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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Let the Sun Shine In

Let the Sun Shine In

I haven't been here for long. Only a month. But it is long enough to comment on the

climate in Cambodia. This is a tropical country. We have an abundance of sunshine

even in December. However, to my disappointment, I haven't seen any solar heaters

utilizing the sunshine in Phnom Penh. Instead I have seen (at some hotels) electric

heaters. While those imported electric heaters are bought with much-needed hard currency

and are powered with imported fuel, a solar heater can be locally made with local

materials and local labor.

You may think of a solar heater as "a system" made up of a solar panel

and an insulated hot water tank with an electric heater backing it up for a rainy

day, and coming with sensors and automatic this and that. But a simple solar heater

is nothing but a flat water tank placed on top of the roof. The size of the tank

depends on how much hot water you need. A tank can be made of iron, wood, heavy-duty

plastic bag or even brick-anything works as long as it is watertight and remains

watertight. The flatter the tank, the better the heat absorption. Paint the top black.

Fasten a pipe to the bottom of the tank. Such a simple tank can be made by locals

and installed by a plumber or a do-it-yourself-homeowner.

At morning you fill the tank with cold water. At evening you can empty hot water

from the tank. In my experience in Tokyo, water was heated to about 70 degrees Celsius

in an iron tank during summer. Here you can expect comparable temperatures even in

winter.

If you are thinking of buying an electric heater, check with a local plumber instead.

Once he gets the basic idea, he can probably make a better solar heater than the

one I have described.

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