Soaring f???el prices in Japan are forcing managers of public baths to turn to solar?
Soaring f???el prices in Japan are forcing managers of public baths to turn to solar energy to heat the water. More than ten public bathhouses in Tokyo have been equipped with glass-panelled rooftop devices in an attempt to cut costs.
In the post-war prosperity of today's Japan, most houses have their own bathrooms in which people can enjoy the traditional long and very hot soak. But the public bath-houses, though fewer than before are still popular among many sections of the people. Many students living away from home find them convenient; and older people, used to them from infancy, find their daily bath a pleasant social occasion as well as an opportunity to soak in a far bigger bath than the cramped bathroom at home. Construction workers and other manual labourers find it easier to get clean in a big public bath. And its still cheap, especially by Japanese standards: about 35p for an adult; half as much for a child. However, today the economics of the public bath-house are threatened by the rising price of oil which in most baths is used to heat the water. Mr Umeda, the owner-manager of the Sakae-yu (Prosperity Baths) near Yoshiwara, the old Floating World or pleasure-quarter of days long past, is fighting oil-inflation by using solar energy. He has installed solar heating gear on his roof. This is automatically switched on by a solar detector; and when it is operating, water flows through the pipes in the solar panels and is stored in large tanks at a temperature of 45 degrees C to 50 degrees C. (The hot water in a Japanese bath -- very hot by American or European standards -- is at about 42 degrees C). The capacity of the solar heating tanks is about 27 tonnes, and Mr Umeda needs 10 tonnes just to fill his baths and hot water tanks when he opens in the mid-afternoon. Hot water is used in the same building for a sauna, for a laundry, and in winter to heat the premises. On a sunny day, Mr Umeda saves 50% of his fuel bill by using the solar heating, and 35% on a cloudy day. In a year, he may save 3 or 4 million yen, a big economy. The installation is not cheap: this set-up has cost 15 million yen already, and Mr Umeda plans to fit more of the solar panels for even bigger fuel saving. But in a few years, he will have paid off his initial investment; and the contribution made by solar heating will become more and more important as the price of oil increases.
SYNOPSIS: In prosperous post-war Japan, most houses now have their own bathrooms in which people can enjoy the traditional long hot soak. But the public bathhouse is still popular. Many students living away from home find them convenient. And older people -- used to them from infancy -- find their daily bath a pleasant social occasion. But rising oil prices are threatening to put many bathhouses out of business. So the Japanese have come up with a new idea -- solar heated baths. The Sakae-??? Bath is one of ten in Tokyo to try out the scheme.
Solar heating panels installed on the roof are automatically switched on by a solar detector. Water flows through the pipes in the solar panels and is stored in large tanks at a temperature of forty-five to fifty degrees Centigrade. The capacity of the solar heating tanks is about twenty-seven tonnes.
The installation of the equipment is not cheap-- it costs about (62,458 U.S. dollars). But on a sunny day, fifty per cent of the fuel bill can be saved by using solar heating, and in a few years the initial investment should have paid off.