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Market research: Solar water heaters in China

China’s has been using solar hot water heating more and more in recent years. The city of Dezhou (德州) has facilitated its growing popularity among Chinese consumers. A new video from Greenpeace highlights the growth of solar energy among residents and as an industry. Of Dezhou’s 5.5 million residents, almost all living in the new town use solar heating, and about 90 percent of homes in the old town have solar heating. In 2007, 800,000 people had jobs in the solar panel industry, or about one in three people of working age in the city. That figure is expected to grow to 1,500,000 by 2020. Compared to an electric heater, a solar heater in Dezhou, which starts at about US$190, pays for itself in five and a half years. The number of solar heaters in the West pails in comparison.

Current Chinese solar water heater market

China’s got a long march ahead when it comes to photovoltaics. However, it is already the world leader in solar hot water by far, with 60 percent of the world’s capacity according to Worldwatch Institute. Solar expert John Perlin cites a claim that by 2010, the number of solar water heaters installed in China will equal the thermal equivalent of the electrical capacity of 40 large nuclear power plants, compared to a global capacity of solar hot water of more than 140 nuclear plants. To the consumer, the appeal of solar hot water is largely economic: basic models of evacuated tube solar hot water systems start at around 1,500 yuan (US$190). Though that upfront cost is about 80% more expensive in the West, where solar hot water has struggled to take off. Costs are starting to come down thanks to China, and the benefits are big. Dezhou’s not the only beneficiary of the solar hot water industry. China has over 1,000 solar thermal system manufacturers with revenues of over 20 billion yuan ($3 billion), and employs 600,000 people.

Top Chinese water heater brand in China: Himin (皇明)

Himin is China’s largest solar water heater company based in Dezhou (德州). Its founder Huang Ming (黄鸣) is a Chinese engineer and politician, a solar energy researcher, innovator and entrepreneur. He was a participant to the 10th and the 11th National People’s Congress. As a politician he was played a central role in developing of renewable energy in China, including the passing of the Renewable Energy Act in 2005. His company Himin was central in the development of the Solar Valley in the city of Dezhou. Huang Ming was awarded the Right Livelihood Honorary Award in 2011.

International water heater brand in China: A.O. Smith

A.O. Smith Water Products Company, a division of A.O. Smith Corporation, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a manufacturer and marketer of residential and commercial water heaters and boilers. From 2003 through 2006, A.O. Smith worked with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the technology development firm TIAX LLC to accelerate innovation toward increased efficiency in residential water heaters. This strategic partnership resulted in the development of the A.O. Smith Vertex- a residential gas water heater that combines higher gas input and more efficient combustion to deliver substantial amounts of hot water while reducing operating costs.

Daxue Consulting China Market Research


Picture source: Solar water heater