Solar hot water in the developing world – why so rare?

There’s a big need for low cost, effective solar hot water designs. This is not just a matter of saving money (and of course all the other benefits of saving energy, like saving the planet). Many people around the world do not have hot water on tap, and would benefit from easier washing of clothes and dishes, not to mention that it’s just much more pleasant with hot water (why should rich people have all the luxuries?)

We have some work detailed on Appropedia, which were built in Parras, Mexico. But we need much more, and we need super-simple how-tos. These are largely sunny places – even a black pipe lying in the sun will create hot water. But what is the most hot water, and the most straightforward, reliable product that someone can get for the money they spend?

One challenge that faces such countries is that they often have fossil fuel subsidies, especially those countries that are traditional oil-producers. Solar loses much of its economic advantage when dirty fuel gets a perverse subsidy. Changing someone’s thinking to save a very small amount of money is hard. But with other angles to complement the economic incentives, there is hope. Get kids involved – get the ideas taught in the schools. Emphasize the green side of things, the benefits for their children, and make the designs freely available in people’s own language. None of these are enough on their own, but add “and you save a little money” – and maybe it will all add up.

These thoughts triggered by:Why Isn’t Solar Energy being used in Egypt! by solarkent

3 thoughts on “Solar hot water in the developing world – why so rare?”

  1. Getting people involved is a great solution. It seems alternative technologies always fall short to economic advantages. Teaching kids at a early age that conservation of natural resources and investing in renewable ones is a must. It just needs to be taught and impressed that way moving forward. I agree it will all add up. Many, many small baby steps will eventually make the impact we need.

  2. Yes – sometimes, though, there are solutions that offer an economic advantage and quality of life advantage, and these aren’t practiced. E.g. composting, or (to take an example from public health) oral rehydration therapy. I think this demonstrates the importance of having free knowledge readily available, when and where people need it – as well as all the other steps mentioned.

  3. I’m a fan of solar water heating. But one thought about why solar water heating might not be used much in the developing world is that the need is less. Or, to put it better, other needs may come ahead of solar water heating. Thinking about how I use hot water at home: showers, baths, dishwasher, clothes washer. I have just returned from West Africa, and in that weather (in December / January, technically winter, since they are above the equator), cool water was much preferred for showers! Since a lot of the developing world is near the equator, maybe it holds there also?

    For the other uses, no one in the towns or villages of Sierra Leone has any mechanical washing appliances (even towns where I was have no central electricity… supposed to be coming in 6 months to 2 years, from a project that has been inching forward for 30 years), so maybe those would come ahead of hot water?

    On the other hand, solar water purification would be a huge benefit. Different technology, though. Get a smaller amount of water much hotter. Why isn’t that used more? No idea.

    Another good question: why isn’t solar water heating used more in the DEVELOPED world, where we obviously spend a bit of energy on it?!

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