Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Hot Water Demand Survey

In the interests of improving the utility of scholarship to the community and honoring Community Based Participatory Development, I am publishing the English translation of the survey questions I used to collect my data here. It is hoped that others can improve upon this survey to get better, more complete and more reliable and accurate information in the future that can help influence public policy in Egypt to help the poor achieve a higher standard and quality of lifestyle.

The original Arabic version can be downloaded from here.

The survey reproduced in this post was developed by myself and the friendly staff  in Darb Al Ahmar, who ran through my original survey questions (nearly 200!) and selected and field tested various subsets until he narrowed it down to the 12 sets of questions (totaling 70 discrete questions) that we actually used.

I developed another survey consisting of 12 open ended questions with Talat Kamil and Ezzat Naem Guindy of Roh El Shabab that they felt was more a propos for the Zabaleen community, but after field testing it 10 times, we decided to abandon it and use the AKTC survey for both communities for uniformity's sake, despite the cultural differences, which we discussed in a meeting between Zabaleen researchers and Darb Al Ahmar researchers.

Chief among those differences, making the use of the Darb El Ahmar questions difficult to implement according to Talaat and Suzy, are the fact that the Zabaleen almost invariably live in single family buildings -- generally several stories high, mostly unfinished and of recent origin, made of brick with a rebar reinforced concrete skeleton, in which each family member occupies a separate floor within the same dwelling as their relatives.

The Darb Al Ahmar community is almost invariably multi-family apartment buildings, mostly very old to ancient, many made of load bearing stone with no reinforcing skeleton.

In the Zabaleen community there is a greater fluidity of movement and use of space throughout the whole building since it is all one family, and it is sometimes misleading to talk to only one "head of household" to get a profile of the whole family's economic status and cultural practices.

For example, in Talaat's own home an interview with his arthritic mother, who lives on the ground floor and cannot climb the stairs, reveals that her daughter heats her bathing water on a small portable butagas stove in the living room by the door. The daughter also uses this method for herself. One could walk away believing that the whole household uses the small portable butagas stove. But one floor up, Talaat and his wife and their baby have an electric water heater. There is a tradition to prepare an apartment for marriage by installing a water heating appliance, either electric or gas. The mother never gets to use this heater because she can't climb the stairs, but the sister occasionally (though rarely) does; usually she bathes downstairs with the water she prepares for her mother, or carries the portable stove upstairs to her own room in the building. Talaat says that sometimes, to save money and time he asks his sister to prepare water for him on the stove (since, because they turn it off between uses, it takes a half an hour to an hour for the electric heater to warm the water). In other homes, the hot water heating appliance exists because the husband-to-be bought and installed it to attract his wife (like a bower bird, it is the suitor's duty to prepare a nest to bring in a mate), but after the marriage the family decides not to use the appliance so they can save money, and the wife or the girls in the family go back to preparing water on the stove. This is facilitated when the whole extended family lives in one building.

In Darb El Ahmar, by contrast, each apartment is usually a separate family with no relation to the others in the building.

One could conceivably get a larger sample of households by sampling within a single apartment building. We didn't do this however. For uniformity's sake we treated each building as a separate household and interviewed only one head of household per building. We chose our buildings at random within a Shaykhiya (District) and tried to cover roughly the same surface area of Shakhiyas in each community.

The spatial geography and construction as well as the social dimension of the built environment thus has a profound influence on survey methodology and we had to decide which protocol to use. We chose the Darb Al Ahmar protocol because we felt it was better to go with the experience and expertise of the Darb Al Ahmar team and build future capacity. They are working with us to create a research support office at the Darb Al Ahmar that can help future graduate students and foreign researchers eager to do work in Cairo, and this was a first step in making that dream a reality!

The final version of the survey was hammered out in a series of household site visits that I went on with leaders of the Darb Al Ahmar Research Initiative. It emerged as a compromise between the vast amounts of information I wanted to find out and the terrible problems of respondent and surveyor fatigue. It also had to happen within and short window of opportunity that we had to work with the official survey teams when they weren't busy with their own jobs (since it is illegal for graduate students to do research themselves in Egypt without going through the long complicated process of getting official approval -- something that can take years -- I had to work within the work schedule of established and official local entities who were willing to conduct the survey as if it were "their project").

While initial trials of the surveys took up to an hour, this final version was completed on average in 20 minutes. This figure ironically increased to 30 minutes when the surveyors followed my instructions and went into the households to inspect the bathrooms and kitchens -- this was supposed to save time because much of the questionnaire could be filled in by observation, but the social niceties required in Egyptian culture made the process of going into the intimate spaces of a home take longer.

At times surveys were completed in 15 minutes, but I was not happy with the results; often a rush through the survey led to misleading conclusions, such as when a respondent would say they had an electric heater and the surveyor would simply note that. When I went on site visits and actually asked to see the heater I personally discovered in 5 cases that the family had an electric heater that was unplugged or broken. When I asked about this the family often said, "oh, we stopped using it a couple of years ago -- it is too expensive to repair, and the costs of electricity are too high, so we heat water on the stove instead."

To get this kind of information, one has to go into the households and talk outside the formalism of the survey since most people who have electric heaters see them as signs of upward mobility, and want to "show off" by saying they have electric heaters. My own landlady insisted she used an electric heater, just like we had in our apartment, but when I went to hook her up to our solar hot water system I discovered it had never been plugged in, and didn't even have a plug. She wept when we gave her hot water from the sun saying, "for years I've had this thing on my wall in the bathroom, but I'd been afraid to hook it up. I know people who died from electric shock in the bathroom -- you know, water and electricity in these old buildings. And then there is the cost... so I use the stove." But when she had been surveyed she reported having an electric heater!

You can see the same phenomenon when riding the crowded public buses in Cairo and asking people with watches (those that have them!) what time it is. Many people turn out to have watches that are broken, but are wearing them as "jewelry" for the status!

The survey tries to get around these problems by asking questions in various ways to triangulate information, but many of the redundant questions I had wanted in for error checking and bias checking were thrown out by the surveyor teams for expediency's sake.

Another issue that we had was in getting price information and willingness to pay information. In Darb Al Ahmar the community was suspicious of talking about money and after much field testing the AKTC team thought it better to drop the issue wherever it seemed to create tension. For this we need to conduct a special focus group.

In the Zabaleen area interestingly there was greater openness to talking about money (or the lack thereof).

In both communities the social dynamic of implementing the final survey was easy to achieve once we got on the ground because it was co-created, endorsed, supervised and conducted by teams from the community. In Darb Al Ahmar, along with Dalia (21 surveys), it was the expert AKTC trainees, Mohammed, Sana and Sharihan (70 surveys each); in Zarayib it was Talaat, Suzy, Hanan (100 surveys) Raheel, Maryam, and Iman (100 surveys) and Amal (25 surveys).

As a foreigner I didn't have to say a word or justify myself. In both communities the surveyors simply knocked on a door and explained that they were from the AKTC or the NGO Roh El Shabab, respectively, and said they were conducting surveys on community infrastructure and needs as part of their on-going work to improve the quality of life in their communities. Since both groups are known to their respective communities there were no questions asked.

Hot water Household Demand Survey

(This version is unformatted and doesn't contain the tables and check boxes found in the real 9 page collection of paper survey sheets. An electronic version of this survey in English is found at Unfortunately, while they have free student accounts in some languages, they don't let students use their Arabic language services for free.)

Group 0: Location information on respondent

0.1 Shakhiya (Area):

0.2 Date of the interview:

0.3 Telephone number:

0.4 Name of researcher:

0.5 Name of Respondent

0.6 Educational level respondent attained:

0.7 Address:

Group 1

1.1 What type of material is the dwelling made of?

1.1.1 Concrete and brick with skeletal structure
1.1.2 Load bearing walls
1.1.3 Other

1.2.1 Number of floors in the dwelling (excluding ground floor)

1.2.2 Unit of respondent is on which floor?

2.1 Number of family members

2.1 Number of people in the household

2.2.1 Number of family members less than 10 years

2.2.2 Number of family members between 10 and 20 years

2.2.3 Number of family members between 20 and 40 years

2.2.4 Number of family members greater than 40 years

2.3 Type of work for head of household

2.3.1 Steady
2.3.2 Unsteady

3.1 Description of the respondent regarding dwelling

3.1.1 Single owner of the dwelling
3.1.2 Shared owner of the dwelling
3.1.3 Renter -- new rental
3.1.4 Renter -- old rental
3.1.5 Unofficial dwelling
3.1.6 Other

3.2 Electric meter is in whose name?

3.2.1 Member of the family -dwelling in residence
3.2.2 Member of the family not dwelliing in the residence
3.2.3 Previous resident
3.2.4 Other

Group 4: Building

4.1 Number of units in the building

4.2 Number of units in the building occupied all the time

4.3 Number of units in the building occasionally occupied

4.4 Number of units in the building permanently empty

4.5 Does the building have easy roof access?

4.5.1 Yes
4.5.2 No
4.5.3 Other

4.6 Type of roof

4.6.1 Roof has safety wall
4.6.2 Roof has no safety wall
4.6.3 Unfinished roof
4.6.4 Ruins
4.6.5 Other

5.1 Length of time in dwelling

5.1.1 Less than a year
5.1.2 Between 1 and 5 years
5.1.3 Between 6 and 10 years
5.1.4 Between 11 and 20 years
5.1.5 Between 21 and 40 years
5.1.6 More than 40 years
5.1.7 Other

5.2 Nature of dwelling

5.3 Live in dwelling only
5.4 Live and work
5.4.1 Note activity if both live and work

5.3 Number of rooms in dwelling (excluding bathroom and kitchen)

Group 6: Facilities/Amenities/Services
(In the event that there is no public water supply, ignore questions 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4,
and indicate source of water in 8.1)

6.1 What services are present in this dwelling?

6.1.1 Electricity from public service
6.1.2 Water from public service
6.1.3 Sewage connection to public service
6.1.4 Other

6.2 Water availability (If water is constantly cut ignore question 8.2)

6.2 How often is water available?

6.2.1 All the time
6.2.2 Some of the time
6.2.3 Constantly cut
6.2.4 Other

6.3 Is the water pressure sufficient to lift water to the house?

6.3.1 Yes
6.3.2 No
6.3.3 Other

6.4 Do you use a water pump (motor)?

6.4.1 Yes
6.4.2 No
6.4.3 Other If no, why not? If yes, is the water pump private or shared? Private Shared Other If yes, where is the water pump located?

6.4.2 Do you use a water storage tank Yes No Other If no, why not? __________________________ If yes, is it private or shared? Private Shared Other If yes, where is it located?

Group 7

7.1.1 Bathroom (1) Private (2) Shared (1) Has water source (2) No water source (1) Has ventilation (2) No ventilation

7.1.2 Kitchen (1) Private (2) Shared (1) Has water source (2) No water source (1) Has ventilation (2) No ventilation

7.2 Services in the Kitchen and Bathroom

Kitchen has Kitchen doesn't have Hot water pipes Cold water pipes Sink Ceramic tiles

Bathroom has Bathroom doesn't have Hot water pipes Cold water pipes Shower Bathtub Sink Ceramic tiles

7.2.7 Is there a water faucet at the entrance to the dwelling? Yes No

7.2.8 What type of toilet? Balady (squat) Afrangy (throne)

8.1 Has you experienced anydangers to your health or safety during the last 12 months in this dwelling or building?

8.1.1 Yes
8.1.2 No
8.1.3 Other

8.2 If yes, what was the source of the danger?

8.2.1 Fire
8.2.2 Building related (walls, roof, stairs)
8.2.3 Sewage
8.2.4 Other

Present (Y/N) What size? Paying on installment (Y/N)
9.1.1 Refrigerator
9.1.2 Stove BW Television Color Television Automatic Washing Machine Traditional Washing Machine Landline Telephone Mobile Phone Satellite dish Cable TV connection

9.2 If you had extra money, what would be the first three things you would buy?
(Start with open ended question, have them rank and list the top three; write down in other category if not only list, then prompt for fourth or fifth choice from list if none are present)

First choice Second Choice Third Choice Fourth Choice Fifth Choice
9.2.1. Hot water heater
9.2.2. Shower
9.2.3. Cassette player
9.2.4. Washing machine
9.2.5. Refrigerator
9.2.6. Television
9.2.7. Stove Other ________________________________________ If "other" what item was mentioned?


9.3 How do you heat your house in the winter?

9.3.1. Electric Heater
9.3.2. Butagas
9.3.3. Natural Gas heater
9.3.4. Babur
9.3.5. Logs (wood)
9.3.6. Close the house
9.3.7 Other

Group 10: How the household obtains hot water: (Show respondents the numbered pictures for uniformity)

10.1.1 Which of the following water heating systems (shown in the pictures provided) are you familiar with? (Respondents should point to the numbered pictures for accuracy) Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heating Portable stove heating Bottle gas with floor grill Solar hot water Other

10.1.2 Which is the current source of your hot water? Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heating Portable stove heater Bottled gas and floor grill Solar hot water Other ____________________________ If user has electric heater, how many liters?
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

Other _______________________ If respondent has gas heater, is it automatic (self igniting) or normal ?
("normal = user must light) Automatic Normal Other

10.2 For how long have you had this heating system?

10.2.1 Less than one year
10.2.2 Between one and three years
10.2.3 More than three years 10.2.4 Other

10.3 What influenced your decision to purchase this system?

10.3.1 Convenient from a material conditions standpoint (financial)
10.3.2 Easy to use
10.3.3 Clean
10.3.4 Safe
10.3.5 Other

10.4 Did a lack of constant monthly income affect your choice of the water heating
system you use?

10.4.1 Yes
10.4.2 No
10.4.3 Other

10.5 How much did you pay for your current hot water system (capital costs)?

10.6 How important is hot water to you?

10.6.1 Very important
10.6.2 Important
10.6.3 Not so important
10.6.4 Not important at all

10.7 Does the WAY you obtain your hot water make a difference to you?

10.7.1 Yes
10.7.2 No
10.7.3 Other

10.8 How long do you estimate it takes for you to heat water for bathing on average?

10.9 Who is responsible for heating the bathing water?

10.10.1 What was the water heating system you used before the current one? Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heating Bottled gas and floor grill Solar heater Other

10.10.2 If previous system was electric, how many liters?

10.10.3 If previous heater was gas, was it automatic or normal? Automatic Normal Other

10.10.4. (Respondents should look at provided, numbered pictures to answer this

Which of the following systems have you used before in your life? Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heating Portable stove heating Bottled gas with floor grill Solar heater Other ____________________

10.11 During what times of the year do you use hot water?

10.11.1 All year long
10.11.2 Only during the Winter
10.11.3 Other _________________

10.12 Do you leave your water heating system on all the time, or do you turn it off
after each use? (For electric heaters this means unplugging or turning off the heater, for gas systems turning off the pilot light)

10.12.1 Leave it on all the time
10.12.2 Turn it off after use

10.13 Has your hot water system given you any problems?

10.13.1 Yes
10.13.2 No

10.13.3 If yes, what were the problems you experienced? What are the advantages you see with your system?
________________________________________________________ What disadvantages do you see in your system?

10.15 How much do you estimate you pay each month to heat your water (whether for electricity or gas or any other fuel).________________________

10.16.1 What will you do to heat water if the price of gas or electricity goes up?


10.16.2 At what price per month would you decide to switch to another method of
heating water?


10.17.1 If somebody were to give you a hot water system as a gift, which one would
you choose and why? Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heater Portable stove heater Bottled gas and floor grill Solar heater Other __________________________

10.17.2 Why would you choose this system if given as a gift? Safety Clean Easy to use Monthly running costs New Like my friends or neighbors Other

10.18.1 Respondents should look at provided, numbered pictures to answer this

10.18.1 Rank the following systems in terms of safety (1 safest, 6 least safe) Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heating Portable stove heating Bottled gas and floor grill Solar heater

Rank values must be between 1 and 6

10.18.2 Show numbered picture cards for preference ranking.

10.18.2 Please rank which, in your opinion are the least expensive ways to heat
water? (1 cheapest, 6 most expensive) Electric heater Gas heater Stovetop heating Portable stove heating Bottled gas and floor grill Solar heater

Rank values must be between 1 and 6

Group 11: Cost of living Ask respondents to tell you about how much they spend each month on the following items (in Egyptian pounds LE).

Value Comments
11.1.1 Rent Electricity Water Gas
11.1.3 Food
11.1.4 Commercial work expenses
11.1.5 Education
11.1.6 Health
11.1.7 Savings
11.1.8 Loan payments
11.1.9 Telphones (landline and mobile)
11.1.10 Other expenses

11.2.1. If family uses gas bottles, how many gas bottles are used in a month?

11.2.2 What is the current price of gas bottles?

12.1 If you could get a water heating system that offered instant on-demand heating (waiting time less than 2 minutes for water to be hot), was safe, provided hot water 24 hours a day (because of insulated hot water storage tanks) and which had monthly running costs that averaged less than 5 LE per month, but cost about 1000 LE to purchase and install, would you be interested in purchasing such a system if you could buy it on credit?

12.1.1 Yes
12.1.2 No
12.1.3 Other ______________________

If yes: How much would you be willing to pay as a downpayment?
______________ How much would you be willing to pay per month?
______________ How long would you be willing to make monthly payments?

If respondent answered no, ask:

"If such a system were offered to be installed in your home and you could not afford to pay anything in money, how could you help defray the costs or contribute?"

12.2.1. Share technical expertise and/or opinions
12.2.2 Share in the work effort
12.2.3. Share in the provision of tools and materials
12.2.4. Other


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