Heating the Navajo Nation

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Heating the Navajo Nation

Objectives

To get the Navajo Nation off coal by developing solar heaters.

Activity Description

Thousands of homes in the Navajo Nation across three states, do not have access to electricity. Many people, including Kelly’s grandparents, heat their homes with coal, which researchers believe may be a major cause of respiratory illnesses in the Nation.  Homes without access to grid electricity also rely on kerosene lanterns for indoor light.  The cost of kerosene consumes a large portion of household budgets, while the smoke — released directly into the indoor environment — also contributes to respiratory problems, which are exacerbated by the extreme temperature shifts between day and night in the desert climate (as evening descends, homes are shuttered against the cold, preventing ventilation).

Kelly has invented a solar heating system that functions in a rural community without access to running water and electricity and is designed to suit traditional Navajo homes. Her invention was inspired by the desire to find a solution to support her grandparents who raised her, who have to labour each day to bring coal and wood into their house for heating, a job Kelly usually did but was unable to when she went away for school.  Now she’s taking her innovation to other homes in surrounding communities.