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Made In Malaysia: SonneAire
An innovative entrepreneur’s mission is to help cut Malaysia’s carbon footprint through revolutionary energy-saving air conditioning systems.
In 2012, Azrina Mohd Yusof Ong stumbled upon an idea that changed her life, one that has the potential to dramatically reduce Malaysia’s carbon footprint. She is the founder and CEO of Teknologi Inovasi Solar Sdn Bhd, a company focusing on reducing the energy consumption of air conditioners. Under the brand name SonneAire, Azrina’s line of unique hybrid air conditioning systems may just revolutionise how energy is used to cool any building.
A software engineer by training, Azrina never planned on becoming an entrepreneur in the air conditioning industry – but inspiration struck when she learned more about her father’s research on solar-powered air conditioning.
Azrina Mohd Yusof Ong, CEO of Teknologi Inovasi Solar Sdn Bhd and the brains behind the SonneAire hybrid air conditioners.
“It piqued my interest and it has been non-stop since then,” recalls Azrina.
While she may be new to the industry, Azrina has always been passionate about the environment. Climate change is a priority for Azrina, as she is concerned about how Malaysians use energy.
“In Malaysia, we take energy for granted because it is not too costly and we can still afford it. But perhaps we should take a step back to consider that the production of energy is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases in the country,” she says.
Prototypes of SonneAire products in its workshop in Kajang, Selangor.
Armed with her father’s research, Azrina henceforth decided to build solar hybrid air conditioning systems. While this product reduced energy usage, it relied heavily on solar panels which were costly and impractically large for residential use in condominiums. This led to her idea for the SonneAire Coolbox Save, which recycles the thermal energy produced by the compressor of the air conditoner. After some trial and error, this product can now be mass produced and easily made available for residential and commercial purposes.
According to Azrina, SonneAire units are different from the normal inverter units available in the market. “Now, the price [of SonneAire units] is almost comparable to the inverter units which are energy-saving electrical regulators that help reduce the speed of compressors to reduce energy consumption.”
The compressor unit for the SonneAire Coolbox Save. SonneAire's proprietary technology, which allows the thermal energy from the compressor unit to be recycled, is hidden away in the rectangular box on left side of the unit.
“The difference with ours is that it consistently uses less energy. In fact, SonneAire units have 40 to 50 percent energy savings compared to regular inverter units,” she says.
Of course, these breakthroughs didn’t come overnight. When Azrina first started SonneAire in 2012, it wasn’t without a number of challenges, but it’s precisely these obstacles that allowed her to become more innovative. Her SonneAire journey was further boosted by an initial grant from the Cradle Fund in 2013, which also provided mentoring through its Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) for startups and novice entrepreneurs such as herself.
A SonneAire air conditioning unit.
Currently, the company is working on completing the second round of grants given to SonneAire by PlaTCOM Ventures Sdn Bhd, the national technology commercialisation platform of Malaysia, under Agensi Inovasi Malaysia.
“I am so excited, seeing [SonneAire’s hybrid air conditioners] go from an idea in 2012 to something real that you can touch,” says Azrina. Over the next three years, her goal for SonneAire is simple: to grow. She is looking at funding from venture capital firms, at preparing the SonneAire Coolbox Save for export, and continuing research and development of new products which reduce the use of greenhouse gases.
In the meantime, SonneAire continues to serve its growing client base, which includes restaurants, mosques, offices, factories and even homes. If you’ve visited a 24-hour McDonald’s outlet lately, it’s likely that the air conditioning is by SonneAire, as one prominent client happens to be Gerbang Alaf Restaurants Sdn Bhd – the local operator of McDonald’s Malaysia.
To purchase a SonneAire hybrid air conditioner, call 03 9200 1531 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Units range between RM2,600 to RM3,600 for capacities starting at 1.5hp, 2.0hp and 2.5hp. For more info, visit sonneaire.com.
By Tamanna Patel
Photos by Teoh Eng Hooi
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