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BUSINESS DAY TV: A geyser is like ‘a giant kettle on standby all day

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


Only 5 000 solar geyser rebates

Cape Town – The Department of Energy says only 5 000 solar water geysers can be installed in its rebate programme – and once that figure has been reached, no further rebates will be available.

The department issued a statement on Friday to correct misconceptions created by its earlier statement on the programme.

It issued a “clarification note” to correct the impression that the department would issue rebates for the installation of up to 5 000 units a month – which would be 2 000 more than were installed when Eskom ran the rebate programme.

However, the Energy Department said once a total of 5 000 solar water geysers had been installed, “no further rebates will be available”.

It said a new, revised rebate programme would be introduced “in due course”.

The programme was transferred from Eskom to the Department of Energy on February 1.

Under the rebate programme, consumers buy and have solar water geysers installed and can then claim back a rebate from the government, which varies according to the size and quality of the system.

It is different from the government mass roll-out of free solar geysers to poorer households, which closed in December 2012. Because price was an important consideration, these were all cheaper, low-pressure solar geysers.

Eskom said the reason this programme came to a halt was because the government had introduced a tender scheme for suppliers, but no suppliers were compliant with the requirement of 70 percent local content for both the tank and the collector.

Article source: IOL


Subsidy system back on track for solar geysers

Cape Town – The government’s solar water geyser subsidy system is back on track under the Department of Energy with rebates of thousands of rand offered to consumers who install the systems.

However, the department, which took over the solar water geyser programme from Eskom at the end of January, announced on Thursday that it would implement a new rebate scheme. Subsidies would be on a sliding scale that would increase with the amount of local content that was in the solar water heater system installed. Those with the highest local content would attract the highest rebates.

It did not stipulate how much the rebates would be.

The department said it had developed an electronic data collection and verification scheme and all claims for rebates had to be on this digital system. This would include the name of the product supplier and installer, the size, a photograph and a GPS co-ordinate.

The department would provide the industry with training on the electronic system.

It is also to liaise with the insurance industry to try to get consumers to replace broken electric geysers with solar geysers, particularly in those households and premises where electricity consumption was high.

The purpose of the solar water heater programme is to lower the amount of power used on the country’s constrained grid. Conventional hot water geysers account for between 30 and 50 percent of a household’s electricity consumption.

James Green, vice-chairman of Sustainable Energy Society Southern Africa (Sessa), which represents about 400 solar water heater companies, said on Thursday the industry was delighted that the Energy Department had reinstated the high pressure solar water geyser rebate scheme, with the same level of rebates that had been under Eskom.

“We are also pleased that the department will have a new, more efficient, electronic data collection and verification system.

“This will benefit all parties, installers and consumers. That the programme has been continued has saved jobs and provided certainty to the industry,” Green said.

The department said its mass roll-out of the free solar water geysers to the poor – which it calls the social programme – would continue, and details would be released on March 31.

Because price is a major consideration for the government, the free geysers installed to date have been the cheaper low-pressure geysers.

This programme has been contentious because the Department of Trade and Industry had required both the tank and the collector of a solar water heater to have 70 percent local content each.

The industry has said while this is possible in high-pressure systems, it is not in low-pressure systems. It has said it can produce low-pressure systems with an overall local content of 70 percent, but cannot compete with the imported Chinese tube collectors.

Article source: IOL


Tips to stay warm in winter and save

Keeping warm during the icy months from April till July can become expensive. We’ve grown accustomed to rely on appliances to keep us pleasantly warm 24-7. With winter here and temperatures getting lower we are reminded of the “cold realities” of the current cost of power. Not to mention load shedding.

However, there are practical ways to keeping warm and enjoy winter without breaking the bank. According to Wikus Olivier, debt management expert at DebtSafe, there are a variety of options available to individuals who want to warm up, and save up:

Gearing your geyser

Whenever there’s a talk, blog or list about saving energy you can bet your favourite winter jammies that the geyser will feature as one of the biggest culprits. That’s because your geyser makes up between 30% and 50% of your household’s electricity bill. So naturally we need ways to keep our geysers’ electricity usage to a minimum. Here’s how:

– Solar geysers. Most South Africans live in sunny parts, so why not opt to use the sun instead of Eskom?

– Geyser blankets. This additional layer of insulation is wrapped around your geyser and prevents heat loss through the steel casing.

– Geyser timers. A timer means your geyser only uses electricity during selected times instead of all the time.

– Heat pumps. Replace your geyser with a heat pump that uses up to 3 times less energy than a conventional geyser.

– Energy saving shower heads. The low flow shower head reduces the flow rate, which reduces water and electricity use.

Light up and save up

Another item you’ll always find when searching for ways to reduce electricity costs is light bulbs. Switching to energy efficient light bulbs may be costly, but in the long run it will make a huge difference on your electricity bill. CFL bulbs reduce power consumption by up to 75% and last 8 times longer, while LED bulbs are even more efficient than CFL bulbs and lasts up to 100 times longer than standard light bulbs.

Home sweet, warm and cost efficient, home

It’s safe to say that you and your family will be spending time in your home during winter. Making it necessary to find ways in which you can keep the heat up while keeping the costs down. Here are some simple, and creative, ways to do just that:

– Rugs, socks and slippers. You will be surprised how much warmer you will feel when you keep your feet warm. Plus, keep blankets in your living spaces to keep warm instead of using costly electricity to warm up the whole room.

– If you’re looking for room heaters which uses minimum electricity opt for panel heaters or oil heaters. If you are looking to use no electricity then we suggest using gas heaters.

– The sun. During the day make sure the sun gets into your home. Plus, if you are feeling chilly during the day go for a walk outside in the sun. In 10 minutes you will be warmed up completely and have gotten some valuable vitamin D.

– Thermal insulation. A popular option is to get ceiling insulation, which prevents the heat from escaping during the winter, and keeps the cool air from escaping during summer. Very nifty.

– Also, check where your house is leaking heat. For example, if there’s a window or door leading outside that doesn’t close properly, fix it. Even a quick fix like duct tape will work just fine until you can save enough cash to replace the door or window.

“Before spending money on any home improvements for heating, consider how you will be paying for it. Will you buy the items in cash? If so, is it cash that you have saved for this purpose or will you fall short the next month? If it turns out that you don’t have enough cash to go full out, simply divide your home improvements into phases by prioritising which spaces in your home needs heat,” says Olivier.

“If you use credit, whether it’s a credit card or loan, plan how you will go about to pay it back. Do you have the budget for the repayments, and do you know what you will be paying for interest and admin fees? Always keep in mind, a R500 heater could cost you R700 when bought on credit,” concludes Olivier.

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