Universal solution for energy-efficient showering: Hamwells' innovation

Published on 2024-03-08

Startup Story

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Jos Den Besten, a Business Developer at Hamwells, introduces a sustainable approach to showering that does not compromise on quality or comfort.


Revolutionizing Shower Systems

Hello, I'm Jos Den Besten, Business Developer of Hamwells, a startup born out of the Netherlands with a vision to redefine the way we approach showering—a daily routine that significantly impacts our water and energy consumption. Our journey began in 2015, driven by the realization of the substantial amounts of water and energy used during showers. At Hamwells, we questioned the status quo and asked ourselves: How can we make showering more sustainable without compromising the comfort and quality of the experience?

Our answer to this challenge is our flagship product, the Blue, a pioneering wastewater heat recovery system. The concept is simple yet profoundly effective. As shower water flows down the drain, it carries with it a significant amount of heat energy. The Blue system captures this energy, reclaiming up to 72.5% of it to preheat the incoming cold water. This process eliminates the need for storage and allows for immediate reuse of the energy, ensuring high efficiency and reducing energy consumption significantly.

The beauty of the Blue system lies not only in its functionality but also in its versatility. Initially designed for new constructions or extensive retrofits, we have evolved the technology to cater to existing bathroom setups. Over the past eighteen months, we've developed a solution that can be seamlessly integrated into any bathroom without the need for major renovations or alterations. This innovative approach only requires a minimal space adjustment, about 15 centimeters in the shower area, to accommodate the installation. It connects directly to the existing hot and cold water supplies and the drainage system, making sustainable showering accessible to more households and establishments.


A Universal Solution for Energy-Efficient Showering Across Buildings

Unlike other solutions that require specific architectural conditions—such as having the bathroom located above an installation floor—our system stands out for its unique ability to operate efficiently on a single level. This innovation opens up a world of possibilities for a wide range of buildings, from apartment complexes and hotels to care centers, sports facilities, and even compact living spaces like bungalows and tiny houses. Essentially, there is no scenario where our solution cannot be implemented to enhance sustainability and efficiency.

The limitations of other similar systems often stem from their dependency on multi-level designs to function effectively. These conventional systems utilize gravity for wastewater heat recovery, necessitating an additional level below the bathroom for installation. Hamwells transcends these limitations by offering the only vertical system designed for single-floor efficiency, making it a unique and unparalleled option in the market.

From an environmental standpoint, the impact of adopting our system is significant. On average, a three-person household can save up to 1,265 kilowatt-hours annually, translating to a reduction of about 400 euros in utility bills and a decrease of 400 kilograms in CO2 emissions from showering alone. This not only benefits the planet but also provides substantial financial savings for families. Furthermore, for business clients such as project developers or large technical engineering firms, our system can serve as a cornerstone for technical installations, potentially reducing the size and cost of these systems by up to 50%. This efficiency improvement not only simplifies maintenance but also accelerates the return on investment, often making it immediate from the point of installation.


Hamwells' Impact: A Case Study from the Technical University of Delft

In our pursuit to revolutionize sustainable showering, we found an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy of our system through a collaboration with the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. This partnership allowed us to implement our technology in a real-world setting—a living lab on the university campus, where houses built with 1970s technology served as the perfect backdrop for innovation. One of these houses, inhabited by a family and equipped with numerous measuring sensors, was chosen to install our shower system. This setup provided us with a wealth of data, revealing a significant reduction in energy consumption for showering by more than 35%. This was exactly in line with our projections for the used version and method of connecting to the hot water installation. The system demonstrated its capability to start conserving energy almost immediately, becoming effective within just 10 seconds of starting a shower.

The benefits of adopting the Hamwells system extend far beyond individual savings, touching on various stakeholders across the spectrum. For homeowners and facility operators, such as sports clubs, hotels, and care centers, the immediate reduction in utility bills presents a direct financial advantage. From a broader perspective, our technology supports project developers in meeting stringent nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB) legislation more effortlessly. By enabling the use of smaller, more cost-effective installations, we not only simplify the installation process but also ensure that standard plumbers can execute the setup without needing specialized engineers.

Moreover, our solution stands out against other technologies by maintaining, if not enhancing, the level of luxury and comfort in facilities like holiday parks and hotels. This dual benefit of sustainability paired with comfort has positioned Hamwells as a leader in environmentally friendly shower solutions, proving that it's possible to enjoy the comforts of modern living while making a positive impact on the planet.


Scaling Sustainable Shower Solutions: Insights and Challenges from Hamwells' Journey

Our journey to scaling sustainable shower solutions across the Netherlands, France,the UK, and as of January 2024 in Scandinavia, has been met with enthusiasm and support from our partner network and distributors. As we integrate our systems into the standard offerings for bathrooms and modular housing concepts, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Notably, in the UK, the regulatory environment now mandates the use of wastewater heat recovery systems for new constructions, a move that underscores the growing importance and acceptance of our technology. This trend towards sustainability is driving our expansion and fostering potential partnerships and co-creation opportunities in various countries.

However, our path has not been without its challenges. One of the most significant hurdles we've encountered is the inherently long lead time associated with our projects. Bathrooms are typically the last part of a house to be completed, which means that from the moment a design incorporates our system, it can take years before installation. To maximize efficiency, our goal is to be included in the design phase, aligning with our belief that early integration leads to the best outcomes. Yet, navigating this timing can be complex, requiring patience and strategic planning. Legislation and regulations also pose a substantial challenge. While not always a direct requirement, adherence to certain standards can make or break the adoption of our systems. As we navigate these regulatory landscapes, we aim to demonstrate the multifaceted benefits of our solutions beyond just utility bill savings, such as the potential for smaller, more cost-effective technical installations. Our efforts to overcome these obstacles include raising awareness about the additional advantages of our system, such as the downsizing of technical installations which leads to lower project costs for our partners and their customers. This aspect, along with ease of installation, has become a major driver for businesses to adopt our solutions, even in contexts where regulation is not the primary motivator.

Reflecting on our experience, it's clear that the integration of Hamwells' system from the design stage of a building project is crucial. This approach not only ensures the highest possible efficiency but also allows for significant savings in terms of both costs and environmental impact. As we continue to evolve and refine our solutions, the story of one of our partners illustrates the transformative potential of our technology: Initially reliant on heat pumps for hot water and heating, they found that our improved system efficiency eliminated the need for such pumps, simplifying installation and maintenance while reducing costs.

Paving the Way for Global Sustainable Showering Solutions

As we look towards the future, Hamwells is poised for international expansion, with legislative commitments and approvals already secured in several countries. Our focus is now turning towards scandinavian countries and Germany, following the integration of WWHR from showerwater in december 2022  into the DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm) and a recent signed partner contract, a testament to our compliance with stringent German standards. Additionally, our alignment with passive house regulations highlights our system's compatibility with the highest standards of energy efficiency. This international recognition is not just a milestone for Hamwells; it signals a broader shift towards sustainable building practices globally.

The journey of bringing our sustainable shower systems to new markets has unveiled varying degrees of market readiness and openness to innovation. While social housing agencies, particularly in the Netherlands, show a slower adoption curve due to established systems, modular housing companies represent a stark contrast. These entities, known for their forward-thinking approach to construction, have been quick to integrate our technology, recognizing its potential to revolutionize energy use and sustainability in housing.

Our observations across different countries and industries have highlighted the diverse incentives driving the adoption of sustainable solutions like ours. Energy prices and CO2 emissions rates vary significantly from one country to another, influencing the urgency and appeal of implementing energy-efficient systems. Despite these differences, we've noted a growing interest from the hospitality sector, including holiday parks and hotels, underscoring the universal appeal and necessity of sustainable innovations in today's energy-conscious world.

Interestingly, the luxury market has emerged as an unexpected yet promising frontier for our technology. The demand for high-flow showers in this segment results in higher energy consumption, positioning our system as a crucial tool for achieving significant energy savings without compromising on the luxurious experience. This insight reveals the broader applicability and potential of Hamwells' solutions, from modest homes to the most exclusive accommodations.

As we conclude, the path forward for Hamwells is clear: to continue breaking new ground in sustainable technology, driving adoption across different sectors and countries, and ultimately contributing to a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly future. Our journey thus far has been filled with learning, adaptation, and growth, and we look forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we strive to make sustainable showering a standard across the globe.


About the author

Jos den Besten