I have always dreamed of living in a sustainable house. During my many years of staying in (sometimes very dodgy) rented accommodation, this was of course not possible. So when we bought a house in March last year we immediately started making plans to retrofit our home. Being a home-owner means that you have many more options to transform your house into a sustainable building, which will not only add value to your property but also save you money in electricity and water bills.
We heard about the Eskom Solar Water Heater (SWH) rebate scheme and therefore decided that it would be an excellent time to install one. This brilliant scheme, which offers up to one third off the price of the SWH, is being run by Government and Eskom to encourage the uptake of domestic SWH in order to reduce SA’s carbon emissions and reduce peak electricity demand. Around 40% of a household’s electricity is used to heating water, so installing a SWH was a great way to reduce our carbon footprint and our electricity bills.
Most SWHs are a complete system with a geyser and solar panel. However, as our existing geyser was only around 4 years old, and in good working condition, we wanted a system that would allow us to convert our existing geyser instead of having to buy a new one. We could only find one company that could offer this service, they are called ONE SOLAR. We were also pleased to see that they also use locally manufactured solar panels, which would reduce the carbon footprint of our solar system.
One Solar did a site visit to see if a SWH would be a viable option for us. The first thing they looked for was a North-facing roof space as this would get direct sun most of the day. They also looked to see if there would be enough space to put the solar panel. It was also important that the panel would be relatively near to where the geyser was situated in our roof.
Because we were using our own geyser, we would also need a small pump as the geyser would not be higher that the panel (in an all in one system you will see that the geyser sits above the panel). We found a good position for the SWH on our roof and we were quoted R15,000 for the system.
Once we had accepted the quote and paid our 50% deposit, One Solar arrived around 10 days later to install the system, which they did in about three hours. One Solar provided us with all the forms that we needed to fill in to be eligible for the rebate and explained what we needed to do. After the installation an electrician needed to certify that the system was compliant – he also needed to sign the forms. (the cost of the electrician was included in the overall price). The forms came with a pre-addressed envelope and we received a notification SMS from Eskom once they had received our letter. Eskom said that the rebate would take around 6-8 weeks and we received a rebate of R5000 exactly 2 months later.
When you apply for the rebate you have to sign a contract stating that you won’t use electricity at peak times (6-8am) and (6-8pm). We therefore had to programme our system to work during those times without using any electricity back-up from the grid. The system comes with a small control panel where you can view how hot the water is, the temperature of the solar panels and view how many electricity units that have been used. Even though we had the system installed in winter, we still had no shortage of hot water. On very wintery days we just ensured that we had shorter showers so that there would be enough hot water for both of us.
We have noticed a dramatic decrease in our energy use since the system was installed. We used to use around 12 units per day and since we had the SWH installed we use around 7-8 units per day – so a decrease of around 30%. Because we use pay-as-you-go electricity it is hard to see exactly how much money we are saving each month, but we don’t need to buy electricity nearly as often.
We found the rebate system easy and hassle free, and were quite surprised that we received our rebate so promptly. I would highly recommend to those who can afford the upfront cost to install a SWH. We are no longer reliant on Eskom for hot water, are saving money every month and have added a valuable fixture to our property.
If you’ve had a solar water heater installed in your home, we’d love to hear from you about how you found the process.
The next plan for our house is to install a rain tank and grey water system to reduce our water use – I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes!