Chasing Mirages

Winner of solar water heater Worst Installation Award

by on Nov.13, 2010, under Quickies

I passed by this solar water heater this morning at about 11 AM.  At first I thought, this is pretty cool, it makes good use of space and doubles as a shade for the window.  But on second glance I decided that it was one of the worst installations I have seen.  Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t show everything, but you should be able to pick out some strangeness:

First, you can see that there is no direct sunlight hitting the solar collectors.  This is why most solar water heaters are  installed on rooftops and not at the first floor level.  Nearby buildings and trees generally prevent direct sunlight from reaching the first floor.  Second (probably not obvious from the picture), the collectors are facing due west.  In the Northern Hemisphere, solar collectors should face south so as to maximize the amount of exposure to direct sunlight.  At best, this heater will receive a few hours of sunlight a day, probably not enough for the unit’s inhabitants to take hot, satisfying showers.  Third, the support frame looks rickety and unattractive.  A person could lean on the center post in the wrong way and find himself buried in the shards of a solar water heater.

It’s unfortunate to see this kind of installation.  I imagine the owner telling all of his/her friends and family that solar water heaters are no good.  I hope that the unit owner designed this installation and not a professional installer.  It would be terrible to see such irresponsibility from people who install multiple units.

To learn more about solar thermal water heaters and their use in China, take a look at my previous post or go directly to these pages:

NRDC Greenlaw post on water heaters in Kunming

Recent CNN article on the solar water heater market in China

PG&E article about how solar water heaters work and how much they cost in California


1 Comment for this entry

  • frederic padilla

    if only the owner who installed the device by himself, it might be because he wanted to minimize the cost. however, if it seems to be appropriate, even dangerous, then I suggest that we get a professional plumber to install solar water heater. we can ask for recommended plumber from the supplier, or their technician.

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