Nexus eWATER: Recycling Grey Water Energy
Australian company uses Inventor 3D CAD software to help solve the global water crisis
The Nexus eWATER home grey water recycling system.
"When it comes to the physical construction and testing of prototypes, Autodesk software has saved us weeks and weeks, if not months, of time and, of course, a lot of money. We’ve been able to model performance virtually, and eliminate a lot of the bugs before we actually built anything."
- Craig Richmond, CEO, Nexus eWater
The World Health Organisation estimates that water scarcity affects one in three people on every continent. These figures are indicative of a spiralling global water crisis, and the world is in urgent need of solutions. Nexus eWater was founded in late 2009 by a team of five experts with decades of experience in the field of grey water, i.e. wastewater from baths, sinks, and washing machines. The group’s ultimate goal was to address the critical need for more effective water use. The solution? The Nexus reHeater and the Nexus reCycler; a unique water and energy recycling system for domestic installations.
The global water crisis
Every year, more than 3.4 million people die from water related diseases, and 780 million people lack access to clean water. Incredibly, more people have a mobile phone than a toilet. In addition, it is estimated that heating, treating, and transporting water accounts for about 15% of the carbon footprint of the United States, and residential water heating accounts for 58% of water-related carbon emissions. The problem is compounded in water-scarce regions such as California, where 20% of all electricity and gas consumption is linked to water-related activity.
According to information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), water prices went up 11% in 2013. In fact, the average price households pay for water has risen from $2.44 per thousand litres in 2010–11 to $2.72 in 2011–12. In total, households spent over $4.3 billion on water.
These statistics clearly underscore the need for better water management. According to Craig Richmond, CEO of Nexus, “We are committed to encouraging people to think about using water and energy more wisely so we don’t have to produce more of it. We have resources such as grey water in our homes that can actually help achieve those sorts of outcomes.”
Image rendering of the Nexus eWATER grey water recycling system.
The Nexus eWater system harnesses the power of grey water and combines two groundbreaking, low-cost technologies: the Nexus reHeater and the Nexus recycler. They can be sold separately or as an integrated unit.
In a nutshell, grey water contains a lot of heat; in some cases up to 35⁰C, which usually ends up down the drain. The Nexus reHeater utilises a heat pump to pick up the heat from the grey water and transfers it into the reHeater storage tank. From there, it produces very efficient hot water, reducing typical heating costs up to 75%. The Nexus reCycler is a water conservation product that can reduce residential water use by an amazing 40%, and reduce wastewater volume by up to 70%. It also produces clean and reusable water for irrigation and toilet flushing at a cost lower than tap water.
The Nexus eWater system reduces the need for fresh water, and it can save a typical household $100–200 every month. It also has the potential to lower demand on public water supplies, and lessen the amount of wastewater entering sewers or treatment systems, thereby reducing power costs.
Fast-tracking and product optimisation
The engineers at Nexus eWater were able to fast track their development program by using Inventor 3D CAD software to design, simulate and optimise digital prototype models before they were built and tested in the real world. This process helped the team to complete the process within mere days; an outcome which might otherwise have taken months.
“We’ve benefitted greatly from the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program,” says Richmond. “As a start-up company we didn’t have the financial resources to purchase the software needed to design and develop our product, so this kind of program is absolutely invaluable."
“When it comes to the physical construction and testing of prototypes, Autodesk software has saved us weeks and weeks, if not months, of time and, of course, a lot of money. We’ve been able to model performance virtually, and eliminate a lot of the bugs before we actually built anything. Also, we’re able to track any minor modifications we make during the prototype construction phase, and record those modifications onto the CAD software. It functions as an instant design update.”
“For instance, we’ve just introduced a product which is, essentially, a plastic tank that goes into the ground and holds the grey water. Molds can cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce, so you have to make sure you get it right the first time. The Autodesk products have allowed us to smooth out any design kinks and just produce the one mold. At the moment, we mainly use Inventor, but we are looking to use even more Autodesk products to develop an even wider range of manuals and materials.”
Smart thinking where it’s needed most
A unique advantage of the Nexus eWater system is its dual functionality. While the Nexus reHeater and Nexus reCycler combine to create a complete solution, there are some parts of the world in which there is a greater demand for the products' separate functions. For instance, in the south of the United States, the dry conditions make water conservation a key issue. Conversely, in the north, where it’s colder and wetter, the focus is on efficient, cost-effective water heating. The product will initially roll out in California, with plans to launch the product in Australia shortly thereafter. “The time for change is upon us,” says Richmond. “It’s time for us to look in our own backyard first and see what we can leverage.”