Manufacturing solar water heaters in South Africa : the benefits and costs.
There is potential to use solar energy instead of electricity as an energy efficient method of heating water. This study investigated the costs and benefits of solar water heater manufacture in South Africa and aimed to provide a better understanding of the industry in order to promote a better life for all. Local manufacturers have already recognised the costs and benefits of solar water heaters. This study drew on the findings of international practices and applied these to the South African context. The costs and benefits include the high price of solar water heaters, lack of awareness of the technology, the absence of legislation, a tedious process for rebates, nonmandatory standards, insufficient training facilities leading to a shortage of skills and the low price of electricity. The research methodology was qualitative in nature and the study was supported by current relevant theory and the results of six open-ended questionnaires completed by local manufacturers. The information gathered from the questionnaires was analysed and compared with the theory and international current best practice. The benefits of solar water heating can be enhanced by more government involvement in the development of policies to promote local manufacture and educate the public on alternative energy sources. Poor public awareness of the technology can be improved through awareness programmes at schools and frequent broadcasts on all media. There is a dire need for the development of cost effective financing mechanisms as the high costs of production directly influence the price of solar water heaters. Financial incentive models such as rebates could be used more effectively to assist low and middle-income groups with partial funding for the purchase of a solar water heater.