Sumaya HMX takes a fresh look at climate control
Energy consumption in India is nearly double that of the early 1980s. Even with the current worldwide economic slowdown, demand for power will continue to grow as the country develops and the population increases. India's rapid industrialisation and urbanisation is a boon to the national economy, but a serious challenge in terms of the unfettered rise in both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
So far, India's per capita energy consumption has remained one of the lowest in Asia, mainly because its vast rural population has little access to energy infrastructure. This will change in the next few decades as India's booming IT sector, fuelled by telecom investments and international outsourcing, will cause new office buildings and facilities to sprout up on the horizons of cities like Bangalore and New Delhi. Per-capita carbon emissions will triple by 2020 (in 2001 the country’s carbon emissions output was 251m metric tonnes).
With India's humid, equatorial climate, much of the energy consumption in new offices, workshops and manufacturing bases goes to run air-conditioning systems. To combat this, the entrepreneurs at Sumaya HMX designed a new temperature control system called 'Ambiator'. It has global appeal, yet is especially valuable for tropical climates as it has cooling power that matches conventional air-conditioning systems while offering big cost savings – making it affordable even for small and medium-sized businesses. The company began production in 2001 and sales have increased every year.
How ambiator works
This low-cost and low energy alternative to normal air-conditioning works on the principle of cooling ambient air in two stages: indirect evaporative cooling and evaporative cooling. At neither stage are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used.
First stage: Sensible Heat-Exchanger - Indirect evaporative cooling module
Ambient air is sucked through a 20 micron filter pump across a heat recuperator consisting of a cross flow heat exchanger (patent pending). In this stage, sensible cooling (the term used in the HVAC industry to mean reducing the temperature of air) is achieved without adding moisture.
Second Stage: Adiabatic Heat-Exchanger - Evaporative cooling module
The pre-cooled air passes through an evaporative cooling module, where limited quantities of water help cool the air further.
Each cubic foot a minute (CFM) of air cooled by Ambiator consumes about 60% less energy compared to conventional air-conditioning systems. The Tata Energy Research Institute certified this claim by recording the power consumed by Ambiator technology over a one-year period.
Since the product consumes less energy, it is also responsible for lower carbon dioxide emissions.. While a conventional air-conditioning unit used for a small office will generate 62kg of carbon dioxide emissions a year, an Ambiator of comparative size will emit around 41kg.
A further benefit of Ambiator is that it does not recirculate air but sucks in fresh air continuously from outside the building. This contributes to a healthier working environment with a minimal increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of the workplace.
This efficient technology with environmental benefits is big business; over the next six years, Sumaya HMX's founders expect their systems to offset two million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to taking more than 332,000 cars off the road for a year.
A Business growing on fresh air
From 2001 to 2006, the company achieved an 86% compounded annual growth rate. It aims to grow its value to $38m in five years.
The Ambiator has quickly become a popular choice in India, where energy costs have risen by as much as a third over the last three years. Large corporate clients include Wipro, Bosch, Ford, ABB and Taj Hotels. Yet even smaller companies can make big savings. For example, Sinai Transcription Services in Bangalore occupies offices with a floor area of just 2,300 square feet (213.7 square metres). They chose to install an 8,000 CFM Ambiator costing 476,000 rupees (about US$9,500). This was cheaper than buying conventional air-conditioning equipment by nearly $2,500. It also saves around $4,000 a year in energy costs and reduces carbon dioxide emissions entering the atmosphere at a rate equalled by eight cars each travelling 12,000 miles a year.
With the HVAC market in India alone worth an estimated $2bn, and growth in domestic product (GDP) of more than 8% a year, there are excellent opportunities for Sumaya HMX to make further inroads, especially in the service and manufacturing sectors. The rapidly changing profile and living standards of employees and employers is raising expectations for the condition and comfort of working environments. Sumaya HMX is also searching for new market opportunities, especially in countries with tropical or warm climates, and growing economies such as Brazil or South Africa. The company expects to leverage utility company rebate programmes while exploring markets in USA (California, Arizona and Texas) as well as Australia.
The company's commitment to new energy efficient products is attracting recognition. It was a winner at the Investor Forum held in November 2006, organised by New Ventures India with the support of the World Resources Institute. This award recognises the country’s most promising sustainable businesses in sectors such as clean technology and organic agriculture. The company was also a nominee in the World Clean Energy Awards, in the products category, at New York in May 2007.
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