Barefoot College first began developing solar water heaters in 2000. The programme was initiated so that rural communities could have access to a smoke-free and eco-friendly source of hot water as well as to generate employment for rural youth. For the initial training, 19 semi-literate men were chosen to represent the College sub-centres in Assam, Bihar, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. They attended a one-month training workshop in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. There, they learned to fabricate, install, repair and maintain solar water heating units consisting of a boiler, collector, storage tank, pipes and taps.
How they Work
Solar water heaters are made by rural Barefoot fabrication engineers. They are eco-friendly products because they only partially depend on electricity to pump water up to the storage tank and use sunlight instead of wood or gas to heat water. They are ideal for communities that need large quantities of hot water. Solar water heaters provide a continuous supply of warm water, and therefore are useful for people living cold places. They are available in two varieties – oil-based and non oil-based. Oil-based solar water heaters do not allow the stored water to freeze. Users have a choice between tank capacities of 100 litres (ideal for 5 persons), 200 litres (ideal for 10 persons) and 300 litres (ideal for 20 persons).
More than 70 solar water heaters have been manufactured and are benefiting hundreds of people living in rural, remote villages in eight states of India. Literacy is not a criterion for training as more than 30 semi-literate and illiterate rural youth from Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have been successfully trained in fabricating solar water heaters.