Dubai: When German expatriate Johannes Waimer saw an oil drum in the Bahamas, he never thought that he could re-imagine it and design it into a water heater requiring no power and one that saves tonnes of carbon emissions yearly.
Waimer, a solar consultant with Premier Solar Technologies, was sailing in the Caribbean in 1989 when he spotted a man taking a shower outdoors.
“Because I was a sailor, we sailed worldwide and I was wondering one day when I saw a man on the roof with a black oil drum, but on the oil drum were some pipes. So I called him and asked him what he was doing; he said: ‘I make my shower water by solar,’” Waimer, 77, one of the first residents to advocate solar in the UAE, told Gulf News.
The oil drum was painted black so it could absorb heat. The water inside is heated solely by the sun to 40 degrees Celsius.
It was at around the same time that Waimer was asked to design a simple, effective, and affordable solar water heater unlike existing German models that could do the job but were too expensive back then.
“From that idea [oil drum], the integrated storage collector was developed with the best reflector, best absorbing spray on the surface of the tank and in total selective coating — everything which is possible with the technology of today,” Waimer said.
The oldest storage collectors Waimer produced have since been used in the Caribbean islands, besides north and central Africa for the past 25 years.
The fourth generation of the storage collectors is now manufactured in Dubai. The storage collector was also tested in Jordan for use in the Middle East.
The reflector inside the casing of the water tank reflects incoming rays of the sun into the tank. The central core gets heated, which eventually heats the water around it — all done for free by Mother Nature without the need to burn fossil fuels.
Waimer said one storage collector can help offset two tonnes of carbon emissions every year compared to conventional electric water heaters. “I don’t understand why people are still using electric heaters despite the common knowledge that they can save the additional heating [from burning fossil fuels], which is polluting the atmosphere. Electric water heater should be eliminated,” he said.
Although in most instances, tap water in the UAE tends to be hot in the summer, Waimer said that there are roughly four to five months in a year during and after winter when hot water is needed. In most cases, hotels too need hot water all year round.
Waimer said a number of government agencies, hotels and educational institutions have been using his storage collector for years thereby helping keep tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere.
Utility bills can also be shaved off in the long-term. Waimer said an average three-bedroom villa that has four conventional water heaters could easily consume 10kw to 15kw in heating water. That could be around Dh300 per month, multiplied to a minimum of four months in a year (the cooler months), setting one back by Dh1,200 per year.
Waimer said that relying on a solar water heating system is like buying the equipment but getting free energy needed to heat water for the next 10 to 20 years, which otherwise residents would have had to pay for anyway in utility bills for the same period.