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Home water recycling units may one day become as commonplace as household rooftop solar, with revolutionary domestic water recycling technology set to land in Australia soon.
The Hydraloop technology developed in The Netherlands is making waves in the water recycling scene because it’s making the technology more accessible for the domestic market.
The company recently took home a stack of awards at the international electronics technology trade show CES2020 in Las Vegas, which Hydraloop Systems chief marketing officer and co-founder Sabine Stuiver says will turbocharge the company’s global expansion.
The team was already eyeing off other regions, including Australia, US, Africa and parts of Asia, but now instead of entering new markets one-by-one the company will expand into all new locations at once.
It will need to jump over a few regulatory hurdles before Australian plumbers and distributors can legally install the units in Australian homes.
The company is currently seeking certification that passes muster with local health authorities, but Stuiver says that the product is already up to the standards expected by Australia’s Department of Health.
Flushing toilets with tap water last century thinking
Many years ago, the company’s founder and chief executive officer Arthur Valkieser realised that it’s not 21st century thinking to wash clothes and irrigate gardens with drinking water. But he also recognised that a “nice little consumer product” was necessary to bring water recycling technology to the bulk of the residential market.
There are already domestic water recycling units on the market but Stuiver says these tend to be cumbersome – often requiring a dedicated shed or plant room to store – and because they have filters and membranes, are expensive to clean and maintain.
By contrast, she says her company’s product takes up relatively little space, is self-cleaning and is looking a bit like a fridge, it’s not a total eyesore.
The unit is capable of recycling 85 per cent of all domestic water and works using a patented six-step process, starting with sedimentation and floatation. The process takes five hours in total to produce disinfected, safe water to be used again for non-drinking purposes.
Like any appliance, it’s easiest to install the unit in a new building but the company has worked hard to streamline the retrofitting process.
There are now different products available so that people can choose how much they want to spend on new pipes. For example, the unit might just provide reclaimed water to the garden or pool, rather than both.
In the standard retrofit, the water needs to be funnelled from showers, sinks and washing machines and fed towards the top of the system either using gravity or a pump. Once it’s been through the machine, it needs to be pumped to be used to flush toilets, water gardens and top up pools.
The self-cleaning device takes little maintenance but it’s not a DIY product – a plumber or installer will need to return occasionally to replace parts over its lifespan.
So, how much will it cost?
Stuiver says takes very little energy to run – around 200 kilowatt hours a year – but at around US$4000 before shipping and taxes the units themselves are not exactly cheap.
Payback periods vary according to water prices and usage levels and with Australia’s relatively low price on water, payback might take some time.
But under increasing pressure from drought and water restrictions, a product like this is likely to attract interest around the country even if the economics don’t yet quite stack up.
Stuiver expects the market to become more competitive for these types of devices as more people start realising the value of decentralised water recycling. She thinks a water recycling unit should be standard in every single building.
“We have vison that in 20 years’ time, no building will be built without its own decentralised water recycling system.”
Going forward, the plan is to expand the product range, including higher volume units suitable for small businesses and other facilities, such as sporting grounds.