According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, households in the United Kingdom use the equivalent of 7.6 million tons of oil per year to heat water.
Waste heat from domestic boilers is then funneled out of the home through flue pipes.
Where the average annual heating bill is £300, Charles Urquhart, a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Strathclyde in the U.K., argues that this energy could be doing much more.
As part of a final year design project focusing on domestic energy consumption, Urquhart developed a concept to squeeze more value from the domestic heating system, lower U.K. residents’ carbon footprint and save money.
The solution, called the Eco-Helix, is a device that generates electricity from waste heat exiting the home. The "boiler exhaust energy capture system" can be attached to existing flue pipes, where it converts thermal energy into electricity by channeling heat through a series of fans.
Although the device might look pretty absurd sticking out the side of house, its helical structure is designed to optimize the surface area over which hot air can flow through convection fans. The device also includes a wind-powered fan, to increase energy harvest.
According to Urquhart, the Eco-Helix can generate enough electricity to save a household up to £22 per year. One hour of boiler usage can power 16 LED bulbs for up to 2.75 hours, or charge a smart phone up to twelve times. The Eco-Helix is designed to be manufactured from recycled and recyclable materials.