Harnessing Solar Power for Traditional Water Heating

For decades past, man has been looking for ways of using solar power to do various tasks. This is majorly due to the huge potential that the sun has considering the huge amount of energy it beholds and gives away. This has resulted in new technologies being developed world over to capture this energy. Across the divide, new applications emerge on how to use solar for different purposes. Though some of these have existed for a very long time, improvements have resulted in better technologies that better harness the power of the sun for water heating.

On the other hand, with the ever-increasing human population, the need for hot water has only grown. Hot water is used for various uses in the household set up including but not limited to:

  • food preparation
  • showering
  • general cleaning
  • medicine administration
  • other uses

This makes hot water be a great need for the normal household setup regardless of class, location or setting.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heating system on the roof

Despite various firms in the industry coming up with ingenious ways to use the sun’s radiation for heating purposes, awareness has been lacking and as such, the sun’s power has only been left for the rich and the middle class who purchase expensive water heating systems and have them installed in their homes. This has firmly locked up the poor in the society who also constitute the majority of the human population. Majorly, this has comprised of the traditional water heaters atop our roofs with pipes serving the tanks aloft and connecting to taps below. I advise you to read the Performance Analysis of Photovoltaic Water Heating System by Tomas Matuska and Borivoj Sourek before installing one in your home.

How to harvest solar radiation in rural areas

However, the majority of the population that lives in rural areas can also benefit from solar radiation.

Following nature’s way of doing things, black and darker things always absorb much more radiation from a given source than any brightly colored objects around. This is referred to as a black body, in physics i.e, a black body will absorb all radiation that gets into contact with it. This might not happen in the real world but we want to get as much of the radiation as possible to heat as much water in a very short time. and so we aim for dark and black items. Objects that are not black or dark-colored, in this case, can be made black using die or paint or whichever way possible to enhance their abilities to absorb heat.

black jerrycan for water heating

Having seen the power of black, the designers can now embark on designing items in relation to their usage. Many households in the rural areas (our interest is here) and the poor will also need water, hot water. Many items can be converted to help in trapping the sun’s heat for this purpose. As such, jerrycans that are common in the villages can be painted black, or black jerrycans can be obtained to be used for this purpose. Both large and small containers can be used. In a communal setting, extra-large containers holding large amounts of water can be procured and be used to store large amounts of water enough to supply the whole community.

What follows is really simple, these containers are now filled with water as much as one may want. They are then left out to be battered by the sun for as long as possible. As the suns’ radiation comes into contact with the container, most of its radiation is absorbed and transferred to the water that is within it. Later on in the evening, the water is collected and used for whatever purposes it might be used for.

A note to remember is that a blackbody also releases much of its gained heat faster than the surrounding and so it can be of great use if all the heated water can be fetched and used for the night leaving empty drums and containers that will be filled in readiness for tomorrow’s sunshine. To increase the amount of heat trapped, glass cages can be constructed using normal clear glasses which are then made to be airtight. The containers are then left in these transparent cages. The cages allow heat in (shortwave radiation) and prevent loss of heat. One can say, a magnified solar cooker, only that it now cooks water. Water can be accessed through pipes connected to the black, hot water reservoirs, the pipes can be colored black just to make sure the water is still being heated as it flows to the taps. Moreover, a system of lens and mirrors can be used to focus the sun’s rays on the glass cages thereby increasing the total amount of heat received from the sun in comparison if the tanks were only left outside.

However, this might also face challenges as it solely depends on the sun to shine and shine brightly. This means that areas with minimal sunshine might not benefit from this awesome technology and so you’ve to try alternative means in these areas.

This seems to target only those in the rural areas but it can also be used by whoever cares, be it the city dweller or that large sugar processing factory or the laundry cleaner, just about anyone can harness this received radiation. If well used and applied, it can help save a lot in terms of reducing the amount of fuel used to heat the water. and particularly it will significantly reduce power usage in towns. And this is a lot of revenue saved for the future and better development.


Solar water heating can be used and applied in the developing regions so as to provide an alternative means of getting the water hot. If public awareness is made, this system can benefit a lot of people across the divide.

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