This superhero sister duo creates sustainable solar water heaters for energy poor Egyptians

For sisters Sarah and Deena Mousa, volunteering in Cairo’s underprivileged communities took on new meaning when they realized it was possible to create cheaper and more accessible ways to heat water.

“Families were using kerosene lamps, gas tanks or even makeshift fires to heat water for everyday needs like taking a bath or cleaning the house,” Sarah explained. “We wanted to create a sustainable way for people to access affordable, clean hot water at scale.” 

With this goal in mind, the sisters did their research. They heard about an international NGO that had installed about a dozen makeshift solar water heaters several years ago as part of a short-term project. “Because it was a one-time effort there was no way for others to benefit,” according to Sarah. This, however, sparked the idea behind Shamsina. Sarah and Deena began to dig deeper into the problem, finding that nearly 50 percent of Egyptians do not have access to modern water heating systems.

Shamsina’s mission statement is “sun for all,” and Shamsina means “our sun” in Arabic. “We really wanted to keep our audience in mind,” said Deena. “So instead of using photovoltaics, for example, we went with a thermal design so that it would be more cost effective and as a result more accessible for the families that we were working with. It has adjustable legs to ensure that it can be installed on uneven surfaces. Also, the glass is designed to prevent pollution by sand and dust that can be so common in Egypt.”

“We could see that another major issue is the rising price of electricity,” Sarah said. “For us, this presents an opportunity to create a business model that benefits a wider range of Egyptians -- from the energy poor to energy conscious consumers.”

How do these solar water heaters work? Cold water enters a storage unit from a source of water in one’s household or building. The cold water then goes into the solar panel unit insulated to trap the energy of the sun. The water then re-enters the storage unit as hot water. A plumber can easily install the unit for the consumer.

Shamsina has designed, hand manufactured and delivered 25 affordable, locally made solar water heaters around the country in a pilot program. Shamsina is ready for mass manufacturing with the next version of the solar water heater which has been updated to enable industry production.