Last year, around September 2011, my Dad decided it would be a good idea to invest in a solar water heater. As winters tend to be rather cold (like... duh) and taking a bath in frigid water is never a great experience, we normally use an electric water heater which is commonly known here as a "geyser".
Electric water heaters guzzle power like anything. Especially since the one we had was very old. Our power bills would jack up every winter and electricity is never cheap in the first place. Plus, my Step-mom has a habit of forgetting things and, more often than not, she would forget to turn the "geyser" off. It does have an auto shut-off but then it would have been on for quite a while and the water would be way too hot.
Power is also never reliable around here. We get power cuts so often. When there is a power cut during the mornings, we have to heat water using the lpg gas stove. LPG is also not cheap. It is also not easy to get. One has to book a refill 20 days after getting the last refill, wait ten days and then make hundreds of phone calls at exactly 9 a.m. (95% of which will either get a busy tone or no one will ever answer).
Any phone call later than 10 a.m. is useless as the refilled tanks would have been impossible to get by then. If, and that is one mega-big "if", we are lucky, the lpg agency people will answer the phone. That is also no assurance we will be able to get a refill. If, and that is another mega-big "if", we are really lucky, we will be told to run to a village where the refill truck will be.
Then I have to run and get the car out of the garage while Dad runs to get the empty lpg cylinder and load it into the trunk. Then we hope that when we get to wherever the truck is, that the line will be short. On really lucky days (as in really, really, really, really lucky days) standing in line will only take an hour and a half. On bad days, we will need to stand in line for over two hours only to be told that the full cylinders are all gone and we have to come back the next day (and fall in line all over again). And, since they never know where the truck will be in means another round of hundreds of phone calls.... sigh.
Now back to the topic at hand...
We had scoured the net for information as we had no idea how to go about anything. We did not even know what it would look like except that we had an idea there would be solar panels of some sort. We tried to fiend local dealers and we called a lot of different suppliers and dealers. It was obvious we knew nothing as every time we would be asked if we wanted the copper or glass, we would ask which would be better. The quotes were high and we were getting a bit worried about the cost.
Then one day, we saw an ad in the paper. There was an ad that announced subsidies for people who would like to install solar water heaters. There wasn't much info but there was a website printed on that ad. So I turned my trusty comp on and browsed. The website listed a number of dealers and there was one that was nearest where we lived. We called the dealer and he promised to visit our home first to see if we could benefit from a solar water heater.
When the guy came, he took a look at out roof and said we were in a great location as there were no structures blocking sunlight so we can go ahead and invest in a solar water heater. He explained that it would cost us Rs. 20,000 or so and we would get a 30% subsidy from the central government. That sounded like music to Dad's ears and he decided, on the spot, to pay a deposit and go ahead with it.
A few days later the crew arrived and they set up the entire thing. They had told us in advance to have the plumber fix some pipes so that things can be set up real quick. It took about 5 hours and we were all set. But, as it was already late afternoon, there may not be much hot water as the sun would only be around a short time.
The solar water heater was formally "inaugurated" the day after it was set up (meaning we used it for the first time... hehehe). And... well... it was great! All three of us had enough hot water to take a bath without using any electricity.
On very sunny days, the water gets really nice and hot. We would need to mix in a little cold water to use it for bathing. However, on cloudy days, there would only be enough for my step-mom to use. She is the first one to wake up at our home and take a bath. Luckily, those days were few and we enjoyed having warm baths.
Last week I checked our power bills online. Lo and behold! (Drum roll puh-leezzzzz) It was definitely a lot less than what we would usually get if we used the electric water heater! Yippee!!! About a 1,000 rupees less. Now that is really something we can be happy about.
I guess solar water heaters do really work and they really do help save a lot of electricity.
Now we are trying to find out if we can get a solar set-up so we can cut back on electricity some more. So far, the costs are way too much and we cannot afford it just yet. Maybe, if we get really, really, really, really, really lucky (fingers, toes, arms, legs and eyes crossed)... there will be a an offer for government subsidies which will make it much more affordable. Till then... we are hoping.... :)