The following report documents the background, design, development, and testing of a solar heating project undertaken by our D-lab team in partnership with the Ecuadorian company, Inaproces. Our report highlights key factors that contributed to our design process including client needs, prior art, and achievability within the project’s 10-week timeline.
Currently, Kiwa’s chip production involves an energy-intensive frying process. Chips a friend in vats of oil that are heated with natural gas. The company then drains, sorts, and packages the chips on site. The costs to heat the oil are high (The company spends about $ 4,000 in propane gas consumption each month), and for this reason Kiwa is interested in exploring solar dehydration to cut costs.
As our D-lab team explored new avenues for production for Kiwa, we took the company’s needs and interests into account. The company is interested in utilizing solar energy as a means of reducing costs, producing a quality product, diversifying the brand, and promoting the company’s environmentally–friendly image. Kiwa expressed its openness to investigating a variety of approaches to achieving these goals.
Our results clearly showed that the “solar tube” design outperformed the rest of the pre-prototypes, with the fastest gain in temperature as well as maintaining the highest temperature overall. Additionally, we also collected some surprising data. For instance, we learned that painting the boxes black on the outside verses just black on the inside had no real temperature affect. So when constructing our final prototype we decided to paint both the inside and the outside for more esthetic purposes knowing it wouldn’t lower the temperature significantly. Finally, in viewing our collected data for, we decided to go with the two most promising designs (the “solar tube” and the “solar wall”) because these were the most interesting designs with the most potential, as well as the ability to compare both side by side to see how our design (the “solar tube”) faired with a conventional design already on the market (the “solar wall”). This comparison was sure to give us more data on the performance ability of either design.