Solar Water Heaters in Kenya

Solar Water Heaters in Kenya

Solar water heating systems are one of the most cost and energy effective ways that homes, industries, hotels and institutions such as schools and hospitals can use to heat water. This is because they use solar radiation which is abundantly available in Kenya to heat water. These systems are available in a wide variety of different configurations which allows them to be used in any part of Kenya. Solar water heating systems can heat both hard and soft water.

By adopting solar water heaters, you can end up saving up to 50% of your monthly electricity bills since a big percentage of electric bills goes into heating water. Because solar water heaters use energy from the sun, it offers protection from future energy price hikes and fuel shortages.

Once you make a decision to install a solar hot water system, there are several factors that you should consider with choosing a trusted and experienced company to do the installation being one of the key factors. You can read more about all the factors that one should consider when sourcing for a solar water heating solution here.

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Types of solar water heating systems

There are two types of solar water heating systems which are either active or passive. Active systems have circulating pumps and controls while passive systems don’t.

A typical, solar water heater is made up of two key components; a storage tank and solar collectors.

Active solar water Heating Systems

Active solar water heating systems come in two types;

Indirect Circulation Systems

In this setup; pumps are used to circulate a heat transfer fluid that can’t freeze through the heat exchanger and solar collectors. The fluid then heats the water that flows into homes. This system is used in climates where temperatures gets to freezing point.

Direct Circulation System

Pumps are used to circulate water through the solar collectors and into homes. The system is suitable for areas where temperature don’t fall below freezing point.

Passive Solar Water Heating Systems

Passive solar water heating systems are less expensive than active systems that we discussed above. They last longer and are more reliable than active systems although they are not as efficient. The two types of passive systems are;

Thermosyphon Systems

In this system, the solar collectors are positioned below the storage tank which allows warm water to rise as the cold water sinks. This system is the most popular in Kenya but care must be taken when installing to avoid damage to the roof of the house which can be caused by the weight of the house.

Integral collector-storage passive system

These systems are widely used in areas where temperatures don’t fall to below freezing point. They are suitable for places where the demand for hot water during the day and in the evening is a lot.

Types of Solar water heater storage tanks

A storage tank that must be well insulated is one of the key component of solar water heating systems. These tanks usually have an additional inlet and outlet connected to and from the solar collector.

In some systems, the tank has a backup electric heater that is turned on when it’s not possible to heat water using solar energy.

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There are also some solar water heating systems that have two tanks where a solar water heater is used to preheat water before entering the second tank where water is heated using a convectional electric water heater.

Types Solar water Heaters Solar collectors

There are two types of solar collectors which are common in Kenya; Flat Plate Collectors and Evacuated Tube Collectors.

Flat Plate Collector

Flat plate collectors come in two options which is either glazed or unglazed. Glazed flat plate collectors are mainly insulated boxes which have a dark absorber plate and a cover made up of either plastic or glass. Unglazed flat plate collectors on the other hand contain a dark absorber plate made out of aluminum, copper or polymer. It lacks a cover enclosure and they are mainly used to heat swimming pools.

Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors

This type of collector is made up of several rows of glass tubes with each tube containing a metal absorber tube which is attached to a fin and a glass outer tube. They are the most popular in Kenya and they can be used for commercial solar water heating.

You will come to realize that solar water heating systems require a backup system of heating water such as electric heater. This is to take care of days where the average water demand is exceeded the capacity of the installed tank or when the day is cloudy.

Things to consider when purchasing a solar water heater

  • The cost and energy efficiency estimates of the solar water heating system
  • Determine the kind of water which will be heated. Either soft water or hard water
  • Determine the amount of hot water needed per day.
  • Qualification of the installer
  • Government policy on installation of solar water heating systems

Installing and maintaining a solar water heating system

Due to the complex nature of solar water heating systems, it is advisable to have a reputable installer do the installation work to avoid damaging your roof or getting yourself burned while using the system. It is advisable to check whether the company is licensed with the Energy & petroleum regulatory Authority.

After installation, the system will require maintenance once every year to prolong its lifespan. A service contract should be signed with the installer once the installation process is completed.

Government Policy

Regulation and licensing of solar water heaters falls under the ministry of energy. It is the mandate of Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority to come up with policies that govern this sun sector.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority requires that any homestead that utilizes more than 100 litres of hot water should install a solar water heating system. Also, all commercial buildings, institutions should install solar water heaters. This is to help reduce the stress on the national grid in peak hours when the demand for electricity is at its peak.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority also requires that all installers be licensed with them. Also companies dealing with solar water heaters in Kenya must be licensed with the authority before commencing on any activity.

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