to enable landlords to build a business case for investing in the product:

The Innovation

London-based technology start-up, AirEx, have developed a smart ventilation control that uses sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and air quality in the home. It uses advanced algorithms to manage airflow and ventilation, while also considering local weather and air quality data. AirEx opens the vents to reduce underfloor humidity and closes them to reduce heat loss and improve overall comfort.

AirEx calculate that compared with other retrofit solutions, like underfloor insulation (requiring lifting the floor boards), their innovation would achieve half of the savings impact of under-floor insulation, at one-tenth of the cost. Resulting in five times better payback.

Up to 40 million homes across Europe could benefit from the AirEx intelligent airbrick.

Our Appoach

Energy Systems Catapult is helping accelerate the innovation to market through our Living Lab – a place where innovators can test new products, services and business models in up to 100 real-world homes connected to a cloud-based digital platform by an array of in-home IoT sensors/actuators. The Living Lab has been created to help innovators ensures consumers are at the heart of the UK energy systems transformation.

Using the Living Lab, AirEx is gaining:

  • Rapid access to real-world testing: quicker, easier, more hassle-free access to residents.
  • High-value data: high-value, high-volume, real-time data required to prove how AirEx’s product changes the thermal performance of a home.
  • Accelerated learning: access to years of historic consumer and technical comparative data from previous trials in the same homes, enabling AirEx to shorten their evidence gathering from 24 months to 12 months.
  • New public and private sector contacts: new opportunities for AirEx to engage private sector investors and potential customers e.g. local authorities.

Energy Systems Catapult is now working with AirEx to support product validation and accelerate to market, including exploiting data from the current trial for product development, support on business planning, and extending the monitoring period in the Living Lab to a larger scale.