SHIVAMOGGA: This is one house in Shivamogga where the Sun perhaps never sets and where power cut is no worry. Long before eco-friendly houses came on the radar of builders, Dr L K Sripathi, professor of mechanical engineering in JNN College of Engineering, had shown the way.
As you reach his house in LBS Nagar, all the 10 shining solar panels on the rooftop give you a warm welcome. You name it, his house has it: From cool hollow cement blocks to rain water harvesting to vermi compost unit to a kitchen waste bio-gas plant to a vegetable and flower garden.
His house, aptly named ‘Vibha’ (means Sun or light in Sanskrit), relies mostly on sun power...this, even on gloomy rainy days.
Talking about his dream of living clean and green, he says, “Right from my college days, I was passionate about the alternative energy system. I worked on solar and biomass energy during my MTech course and I did PhD in the relevant area of renewable energy and energy conservation.”
This green dream turned into reality in 2004 when he built the two-storeyed Vibha, focusing on renewable energy sources.
Appliances like grinder, television, computer, fan and lighting are fed by solar energy. Only the fridge runs on electricity.
“The performance of this system is excellent. The cost of installation is less compared to electricity, and I haven’t faced any major maintenance problems,” says Sripathi.
Cooking, the major component of domestic energy consumption, is taken care of by a solar box type cooker and parabolic cookers. While the solar cooker is mainly used for drying grains and reheating food, the parabolic cooker is used to cook rice and boil rainwater for drinking purpose. LPG cylinder is there as backup too.
“I am happy there are no constraints in my kitchen work,” says P N Mamatha, Sripathi’s wife. Mamatha works as a lecturer of home science in Kamala Nehru National College for Women.
But how do they manage during monsoon? “All days are not cloudy. Moreover, we have battery back-ups that store energy for two days. This autonomy certainly helps us. Use of grid power even during rainy days is very rare,” says Sripathi.
The residents here are high on water wisdom. They catch every rain drop and use it for both drinking after filtering and non-potable purposes. Every year, around 45 per cent of their water requirement is fulfilled by the RWH system. Sripathi says the annual amount of rain water collected (900mm with approximate 20 per cent loss) in Vibha is about 86,000 litres. But this year it has been less.
It has two water storage sumps of 20,000-litre and 10,000-litre capacity where rainwater is collected. The house has two components for reuse of ‘grey water’ (wastewater generated from domestic processes such as washing and bathing). The second component consists of two percolation pits.
During the off monsoon days, water from this tank is lifted up manually and used to water the garden. During monsoon, the grey water is sent to these percolation pits to recharge the underground water table.
The house also has a biogas unit. It uses 1.5 kg ‘feed’ (kitchen waste) a day to produce 0.13 Nm3 gas a day, which supplies around 20 per cent of the energy required for cooking. Sripathi has been motivating people to switch over to renewable energy sources. Inspired by his initiatives, some of his friends and relatives too have adopted rainwater harvesting system and solar power generation.