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I am a solar heater man. And proud of it

imageBy Siva Kishan*

My interest in environment and development sparked way back in 1992. A new academic year had just begun and I was mighty excited to be a Class IX student. The famous Rio Earth Summit was widely being reported in newspapers around that time and I was keenly following the coverage. Twenty years later, the world’s nations met again to take stock of world’s environmental problems with the promise of making strong commitments to addressing them. Not many are happy with the recent Durban meet where most nations didn’t even take responsibility for the problems they have created, let alone committing to curb climate change. Probably, the interests guarded by world leaders are not in sync with common men like me.

Well, I can voice my concerns with the world and its governments but more importantly, I can do my bit. So, I decided that my New Year resolution for 2012 would be to make a difference through my lifestyle. I recently saw a video called ‘No Impact Man’ and got many useful ideas that inspired me to change a lot of my habits. The most important one? Energy usage.

Soaking the sun

We need hot water during the winters. We can manage without room heaters but really cannot do without hot water. But geysers are major energy guzzlers, right? So I decided to check out solar water heaters as an option this season and found that it is fairly simple to install them. Let me now tell you about the benefits of using a solar water heater. If a majority of us who use electricity to heat water switch to solar heaters:

  1. We would pay less for electricity;
  2. The peak load on power grids during winter mornings would get lesser;
  3. Lesser carbon would be emitted, and most importantly
  4. Access to electricity would increase, meaning, more people would be able to get a share of what we spare.

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Costs and calculations

I spent Rs 12000 for a 100 litre capacity water solar heater. This is a subsidised rate, as suggested by the government. However, we must remember that both diesel and electricity are also highly subsidised by the government to provide access to the common man. Alas that subsidy promotes profligate use of fuels such as diesel by the affluent and contributes to carbon emissions. The same subsidy on a solar water heater, however, leads to a much more reliable source of hot water with absolutely zero running cost and carbon emissions.

I did some calculations. Using water heated by a solar heater for four months in a year and the subsequent saving in the electricity bill would pay for the initial investment of setting up the heater in 3.3 years. If we include the total investment (piping and installation charges included), the system would pay for itself in 5.5 years.

During the warmer months of the year, the hot water could still be used for washing utensils, clothes and floors, thus, reducing water and soap consumption. With an expected shelf life of over 15 years, one would get free hot water for 10 years – no matter what the fuel prices end up being!

So what do you think? Definitely deserves a chance, right? By the way, I have also bought a solar inverter. More on that in my next article.

*Siva is Programme Director, Sustainable Building Programme in CSE. He researches on ways to make buildings greener.

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I am a solar heater man. And proud of it