HEATING water is essential – but expensive. In some parts of the developing world, it can make up a staggering proportion of a household’s energy bill.

“For example, In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, up to 40% of a household’s income might be spent on energy – 70% of which is just to heat water,” explained Faisal Ghani, founder and chief executive of Edinburgh ‘cleantech’ start-up, SolarisKit. “This is a significant cost to poor households and a strain on grids which are already struggling to meet demand in many parts of Africa.”

A spin-out from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, SolarisKit has secured around £250,000 of funding to begin trials in Africa of the world’s first flat-packable solar thermal collector. By turning sunlight into heat, this will allow households to save money, while also reducing their carbon emissions.

The funding was awarded through the Energy Catalyst Programme of Innovate UK, the UK innovation agency.

“By the end of this trial project, we aim to install up to 100 of our collectors in Rwanda to demonstrate both the environmental and socio-economic impact achieved from the supply of affordable clean energy,” Mr Ghani said.

Heating currently accounts for around 40% of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, with carbon emissions from developing countries exceeding those from its modern counterparts, Mr Ghani said.

By focusing on the development of low-cost, high-value solar technology, the company’s goal is to lower global carbon emissions while helping to improve the lives of millions of people in the developing world, particularly in sub Saharan Africa, as well as parts of Asia and Latin America.

Assembled in 30 minutes, the SolarisKit solar collector is small, lightweight and can be transported by bicycle or motorcycle – presenting a potential business opportunity for local entrepreneurs to start their own clean energy business with just a bicycle and trailer.

In most standard weather conditions, the SolarisKit is capable of heating water to temperatures of up to 50 degrees C, perfect for normal showering and laundry requirements.

SolarisKit can significantly reduce the cost to purchase, transport, and install a solar hot water system.