Solar's the way to go

Last Updated 21 October 2010, 10:31 IST

Generally, electric geysers used in bathrooms for household purposes take up a major share in monthly electricity bills. In an attempt to bring down the upward graph of power bills, there are some alternatives that are being used in many houses. They include gas geysers and solar water heaters. Though gas geysers are less expensive in comparison with solar heaters, one has to follow certain safety procedures like proper ventilation apart from replenishing the gas cylinders regularly. In case of solar water heaters, there is no such problem and can be used for many years with minimal maintenance.

Soft loans

To encourage more people to opt for solar heaters, which is a non-conventional form of heating appliance, the government is providing soft loans through banks. In Karnataka, the government is also offering a rebate in electricity bills to individual domestic customers. This is 0.40 paise per unit up to a maximum of 100 units per month. Such provisions have encouraged many people to opt for solar water heaters in their houses.

Take a look at the savings made in power consumption, and you’ll realise that you can actually get back the money invested on solar heaters within a span of three to four years.

Recent years have seen enormous growth in high-rise apartments in our city. Even though the builders of these apartments provide all sorts of modern equipment that can be used with electricity, several of them have not thought of providing solar heaters in these apartment clusters.

With slight alteration in design, solar systems can be installed in high rise buildings. Normally, the hot water requirement of a family of four to five is estimated at 25 to 30 litres per person per day. An apartment with as many as 10 flats will require a capacity of 1,500 to 2,000 litres.

Minimising loss of heat

When water of such magnitude is utilised, there will be a heavy loss of heat. In order to overcome this, manufacturers have adopted many methods. Using a system with a capacity that is higher than required is one alternative.

The other process is that of letting out the residual cold water or recirculating the same back to the system. By way of this method, loss of heat can be minimised. It is advisable to take up suitable plumbing like providing insulated pipes during the construction stage itself.

A lot of care and maintenance is required from the point of installation of the system in each house to periodic cleaning of the glass top on the collector and checking of pipes for leakages, if any.

According to people who are in this business, the cost involved in installing solar water heaters in apartments is very competitive. For a building with 10 to 12 houses, this may vary from Rs three to four lakh. In new residential localities of Mumbai like Thane and Navi Mumbai, it is mandatory for builders to provide solar water heaters. The local municipal council is also offering a rebate in the property tax payable by individual users. This has encouraged builders in Mumbai to offer solar water heaters as an additional feature to prospective buyers.

In Karnataka, there is no such provision. There is a lot discussion on the increased cost of generation of conventional power and supply of the same every year apart from transmission losses and the impact of greenhouse effect from such projects.

All these will provide the much-needed thrust on other unconventional alternatives like solar or wind power systems which are also reusable forms of energy.

(Published 21 October 2010, 10:31 IST)

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