When I first heard that staff members were going to receive R10,000 towards a personal renewable energy project, at first I had the grand idea to get a scooter. It’s small and light, it has a miniscule fuel consumption compared to my car and looks pretty fun to ride. Having just visited India on my honeymoon in March, everyone rides a bike or zips around on a scooter to get from A to B and to my huge surprise I experienced few accidents on the Indian roads. People say it’s ordered chaos there, I think it’s just pure luck.
Back in South Africa my wife and I share a car and sometimes encounter problems where we both need it at the same time. Just as I began researching scooters, a number of friends and friends of friends who own scooters had accidents. It then made me think, is South Africa the best place to ride a scooter? And quickly came to the personal decision not yet. Surely things are getting better, but the roads are fast and car drivers aren’t quite used to smaller vehicles on the roads. I’d much rather ride a pedal bike around smaller back roads or on dirt tracks, that aren’t necessarily equipped for scooters and away from speeding cars.
In April this year I moved house and started renovating with a particular focus on cutting my energy consumption. The first thing I wanted to address was the geyser. I’ve spoken to so many people who tell me they noticed a huge difference in their electricity bill. So I looked at the price of installing a solar water heater. I didn’t realise just how many options there were. At first I had my heart set on retrofitting my existing geyser, but a number of companies told me it was old and had a very low pressure compared to newer geysers on the market. They advised me that I could retrofit it but it could break in the not too distant future and I would have to fork out even more money. So then I looked at buying a whole new system. There were two types. The first was a close coupled system, where the geyser sits on the roof above the panel, there is no pump needed as the hot water naturally rises into the geyser. This was a cheaper option. All the company’s claim that it retains heat well and would last for a long period of time, but I personally wanted something that would not be exposed to the elements (particularly as I live by the sea) and would sit snuggly inside my roof. It would be easily accessible and I also could fit a geyser blanket to it. To my knowledge there are also two different types of solar panels, a flat plate system and evacuated tubes. The latter is more efficient because it captures the sun’s rays from various angles as opposed to the flat plate which can only receive energy face on.
I was surprised, yet pleased at just how many companies there are in Cape Town that specialise in solar water heaters. After many nights contemplating which system and company to go with I chose Green Power. They installed a 150 litre geyser, with a 10 tube solar collector, connected by an electric water pump and a Geyserwise control unit. Luckily our house is facing north so we get an abundance of sun. Barrett, an employee of Green Power also came over to my house and gave a detailed explanation of the job and showed practical examples of how the panel would work. The prices were competitive, particularly with the added bonus of claiming for the Eskom rebate which will be arriving any time soon.
The solar water heater was installed mid June and it feels great to know I’m using solar heated water to shower and wash dishes. Unfortunately I never knew my electricity consumption before the SWH was installed, as I just moved into the house three months previously and still haven’t received a bill (Come on Eskom). I was also able to sell my previous geyser easily on gumtree. The only thing I must be aware of now, is the time I take in the shower. It’s easy to reason with oneself by saying ‘Now I’m paying less to my heat water and spewing less CO2 in the process, surely I can afford to spend an extra 5 minutes in the shower?’. But now the focus becomes: water usage. One thing I’d love to do in the very near future is install a grey water system and possibly link that to my shower. If only opportunities like this came by every day…