Propelair Director of Innovation, Alex Newman, discusses how Propelair can support the future of commercial washrooms.
Introduce yourself and your experience.
Hi, I’m Alex Newman, the Director of Innovation at Propelair. I’ve over 20 years’ experience in UK design and manufacture developing and launching new products in the water heating, condensate pump and lighting control industries. I joined Propelair in December 2018. The opportunity sounded amazing: joining a business with a revolutionary product that makes a real difference and being part of a team to take the product to the next level. I have found the reality was as good as it sounded!
How does Propelair differ from a conventional toilet?
The Propelair toilet flushes with air and water, reducing water consumption to just 1.5 litres per flush, compared to an average toilet that can use up to 9 litres of drinking water! The design incorporates a strong robust lid which forms a seal when closed. Once the lid is closed and the flush is activated the bowl is rinsed with ½ litre of water. The contents of the pan are then pumped out by our unique patented pump. The water trap is then refilled with 1 litre of water. The flush cycle takes just 3 seconds and the toilet cistern refills in 20-30 seconds helping to reduce queues. The Propelair toilet fits on to a conventional drain system, ideal for both new build and retrofit installations.
Is the reduced water in the drains an issue?
Not at all. We have worked with the University of Exeter as part of an Hozizon 2020 project to assess the impact of a reduced flush in a city scape environment. Over a period of 12 months we monitored the drain network from over 100 Propelair installations at the University. The project concluded that the Propelair toilets did not have a negative impact on the drain network.
Our customers include major brands and organisations across the globe, including fast food chains, service stations, shopping centres, universities and offices. These challenging washroom environments can experience very high footfall and prove time and time again, the efficiency, reliability and robustness of the Propelair toilet system.
Innovation and product development seem to be key reasons for the crowdfunding raise. Can you elaborate what this means exactly?
First and foremost, we are looking to capitalise on the benefit that the electronic control unit ECU within the Propelair toilet provides. We have recently launched our new ECU packed with added functionality to monitor the toilets performance. The next stage is to turn the Propelair into a truly smart toilet that uses the latest IOT technology to communicate with facilities managers allowing for improvements to maintenance and service! It’s clear this is the direction the washroom industry is heading and a vital element that will ensure optimum product performance, efficiency and excellent user experience.
Secondly, we are already the most hygienic toilet and we want to reinforce that perception with the addition of automatic open/close lids and bespoke plumbing connections.
We are always looking to reduce cost, whilst maintaining our high-quality standards, to provide the best return to our shareholders! As part of our Horizon 2020 project we have worked with Anglia Ruskin University to reduce the cost and size of our air pump technology and optimise our flush performance. This project will provide the foundation for our next generation range of products.
With a global focus on hygiene, can you outline the issues that busy washrooms currently face, and how the Propelair toilet addresses these issues?
There is an understandable focus on hygiene following the outbreak of Covid-19. A recent study published in the Journal of Physics indicated that aerosolised germs can be propelled up to 91cm above a conventional toilet when flushed.
By closing the lid of a conventional toilet, 80% of the aerosolised germs can be reduced, yet this still means 20% are airborne allowing them to settle on cubicle surfaces, door handles, toilet paper dispensers and most disturbingly of all, breathed in!.
Propelair’s unique design requires the lid to be closed when flushed. When the lid is closed a seal is formed with the bowl preventing the escape of aerosolised germs during the flush. We have undertaken studies with the Centre for Environment and Health which showed that the Propelair Toilet reduces aerosolised germs by up to 95% when compared to a conventional toilet!
Propelair’s rimless pan and side hinges also make previously hard to clean areas easily accessible, ensuring a thorough cleaning process can be carried out on all areas of the toilet.
Finally, for added piece of mind, the handle on the Propelair toilet is treated with Steritouch®, an anti-microbial additive.
In your opinion why is this product so exciting and why do you believe people should install Propelair.
The UN predicts a 40% shortfall in global water supply by 2030. You may have also seen the news recently, where some parts of the UK are set to run out of water within the next 20 years unless urgent action is taken.
During the pandemic we have all seen the benefit that reducing carbon emissions has had on our environment. We also painfully aware of the challenge the awaits us to rebuild parts of our economy and there is much talk about building back better and building back greener!
Installing Propelair, provides is a simple, yet significant way to protect valuable drinking water supplies, reduce carbon emissions, improve hygiene and help save the planet, one flush at a time!
In your opinion, what does the future hold for commercial/public washrooms and how does Propelair support this?
Try as might, we can’t escape the need to use a public or commercial washroom, there are over 19 million ‘out of home’ toilets installed in the UK alone!
Our customers tell us that washroom experience can have a significant impact on the perception of a business, be it in an office, a leisure centre, a university, a shopping centre or a motor way service station.
With the added necessity for washroom hygiene in light of the recent COVID – 19 pandemic, organisations will need to go further to instil a sense of confidence in users as they return to work and leisure activities.
With the increased awareness on environmental impact we all have, businesses will also be expected to do more to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Propelair toilet already goes much further to alleviate these issues than competitor toilets, and we will continually strive to maximise efficiency and hygiene through our ongoing research, development and innovation.
You may expect me to say this, but I believe technology will lead the way in overcoming these issues, along with the revolution that is Smart technology and the increasing IOT capabilities of connected appliances, that provide valuable data to continually drive improvements in design, efficiency, and user experience.
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