Solar energy technology continues to advance both in terms of efficiency and cost. The cost, however, is still outside the reach of the average hardworking middle class of our society. The need for alternative sources of energy is greater now than ever before. This worldwide drive towards alternative energy and greater efficiency is however not just about hedging against the cost of oil and saving money, but its also about saving the environment by decreasing our carbon foot print. In case you did not know, global warming is not fiction and this is become more apparent judging from the numerous natural disasters occurring across the globe.
There are those of us that are poised to adopt to a culture of energy conservation and alternative energy resources such as solar, however the cost is still very much prohibitive. A full renewable energy system that is capable of handling the everyday power requirements of the household can dig a very deep hole into your pockets – leaving you and your family to resort to eating rationed mackerel and rice for a few months. But, if you are really serious about the preservation of the environment, while saving some money, starting small is always an option.
Even though we live in an island which has an abundance of sunshine resulting from the warm tropical climate in the Caribbean. There are however some parts of the island, like in Manchester for example, that tends get chilly at nights that make us dread the cold morning showers so much that we are inclined to eventually get a water heater. But before, making the long term commitment of purchasing an electric water heater, kindly stop for a moment and think about the power requirement of the average electric water heater and the cost of the power required to satisfy your hot water needs. Allow me to break it down for you with an example.
The typical power rating for an electric water heater is about 4500Watts (4.5kiloWatts). To decrease usage, because of the high electricity rates, you might decide to turn it on only for an hour in the mornings. Your usage in one day for that hour alone would be 4.5kiloWatthour (kWh). Assuming that you decide to use the heater for the 365 days of the year, resulting in a total usage of 1642.5kWh. The average price for a kilowatt hour of electricity in Jamaica is approximately US$0.40. Now, assuming an exchange rate of $97.5 JMD to 1USD your electricity consumption of 1642.5kWh would cost you approximately $64000.00 to bathe comfortably every morning for a year.
I researched and found the cost of a basic solar water heating system to be JMD $95000. To overcome this high upfront cost you can approach the NHT (National Housing Trust) to access a solar water heater loan of up to J$250,000 at 3 per cent for 5 years. At 3% for five years your month payment would be minimal and after five years your water heating needs would be free of cost. Of course, some level of servicing will be required, but compared to what you would be paying yearly for the for the use of an electric water heater, it is miniscule and if installed correctly, the system may not require as much servicing. Typical life span for the basic solar water heater is about 20 years.
With that said, I will just say that a solar water heater would be a good investment with a relatively short payback period. This would allow you to take one step away from power dependency on your national grid and in doing so you would be making a small contribution to the reduction of our country’s carbon foot print. Thus, making the world a better place.
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