Perth Plumbers Who Pioneered Solar Hot Water

Solar hot water systems have an Australian history which may surprise. While we’re familiar with the Government’s solar push throughout the 2000s, solar powered hot water first appeared in the 1950s.

At the centre of the action was SW Hart & Co in Perth, better known as Solahart. Now a global solar pioneer, Solahart traces its history to 1901 as a humble plumbing business.

But how did it grow into an international company supplying over 70 countries?

Read on.

The birth of solar hot water

To varying degrees, solar hot was has been around for centuries. At least in the sense of using the sun to heat water.

The first modern solar hot water heater can be credited to California’s Clarence Kemp. In 1891 he patented a small, glass-topped box which heated water. This was long before we saw the creation of a solar panel but the seeds had been sown for future inventors.

Roughly 15,000km away from Kemp, and a decade later, SW Hart & Co. opened in Perth. For the next 50 years, the business grew but always stayed relatively close to its roots as a dedicated Perth plumbing company.

But as the 1950s rolled by and solar power developed further, that changed. In 1953 they created a device which had two solar panels and a separately mounted copper tank – the first of its kind in Australia.

The solar hot water tank could easily be called the first step to global growth for SW Hart & Co. All because a group of Perth plumbers decided to try something new.

Perfecting the solar design

At the same time, the Australian Government and the CSIRO identified solar energy as a field for development. SW Hart & Co rode this wave, and Solahart became an official entity.

Utilising the advancements in technology, and spurred on by the CSIRO, Solahart released a roof-mounted design in 1960. While it still had an upright tank, the design we recognise today appeared just four years later

We can thank Solahart’s pioneering of the thermocouple for that advancement. Their introduction of passive heat flow between the solar collectors and storage tank changed everything. The style was suddenly more pleasing to look at, and nimble to install. Basically, it was incredibly marketable.

Solahart never rested on their laurels, however. They continued to perfect and adapt to the newest technologies.

This saw the copper tank discarded in 1976, replaced by vitreous enamel, also known as porcelain enamel. The material was far more durable than copper.

Solahart’s global growth

Throughout Australia’s first solar boom in the 1970s and 1980s, Solahart developed a reputation as a global heavyweight in solar hot water.

They became Australia’s largest manufacturer in the industry and now exports to over 70 countries worldwide.

Approximately half of their business is bases on international sales and exports.

In 2001 Solahart joined Paloma Co. Ltd., a Japanese gas appliance manufacturer established in 1911.

Meanwhile, the last two decades have seen numerous global projects in the United Arab Emirates and its capital, Abu Dhabi, which solidified international reputations.

Despite all this, Solahart is still a humble Perth company at heart. The SW Hart & Co name also lives on, with their sister company which focuses on air filtration and quality air diffusion.

The innovation of Solahart proves that Perth plumbers are among the best in the world, and always ready to make the most of the latest knowledge and equipment.

At Metropolitan Plumbing Perth, our plumbers are the same. They receive regular training and are experts in servicing Solahart products and hot water systems.

If you need a plumber or electrician for your hot water needs, contact Metropolitan Plumbing.


Published: 7 Aug, 2020

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