Guide to Buying A Solar Water Heater

Buying a Solar Water Heating System in Kenya

Kenya is among the leading countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region in terms of adoption clean and renewable sources of energy. With solar energy being the most widely utilized, more and more households, institutions and enterprises are now turning to solar water heating systems to save their power bills.

Solar water heaters are affordable, efficient and easy to use. These qualities have seen their demand rise up as households, commercial entities and institutions install them. However, information on what one should consider when buying these systems is scarce.

To solve this, we have compiled all the information you need to know about solar water heating systems and we hope that it will help you make the right decision.

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Factors to Consider before buying a solar water heating system in Kenya

Type of Water

Water is commonly classified either as soft or hard water. The amount of minerals in water determines whether it is soft or hard. Knowing the type of water to be heated before installing a solar water heater can save you thousands of shillings because different systems are used for both soft and hard water.

Hard water is heated using an indirect system while soft water is heated using a direct system. In direct systems, water is heated directly by the solar heater collectors while in the indirect system, water is heated indirectly by a fluid. Glycol is the most widely used fluid in Kenya. The indirect system is used in areas with hard water because heating directly may result to blockages and corrosion of the tubes in the solar collectors due to the presence of minerals.

Amount of Hot Water Used per day

The Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority in Kenya recommends that every household that uses more than 100 litres of hot water per day should install a solar water heater. It is estimated that the average person uses 30 litres of water per day which means that a home with about three people should install a solar water heater.

Solar water heating systems come in different capacities with the most common having capacities of 200 liters and 300 litres. For commercial and institutions such as schools and hospitals, custom heating systems can be developed where tanks with a capacity of up to 5,000 litres of water can be installed.

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Different solar heating systems exists for the different climatic conditions in the world. Areas with a lot of cloud cover during the day should consider installing a hybrid solar water heating solution which come with an electric heating element installed in the tank allowing water to be heated through electric means when there is little sunshine during the day.

Areas that enjoy a lot of guaranteed sunshine during the day should not consider systems that incorporate electric heating elements because one without will be more than enough.

Types of Solar Collectors

The most common types of solar collectors in Kenya is either Flat Plate Collectors or Evacuated Tube Collector. Metals such as aluminum and copper are used in flat plate collectors making this kind of collector best suited for areas with tropical climate because of how fast they lose heat. On the other hand, systems utilizing evacuated tube collectors tend to retain heat more making them suitable to use in many parts of Kenya. They require care when handling since the tubes are made up of glass.

Solar water heating solutions using Flat plate collectors tend to be more expensive as compared to those using evacuated tube collectors because they tend to be more bulky. However, they have the advantage of being more durable, easy to service and robust.

Type of Tank

The type of storage tank used in the solar water heating system should be able to retain and withstand heat at the same time.  Thick tanks tend to retain water for longer, about 60 hours. The tank should also have a food safety measure to prevent the water from acquiring foul smell.

Tanks that store hard water should also have a coating of enamel to prevent them from being corroded by the minerals present in the water.

Tanks made up of cast iron and a thickness of at least 5mm tend to offer the best performance in terms of heating.

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Plumbing Work

Plumbing work when installing a solar water heater is one of the most important factors that one should consider. You will often find that many plumbers are not familiar with the two way piping system which allows both cold water and hot water to be connected to the house.

You should also ensure that the pipes that are used can handle pressure and that they are insulated to prevent heat loss. Many plumbers use pipes with heat welding fittings which should not be the case because of water pressure.

So much can go wrong if a plumber is not careful when doing the installation. Leaks from the tank can damage the roofing and ceiling of a house causing a lot of damage.

Water Pressure System

There are two types of solar water heating systems; pressurized and non-pressurized system. You should be aware of the amount of water pressure getting into the solar water heating system so that an equilibrium can be established to prevent the solar water heating system from failing.

Temperature Regulation

Solar water heaters should have a mechanism of controlling water temperature and this can be achieved by having an inbuilt thermostat. This will prevent water from overheating which can cause skin burns when using hot water from the system.

 Professional Installation

Having a professional installer who is certified by Energy & Petroleum Authority in Kenya is a very important step. Professional installers will ensure that the system works as it should and in case of failure, they should re do the work.

A professional installer will also save you the hustle of having to know all the factors we have discussed here since the will use their experience to do the installation.

Service Contract

It is also important to have the company that installs the solar water heater provide a service agreement before any installation is done.

The service agreement should include clauses like cost, maintenance clause, who is responsible for damages caused when or after installing and delivery schedule.


Because of the high rise in demand for solar water heaters, people with little to no experience have started importing solar water heating systems from China. These traders are more into making money and thus they buy cheap systems that they can sell at lower prices than thus pushing volumes. It is therefore important to do a bit of background check before settling on a system.

In most cases, you will find that European made systems observe very high quality standard and although they tend to be more expensive, the investor always gets value for the money.

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