About the founder: The owner and business entrepreneur Eric R Hawkins has 43 yrs experience in start ups, with 12 to date since the age of 27. Also part of the Green Solutions USA team with an office in Shanghai
I was born in Norwich, Norfolk, UK in 1947. My mother was from 3 generations of farmers and my father a coal miner before he signed up to the 2nd world war, followed by the Korean war and Palestine. His eleven medals awarded for galentry are now with my Brother, Dad died alone at the age of 85 yrs old
I left school with a basic education at the age of 15, deciding to sign up to a 5 yr apprentership as a Commis Chef in a well established upmarket restaurant in Norwich. This was best decision of my life at that time, not knowing where the future would take me.
By 20 yrs of age I was working in a Swiss Hotel in Lausanne, followed by Verbia (Ski resort) and back to Lausanne for the summer season. After 2 yrs in Switzerland on returning to the UK I secured a head chef job in a NEW hotel in Gibraltar followed 8 months later agreeing to a 50% partner in a hotel restaurant in Marbella, Spain the year after.
On returning to the UK in 1970, I soon secured a head chef position in a restaurant in central Norwich. Two years on I was a director of a food retail company, but after 2 yrs I returned to being chef until 27 yrs old.
After 12 yrs as a Chef, I opened my first of 3 retail shops selling fresh fruit & vegetables, educating people about the best way to cook them.
From the sale 2 yrs later I purchased my first house which needed completely refurbishing, which is how I educated myself in all aspects of the building services industry that included employing proffesional trades people I could learn from.
After a year building a property repair/refurbishment business, I opened a plumbing and heating business employing professional trade’s people, followed by the opening of a luxury bathroom/kitchen showroom which was later sold in the recession of 1990/91.
It was at this time I moved into the field of water and energy saving technologies.
A new business was established in Bournemouth (Quality Services Ltd) offering the first of many NEW products, one of which I designed and arranged to be manufactured was a luxury off set shower tray and glass shower enclosure. This was followed by a Multi Fuel Thermal Store hot water cylinder.
By accident, I began to research solar water heating collectors as a pre-heat to my Thermal Store design due to the problems of the incoming freezing cold water during long winter periods.
In 1993 after a number of visits to Cyprus, I shipped my first 40ft container of bathroom/plumbing and environmental products at a time, when being a foreign businessman in Cyprus was Illegal.
My 5 yrs in Cyprus, taught me much of what I know today which included the importing of evacuated tube collectors from Japan followed by bare evacuated tubes from China, for my own thermo siphon solar system design I was able to export to a company in Malta.
After agreeing to a business offer from a British businessman in 1998, I returned to the UK having established a solar water heating business with two Cypriot friends including the manufacture of my Thermal Stores which I later started to import into the UK.
While in Cyprus I was testing both flat plates, heat pipe tube and batch water heating collectors through the summer hot sun and cold winters over the 5 yrs. On my return to the UK I was appointed the UK agent for SUNDA (a Daimler Benze Aerospace JV, with SUNPO, China) having set up "The Global Warming Solutions Centre" in Dorset, UK.
For many years after 1999, I had been back and forth to China due to my relationship with SUNDA in Beijing until 2002. It was at this time and problems with the SUNDA tube collectors that I started to look for another manufacture, first in Austria and then back to China.
In 2003, after being contacted by a young Australian working for a Chinese promoter of China Made Products, who was seeking my help to develop a solar thermal collector for exporting to Australia through Made In China.Com he was already working for.
The new joint venture to develop a high quality heat pipe tube collector started with the name Focus Technology in Nangjing, but later changed to the name APRICUS.
After months of resolving the many technical and packing/shipping problems as the exclusive importer into the UK and Ireland, the Apricus brand was certified under the EU Solar certification "Solar Key Mark" followed by testing in the USA to gain USA certification
A signed agreement between the now CEO Mr Mick Humphries of Apricus provided my UK company Powertech Solar with the rights to begin sales into the USA, Europe, Africa with the UK as the head office.
My success in proving I could sell into the USA, Sth Africa and into Europe and the Middle East from the UK, led me to design my own brand named Suntech Solar, I owned 100% in 2007/8.
The banking crises and recession in 2008/9 brought to an end both the UK import/distribution business as well as the China manufacturing, export business at a very high cost to me and my investors.
My CV provides and overview of my many skills gained over my 55 year working/business life, as my own boss making my own decisions, good and bad, for other young people worldwide to maybe follow?
I have used my NEW house in the UK since 2001 to demonstrate how a 44 tube heat pipe collector plumbed into a 250 litre thermal store can provide space heating suport in the winter, with on demand hot water at mains pressure, while in the summer months provides 90% of the homes hot water from solar thermal collectors with the gas boiler switched off.
Winter time in the south of the UK is from November until the end of March. Over the past 5 years, the south of the UK has experienced a lot more snow and freezing weather from November until late March.
This house like millions, is gas central heated, with the boiler set to come on at 7.30am to heat the 250 litre thermal store tank direct, located in the roof space to 63c. At 7.45, the central heating pump switches on and starts to circulate the stores water around the 12 steel radiators. The 14 year old house is double insulated in the loft with glass wool and expanded foam boards, then boarded out for walking on.
When the weather is freezing and overcast with no sun, the gas boiler is on all day now I work from home. The wireless thermostat in the hall area is set at 21.5c from 7.45 to 8.30am, from then on set at 20c to 4.30pm, then back to 21.5c. The gas boiler and the heat input from SWH system is circulated direct through the radiators through the whole of the winter period.
By the end of February, the gas boiler is reset to switch off at 8.30am and back on at 4.30pm. As the days get longer, the boiler will come on later. The ducted 4.6kW air to water heat pump located in the loft space, supports day time solar thermal input.
The Apricus 44 heat pipe tube solar array is the TAX FREE heat input every time the sky is clear or part cloudy however freezing cold it is outside. Flat plate collectors are a waste of time for space heating support, whatever you are told by the flat plate industry.
The following figures I copied down to prove that from March onwards a heat pump and an array of evacuated tube heat pipes can maintain a comfortable home temperature.
The gas boiler was switched off at 8.30am and the heat pump switched on. It was a Sunday and a day of clear blue skies, with an outside temperature of 6-10c. The programmer was reset at 20c down from 21.5c. Through a digital power meter, the electricity consumption from the heat pump and three circulating pumps was £0.18p an hour based on an electricity cost per kW of £0.13p. At 11am, the room thermostat was showing 19.5c.
The temperature in the solar header was constant at 54c and passing heated water into the thermal store supporting the heat pump, at a running temperature of 48c.
The solar input through a SOREL controller shows 2,600 watts an hour.
By lunch time, the house temperature reached 20c and by 1pm the tank was up to 55c, at which time the heat pump shut down, leaving the solar thermal array to continue pumping hot water into the thermal store.
The blue sky days lasted for 3 days, which demonstrated the cost effectiveness of a heat pump and solar thermal collectors to heat the home during the day with 50% of that heat coming from only 44 heat pipe tubes.
When we returned back to cloudy over cast but still very cold days, the heat pump alone could not maintain the homes temperature above 18.5c, with no gas boiler back up, to prove the point.
From our past 12 years of benefitting from 80% of solar heated water in summer months, with solar heating support in the day now prove if this Hybrid system was installed in a more highly insulated home. The gas boiler could be reduced in kW outputs to 12. As much as Gas is charged at £0.4p a kWh, a 14 kW gas boiler burns 14 x £0.4p = £0.56p an hour.
With possible power cuts around the corner due to the closure of 9 oil and coal power stations, I would not look to rely on a heat pump for heating or solar when our weather could become colder and longer. KEEP the GAS BOILER, but include our latest heat pipe collector with a NEW designed thermal store which no other company is able to supply.
It was in 2003, after renting a shop with a large rear overgrown unloved garden in West Parley, Dorset that got me back into gardening. After days of clearing away 10 yrs of growth, I then hired a rotavator to break up the soil to clear away all the roots.
The next step was to concrete over a small area for testing solar water heaters and then to erect a poly tunnel. The crops I grew year on year was substantial which I often gave away outside our own needs.
With the large garden all gone, the shop sold and the business which expanded into a large industrial warehouse and closed in 2009, I now enjoy gardening at my house, as its enough for me to handle and maintain while much of my time is taken up establishing a NEW business since 2010 out of China and the UK.
Making the most of a small garden takes a lot of hard work, which started in early 2016 by digging out the soil to 500mm deep along with any roots from past plants or nearby trees, as I also have.
I then dig in lots of horse manure I pick up from a local farmer who owns horses and it’s free. I also place Horse manure in the bottom of all my hanging baskets and pots that I later grow both flower and tomatoes/herb plants in.
With much of the hard work completed, with most of the spoil replaced over the horse manure, I dig in some bought in compost along with bags of leaf mould I take from my local forest which adds further to the soils nutrients.
It’s very difficult to grow anything between fruit trees, because the roots suck in all the nutrients from the horse manure as well as the water you hose onto the soil in during weeks of less rain.
So this year in 2017 I placed grow bags in between the fruit trees and placed dwarf beans into the grow bags with a 70% success
When I purchased the house in 1999, I installed a large 1.5 ton water tank, placed behind my garden shed with a water butt at the front and back of the house to collect the water from the roof through a diverter valve.
Each water butt is installed with a Submersible pump and a float, which pumps the water into the main tank when the water butt reaches a certain level. More on Rain Water harvesting later on
Growing vegetables through summer from seed, picking strawberries and raspberries even in late October is just awesome, while all the pears, plums and apples have already harvested and stored or already prepared and now frozen for use over the next few months in puddings and pies.
With winter around the corner, flower bulbs all planted having re-dug the soil and dug in rotted horse manure I get free from a farmer.