Just Landed

An Outsider’s Perspective From The Inside

  • About Just Landed

    Just Landed is a part of the ever-expanding Blandings Media Empire.
  • Write Me

    justlanded AT blandings DOT com
  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Advertisements

Flashback Friday: The Sun is Brahman

Posted by anandrr on January 23, 2009

Solar heating, then and now

Solar heating, then and now

One of my fondest memories is from a summer when I was but a stripling of  10 or 11. We lived in Ulsoor (spelled Halasuru these days, I’ve noticed), back then it felt like it was very far away from the city centre, how things change. The corporation would supply water at least once a day, perhaps a couple times a day, this continues to be a luxury in Bangalore. It is up to the people to figure out how to store the water for as long as they need it. I am not entirely sure how or why this is a good idea, if people are going to store all the water they will need and then some, surely it is more efficient to just keep the taps on, but I’m surely missing something. But to get back to my story, we lived in a house built before I was born so of course it lacked “modern” infrastructure like overhead tanks and pumps to fill them up. The result was that the time that the water flowed through the taps was precious and enough water had to be collected in sufficiently large containers and so on so as to last the entire day.

Now, the year I am referring to, perhaps this was one of those years that the monsoons had failed, for whatever reason the Bangalore corporation decided that summer that they would cut back on the frequency of water supply. My dad in his infinite wisdom obtained a couple large black drums that would be filled with water so it could be used later in a last-resort situation. These were sufficiently large drums that once they were filled at the tap in our “yard”, they were heavy enough that they would have to be left there and not moved anywhere. And so they would sit there in the Indian summer and bake all day. It must have helped that they were black, so any sun rays getting anywhere in their vicinity had no choice but to heat the water within the drums. It didn’t take my brother and me long to discover that a drum filled with cold water in the morning had very warm and toasty water in the evening. After a summer day filled with playing cricket or running around in the dusty streets, we could think only of taking the very warm water and enjoying lingering baths in them. The fact that the water appeared to have heated itself must have added a surreptitious dimension to the situation, here we were able to take a hot water bath in the summer with apparently no adult help required in turning on the water heater or anything, just transport the water into the house, and you were good to go. Bangalore’s weather demanded that you use the water as soon as possible, any delay beyond twilight meant that the water would cool quickly even in the summer, if I had known Newton’s Law of Cooling back then I might even have found a way to intellectualize the bathing experience. The bathing situation was of course curiously dichotomous: as kids we were excited by the prospect of “stealing” hot water from what had been mere cold water in the morning and the prospect of getting to use it all for a bath seemed curiously exciting, our parents were probably quite pleased they’d found a way for the kids to get the grime off their bodies so willingly in the evening. It didn’t make sense but there it was.

All of which came back to me as I stood under the shower spewing forth scalding hot water at me from our newly installed solar water heater. There turns out to be a certain joy in knowing that the only conventional energy involved in bringing you your hot water is the motor that pumped the water up to the tank. The utter simplicity of the system is beguiling, no conversion of light to electricity or turning turbines involved here, just the sun heating water in tubes and letting the laws of physics do the rest. Beautiful!

Having lived so long in a city and area where sunlight and natural light are at a premium, the first thing I noticed on my return to India was how much free A-grade sunlight we had pouring over us every day and how little energy the average Indian gets by way of electricity. Unlike the Bay Area sun, temperamental and unreliable, the Bangalore sun is always on yet temperate. (Cue joke about Superman going from the red sun of Bangalore to the yellow sun of the Bay Area). And yet, our ability to use sunlight and sun-heat to do any thing more than heat water in a manner that is economically viable is severely limited by the technologies available. It’s a little frustrating, but also somewhat hopeful, after all the day that we learn to tap the sun, that’s the day we truly attain energy-moksha.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: