Case #1813
Title: How to make a solar water heater from plastic bottles
Summary: Jose Alano, a retired mechanic in Brazil, invented a simple, cheap, energy saving rooftop solar water heater which is benefiting thousands of people.

The idea came from the lack of recycling collection services in his small home town. Refusing to throw plastic bottles, cartons and other recyclable waste into the landfill, José invented a way to use them to make the water heater.

He and his wife built the heater using 100 plastic bottles and 100 milk cartons. 'It worked perfectly well, and we got rid of our waste in a responsible way,' he says.

Alano's initiative became widely known in Brazil after winning the Superecologia prize. Yet, he never wanted to profit from it, and explains: 'I am a simple person, but I am very aware of my own responsibilities as a consumer. The recycled solar water heater was just my small contribution to the environment, and to improve the lives of people who need to save money. I registered the invention, so nobody else could copy and profit from it.

The information on how to build the recycled solar heater has reached communities through the support of local governments, media, state-owned and private electricity companies, which also donated pipes and other materials.

The alternative water heater can provide power savings of up to 30 per cent, but apart from that, Alano notes that every recycled solar water heater built also means less plastic bottles and cartons finding their way to landfill.

Alano has also designed a low cost multifunctional bed for disabled people, but he is struggling to find a business partnership. Although there has been much interest to put it into production, Alano says that the problem is always to keep profits lower in order to benefit the consumers.

The solar water heater is based on the principle of thermosyphon, used in many commercial heaters sold for as much as £6,000. In this system, neither pumps nor electricity are used to induce circulation. The different water densities are enough to cause a cyclic movement from the collector panel to the tank: less dense hot water upwards, more dense cold water downwards.

The assembly is straightforward, and can be better understood through the illustrations contained in the DIY leaflet (text only in Portuguese).
Location: Brazil
Action: Conservation, Resources
Setting: Developed World
Extent of Action: International
Categories: Conservation, Resources
Year(s): 2010
Outcome successful
Source: The Ecologist:


Prepared By: alb, 9/10
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