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Light up your outdoors using solar power

Friday January 10 2014

A solar water heater.

A solar water heater. Photo/FILE

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Alternative energy is quickly becoming the better option for many home owners despite the initial cost of setting up the system.

Research has shown that although the cost of switching to these unconventional power sources may be high initially, in the long run, you end up saving quite a substantial amount of money.

Alternative energy reduces a homeowner’s reliance on power from the national grid which can be erratic when you need it most. It also saves them money and provides a better back up power solution in case of outages.

To back its importance, the government in 2012 published the Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations in a gazette notice which makes it mandatory for developers and home owners to install solar water heating systems in their properties.

Late last year, the energy regulator followed up with a notice to the Kenya Power warning the distributor on connecting new buildings and homes to the power grid, unless they comply with the renewable energy guidelines.

The rules require commercial and residential buildings tapping power from the national grid to install solar water heaters. The provision allows only compliant properties to be connected to the national electricity grid.


BDLife this week takes you through some of the changes you need to effect in your home this year to keep in line with the new energy law but also to help you save energy and money.


Solar water heaters are the best alternative of saving money for households currently using electric water heaters.

Although the energy regulator has made it mandatory for buildings heating up more than 100 litres of water in a day to install solar, families which require less water can still have it installed.

The price of a small solar heater varies depending on the supplier. But the components are the same. For instance, a basic solar heater should have a water tank and a solar collector.

One can either choose a pressurised or non-pressurised tank. Either way, they all serve the same goal.

The cost of a good 200-litre solar water heater ranges from Sh85,000 to Sh180,000. The cost is influenced by the quality of the system.

The security around your compound or home is key. Many residential locations turn out to be dangerous because they are not lit up.

But as much as residents know, the importance of lighting up their estates or compound, many fear the extra costs which come with leaving the bulbs on throughout the night.

To avoid cost, some home owners prefer to switch off the security lights whenever they deem necessary, beating the logic of having it in the first place. Light sensors are another measure used by home owners to control power usage on security bulbs.


Solar outdoor lights is the best alternative to save people from these challenges. With these lights, home owners can rest easy and leave the lights on until daybreak.

Outdoor solar lights comprise of floodlights, post lights, garden lights, drive way markers and wall mount solar lights. The type of system one settles for depends on one’s need and the size of the compound in question.

Floodlights are high and often used to light up a wide area. It has a high illumination but is costly. One may choose to buy the components independently and fix or buy a complete unit. Another alternative to floodlights is solar post lights which resemble the street lights.

One post light costs between Sh150,000 to Sh260,000 depending on the quality. The unit comes complete with a maintenance-free battery, solar panel, charge controller, steel pole and light source.

The pole light has a working time of up to 10 hours and six days back up. It has a lifespan of 25 years. The battery, however, needs to be replaced at least after five years. The lamp is automated. It comes on at dusk and goes off at sun rise.

The solar garden light is another option to consider this year. This lighting solution is affordable at between Sh5,000 to Sh6,000 per light. The garden light can be placed along the walk way, in the middle of the garden or anywhere within the compound.

There are numerous solar suppliers around the country and the cost of the units have come down a little with so many supplier bringing in the systems.

Before you decide on which option will work best for you, get a qualified electrician and take them to your site. They can then advise on what would work best for you.

This story originally appeared in Business Daily.