The growing popularity of solar energy world over was an inevitable reaction to the discovery of one of the cleanest, natural and most useful sources of energy. The applications of solar energy in households vary but solar water heating is one of the most popular uses for households, institutions and industries.
Not so long ago, solar water heaters were considered viable for households with no access to conventional electricity, now it is considered the only economically viable option even for those with connection to the electric grid.
According to chloride exide, a leading energy equipment provider, solar water heaters can lead to savings of up to 60% on the cost of electricity. That’s a saving of Sh. 600 for every Sh. 1000 spent.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, increasing adoption of solar water heating has been driven by the need to reduce operating expenditure. At chloride exide for instance, a 300 litre solar water heater for a family of 4-6 would go for a one-time purchase price of Sh. 131,000 and with a lifespan of over 20 years. Over the years, this is would result in a significant savings compared to the initial investment. Another factor is the high amount of sunlight energy received around the equator.
More recently, the need to move away from fossil fuels too has also been a big reason for its adoption so that in many places, charcoal and wood or oil products have been replaced by solar water heaters do the work. It’s easy to see why people increasingly prefer the efficiency of a solar heater to the bother of heating 300 litres using charcoal, wood or gas.
Studies have shown that heating water accounts for more than 40% of electric bills for households and commercial enterprises. Hotels for instance spend a lot of energy in heating water. In Kenya, where the unit cost of electricity is ever on the rise, this can result in high electric bills. This is why companies like chloride exide have come up with easy solar solutions
Solar heating systems have many uses. Providers like chloride exide have products for domestic, industrial applications, hotels, gymnasiums, educational institutions, hospitals et cetera. In actual fact, the evolution of solar water heaters has ensured that beyond basic hot water requirements, they can be used to provide complex heating solutions.
There are two types of solar water heating systems. Passive solar water heaters depend entirely on the sun a source of energy and use gravity and natural water circulation to heat water. Active systems on the other hand require other equipment like pumps and controls to circulate the water. Passive systems are less expensive but less efficient in comparison to active systems.
The factors to consider when installing a solar water heater include flexibility of installation, durability, economy, user friendliness, savings on electricity and environmental good. At chloride exide, the solar water heaters can be acquired for as low as Sh. 35,000 to Sh. 165,000 for more complex needs.
Regarding the return on investment, the payback period for investment in solar is approximately 1 year for use in households and about 4 to 6 years for commercial enterprises but the benefits continue for over several years thereafter.
Solar water heaters can now supply up to 90% of the hot water demand if a good system is installed. This has been aided by modern research and development which has enabled solar manufacturers to carry out the transformation of solar water heaters to increase efficiency and cut on cost.
Recently the government too, in a bid to reduce dependence on the scarce energy resources has enacted regulations to fast track the adoption of solar energy. The Energy Regulations of 2012 require land lords and homeowners to install solar water heaters on buildings with hot water use exceeding 100 litres per day. New buildings must have the installation before use.
With the increasing consumption of electricity in especially in sectors that require high inputs such as manufacturing and limited sources, the country must subsidize use of energy by delegating secondary uses such as water heating to solar panels.