Electricity prices rose by more than 12% this year, compared to the previous financial year, and next year is expected to be much the same and the year thereafter. If you divide the pie of household electricity consumers, the hot water geyser eats more than 15% of the power in the home, according to HouseCheck.
Right now, too few homeowners in suburban South Africa use alternative sources of power, such as solar panels. The sectional title landscape is much the same; and homeowners in share schemes would first need to consult with their body corporates and managing agents before a PV system can be installed on their units. There are certainly more sectional title homeowners out there who would welcome the introduction of a PV rollout in their complex, but this would more than likely come with an expensive cash outlay for all owners. Some will gladly fork out the money – especially those owners who live in their units – while the others will flat-out refuse.
A new product may change the landscape as we currently know it. It is designed to use the existing hot water geyser and connect it to a solar PV panel minus any upfront cash outlay. Director Dylan Swartz of SMM Group SA explains that homeowners in sectional title developments sign monthly subscription agreements and can begin saving from day one.
According to the company’s website, owners with a 150-litre geyser pay R327 per month while those with 200-litre hot water geysers pay R52 more at R379 per month.
HouseCheck calculates the electricity-fed hot water geyser to cost homeowners R540 per month at a kWh rate of R1,80 and switched on for five hours a day for 30 days. According to industry experts, today’s PV systems produce power at a cost of less than R1 per kWh.
“There are many people who want to own things in their home, yet subscription systems like DStv and cellphone contracts are commonplace,” says Swartz. “Our system is an innovative offering aimed at long-term client support (sadly lacking in our market) along with zero capital requirement and zero ownership risk for the client – all maintenance, repair and insurance is carried by our infrastructure supplier.”
A mixture of investor profiles, largely private investment capital, is helping to fund the project with Swartz saying the solar units are sourced from “some of the largest and most reputable suppliers in South Africa”.
He will not divulge much on how his company is able to offer the service on monthly instalments alone, however.
“This is proprietary information and is the reason that our infrastructure supplier was a 2014 finalist for the international Business|Science annual innovation award and finalist in the 2014 local Innovation Hub awards,” he says, noting that the units are insured by the company’s broker, Unicorn Insurance. “Each system is registered and insured.”
SMM Group SA is specifically targeting the sectional title marketplace, a sector that is especially suited to the product.
“This programme was specifically designed for sectional title developments,” says Swartz. “We also engage with the Home Owners Association (HOA) to develop standards of installation to ensure uniformity, compliance and aesthetic appeal. We assist with specification and rule amendments to this end with HOAs and body corporates.
“Most geysers are compatible with no need to replace the existing unit, though some low-pressure geysers may not be compatible.”
The system boasts convenience of note: hot water during power outages and load shedding, as well as continual hot water without having to fiddle with times or switching on and off geyser breakers.