COSTAS Souris is director of GESS Green.
BUSINESS DAY TV: Coping with Eskom is a sad reality for homeowners as they’re left to fend for themselves. So what do we do … is an inverter better than a generator and what are the cost implications, and what’s best for people living in a townhouse or a cluster. Joining me now on News Leader is residential green expert Costas Souris from GESS Green.
Costas, have you seen a huge uptick in your business over the past few months?
COSTAS SOURIS: Most definitely. The only problem is we don’t have the stock and people are on us all the time about stock and that is across the board with all suppliers.
BDTV: What is the time delay then?
CS: You’re talking about two to six weeks depending on the type of solution you’re looking at.
BDTV: Okay, so this is a national problem but I want to get on to an inverter … in simple one-on-one terms, what does an inverter do?
CS: When the lights go out, something needs to power those essentials in your life, the TV, the decoder, the cellphone charger … you need to make an emergency call and you can’t do it … certain lights in the house, your ADSL router, your PC, your laptop, those essentials. And then, of course, you can go to the next level, and you can say I need to power my fridge, my gate motor, my alarm, my fence and so forth.
BDTV: So an inverter would deal with daily comforts like TV and cellphone?
CS: You can size an inverter based on your requirements. Here we need to bring in generators because you can bring in a generator which can power up your whole house, and you can also do the same thing with an inverter. But when we look at an inverter we tend to look at it from an essential items perspective.
BDTV: Okay, so if you had to compare an inverter for the whole house versus a generator for the whole house, what is the cost, and we’re going to get into the environmental implications just now?
CS: You’re looking at R100,000 for an inverter to power the whole house and you’re looking at probably R120,000–R140,000 for a generator.
BDTV: But the inverter is obviously cleaner….
CS: Definitely cleaner … it’s clean energy, it’s more convenient, it doesn’t have any noise attached to it other than a fan when it’s charging itself … and it can be inside … whereas a generator is noisy, smelly, and you can hear from what I’m saying that I’m not too much of a fan of generators.
BDTV: I know and I think its huge environmental (impact) … and it’s just rude to all your neighbours out there. So, if you’re on a budget and you just wanted an inverter for your cellphone, your TV, just to give you a bit of comfort when load-shedding happens, how much would that cost?
CS: It’s somewhere between R3,500 and R10,000, depending on exactly how many appliances you want to put on. The thing to do is to look at the labels on each of the appliances, the cellphone, etc and say, okay, that’s 7W, the TV is 150W and add it all together and it will tell you what size inverter your should be looking at. You don’t want to buy an inverter that’s too small that will trip out like your earth leakage if you overdo it. And, of course, you want it to last, you want to make sure that, come the four to six hours of load-shedding, that you want to get through that.
BDTV: So how easy it for impractical people to put an inverter in their homes?
CS: There are two types you can look at, one is what we call a plug-and-play version, which we’ve just been discussing, which you essentially plug … into the wall, let Eskom charge it for you, and then plug the appliances into that box. Let’s just call it a box, which is really not that … big … two car batteries together, and let it turn on when Eskom goes off, and let it run your TV. So all you’ll see is a slight flicker on your TV and life will just carry on.
BDTV: Yes … it really does make sense and (it) seems … your preference is an inverter over a generator.
CS: For the smaller things definitely.
BDTV: Yes, but for bigger things like, what, fridges, pool pumps….
CS: If you’re looking at bigger appliances that draw more power, more watts, then you need to really consider for how long do you want to keep those running, and there’s the big plus of a generator. A generator has got a fuel tank … you can put in a long-range fuel tank, and … fill it up and keep (filling) … it up.
BDTV: But I am so anti-generators because I think it’s rude to your neighbours, especially living in a townhouse complex and I live in a cluster complex and two of the eight units have generators. When Eskom rears its ugly head … it’s awful, the fumes and the noise. So what should people in townhouse complexes be doing, inverters?
CS: You’re answering the question … look at an inverter, which is very similar to what we’re using in offices for UPSs (uninterrupted power supplies) which make sure your computer retains all its information and keeps running when the power goes off. That’s what an inverter does and you can size it up if you need to.
BDTV: Let’s go onto other quick ones … quick ones to reduce your power load. You’re saying that the most expensive in terms of electricity usage in your house is a hot shower.
CS: Definitely. Think about a kettle … when you put a cup of water in a kettle it takes a few seconds to boil. When you add to it and fill it up to the top it takes minutes to boil and that element in the kettle is drawing 2,000-2,500W … now think of your geyser, it’s a giant kettle on standby all day, going on, off, on, off, all day. It’s costing you money.
BDTV: What should we do then?
CS: You should be switching to renewable energy, what we talk about all the time, solar water heating, and not to be confused with photovoltaic or PV panels which are used to generate electricity.
BDTV: How much is a solar water heater?
CS: It depends again on size … they vary in price from R10,000 to typically R25,000.
BDTV: What does a three-bedroomed house need?
CS: Rather ask me the question, how many people live in the house?
BDTV: A family of four.
CS: For a family of four, I would be looking for a 200l or 300l solar water heater and that’s between R15,000 and R20,000.
BDTV: Are there any subsidies on that, anymore?
CS: That’s the net price, and people need to move on it because at the end of April Eskom is withdrawing their subsidies and the Department of Energy is bringing in something new. What it is the industry doesn’t know yet?
BDTV: How much is the present subsidy?
CS: The present subsidy on a 300l system is R8,964 which is a lot of money.
BDTV: Yes, and it’s quite a chunk of the total price.
CS: It is.
BDTV: So that is something one can definitely look at. What about heating, what are the options there?
CS: Just before we move on, when looking at solar heating you reduce your electricity by about 30%-35% of your total bill.
BDTV: Okay, so that’s definitely something to look at. Heating in winter, what should we be doing?
CS: The first thing to be doing is to put a hat on your roof … put some ceiling insulation in. you have some very expensive homes with no ceiling insulation….
BDTV: How much is that?
CS: It’s round about R60/m² installed so a 100/m² home … (about R6,000).
BDTV: I have to ask you … we’re running out of time. The dreaded pool pump, what can we do about that?
CS: Reduce the hours. In summer three to four hours, and in winter one hour. After that you’re polishing the floor with the creepy.
BDTV: This is amazing stuff….
Article source: Business Day LIVE