Has KRIB sounded the death knell for the immersion?

Kya deLongchamps wonders if the immersion switch has finally met its match.

THE immersion switch — it’s the most twisted element of home life in Ireland. Who left it on? Who didn’t turn it on? Why did you turn it on? Did you override the timer? Explain yourself, you indulgent monster! Baths were regarded in my childhood home as something from the last days of the Roman Empire.

The dance of the immersion breeds a scarcity mentality from toddlerhood. It’s a dire system, even when smartened up with a timer switch. The only people who love immersions are firms selling the 21st-century alternatives of electric showers and instant boiling taps.

If your current central heating (CH) system still demands that you wait for up to an hour for a warm plunge or 20 minutes for your little sport stars’ showers, I might have the answer. A fully patented product has been developed by brother-and-sister team Terry and Sophie Madigan from Dublin, to challenge the traditional and terrible tank. They call it KRIB.

Brother and sister Terry and Sophie Madigan from Dublin launching KRIB, a new Irish product that they have developed, which provides hot water on demand without turning on the heating or the immersion. KRIB fills the cylinder with hot water from the top down, instead of heating the whole cylinder bottom up, thereby saving energy and water consumption. Picture: Marc O’Sullivan
Brother and sister Terry and Sophie Madigan from Dublin launching KRIB, a new Irish product that they have developed, which provides hot water on demand without turning on the heating or the immersion. KRIB fills the cylinder with hot water from the top down, instead of heating the whole cylinder bottom up, thereby saving energy and water consumption. Picture: Marc O’Sullivan

This is hot stuff in the heating trade. Following their much-talked-about appearance on The Late Late Show, they have showcased their system to a global audience at the Enterprise Ireland stand at the SXSW Awards in Austin, Texas, last week. SXSW is one of the biggest trade shows focused on cutting-edge technology, start-up ideas and digital trends in the world.

The pair grew up in the trade and are talented multi-disciplinarians. Their father, Terry G Madigan, is director of KRIB, and has his own heating control firm, Systemlink Technologies.

“Our family has always been very close,” Sophie explains, “so we’ve always got on very well together. KRIB has been on all of our minds since 2013. We always end up chatting about it at the dinner table. In 2018, Terry and Terry G had just finished the app tests for KRIB, and I was in the middle of my MBA in Trinity College. They pretty much snapped me up during it. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from the two Terrys.

“Ter’ (younger) is also the CEO of Virtual Reality Ireland, a virtual and augmented reality production company. He has a lot going on, but he doesn’t work every minute. He has a great family (a wife and two young children) so he does take the time to have a bit of fun at the weekends. I’m also the managing director of Systemlink Technologies and a director with Ter’ in Ecovolt Ltd (low-energy ceramic electric radiators).”

Terry explains how the KRIB system evolved. “About five years ago, I had the Eureka moment when I realised that reversing the flow of water and heating it in discreet volumes using a highly efficient heat-exchanging device was exactly what the market needed. This was simple and yet revolutionary.”

The KRIB system basically fills the water tank from the top instead of from the bottom, as most CH systems do. A heat exchanger retro-fitted to your existing tank then heats just as much water as you need in just a few minutes.

Sophie continues: “KRIB’s intelligent control system sends a message to the plate heat exchanger system, which then heats up the exact amount of water in your cylinder that you need for a shower/bath, for example, within a matter of minutes.”

Terry expands: “Currently everyone is heating up a full cylinder (200-300l) of hot water when they only use on average a quarter to a half of that generated energy. You’re leaving 150-250 litres of hot water to cool down, which is a huge drain on your pocket. KRIB will have a shower ready for you, on average, in six minutes.”

The KRIB heats your water on the outside of the cylinder instead of doing it all on the inside, and then injects it back into the top of your cylinder. It uses the heat generated from your gas/oil boiler or heat pump in a much more efficient way than your old coil/immersion on the inside of your cylinder.

While developing KRIB, the sibling duo tested the product with people of all ages to make sure it was as user-friendly as possible.

Terry adds: “You can control the heating and hot water with an easy-to-use wall-mounted, five-inch touch-screen control panel or from anywhere with the KRIB smartphone app. So, if you’re rushing home from work and have only half an hour to change before heading out again, you can use KRIB from your mobile to make sure there is hot water ready for your shower.”

The system works with multi-zone systems as well as in a single loop where (hopefully) heating performance is trimmed in each room with thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs). The team argues that zone control offers better overall efficiency. The more you tailor your use of your room and water heating in temperature and obviously by time — the greater the savings that are possible.

“Even in an un-zoned home, KRIB has a quasi-zoning effect due to the fact the cylinder no longer needs to be heated for 1-2 hours every time,” Terry explains. “In an un-zoned home, this traditionally meant the radiators had to be heated for the same duration to allow water to also flow to the cylinder. With KRIB, there’s less time required to generate a shower, so the heating system is also turned on for a much-reduced time.”

It’s a bit of a mind-bender, in that the KRIB is not a separate tank, it works with your existing tank. The company supplies its own tanks with integral insulation if required. KRIB works with a range of heat sources.

“As long as you have a gas boiler, oil boiler or heat pump,” Terry clarifies, “the KRIB will connect in with your heat source and it suits almost any cylinder on the market, no matter the age — steel, copper and composites. There are only four pipes to connect it to the tank — two to your hot water tank and two to your heat source.”

Temperature control for the boiler (separate from the cylinder control, but integrated into the same panel) comes as standard with the system, so it’s a full upgrade for your central heating that includes the vital boiler interlock, with seven-day programmes to suit your family’s work/life habits.

So, I ask Sophie, why choose this heating control system over another? Is it really one of a kind? What’s the payback time?

“With the grant of up to €700 available from the SEAI,” she explains, “the homeowner basically ends up paying the same price for the KRIB Retrofit as they would for one of our rival products, and there are no repeat service fees.

KRIB is like nothing that’s currently on the market. Using a unique, world-first, patented technology, KRIB is the only smart home heating control out there that integrates into the wet system composed of the pipework and hot water cylinder.

Other products are simply electronic devices that connect into your wiring system that controls your heating system.

“You could save up to €200-€250 per year. So payback would be 4-5 years. This does not include the SEAI grant of €700 available to any home built before 2006, where you can see that payback would then be in the order of less than two years.”

Sophie adds the final positive for this contender in the fight for efficiency at home and the reduction of our carbon footprint.

“We are constantly focused on the future road-map of R&D, so new features will be available to all customers as simple over-the-air, internet-based cloud updates to make KRIB even more intelligent over time. With this system, consumers can save money, all while doing their bit for the environment by reducing water consumption and saving energy.”

KRIB control only is priced at €469, KRIB Retrofit option retails at €999, KRIB Cylinder Pod option’s price varies based on cylinder size, average home €1,850 (all including VAT). KRIB will be at The Ideal Home Show in the RDS, Dublin, April 12-14; krib.ie.

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