THE REALITY OF LOAD SHEDDING

By Dirk Groenewald, Chief Utilities Officer

As we are all aware, South Africa faces many challenges and none more so than securing consistent and reliable electricity from Eskom and our municipalities. State capture, infrastructure demise, poor service delivery and yearly tariff increases are unfortunate realities that we are all dealing with.

What can we do to reduce our electricity bills and survive being without electricity during load shedding?

Here we provide a short summary of the options available on the market – each with its own advantages and disadvantages. That said, we also understand that for the average person on the street, it is not possible to invest in any of these available “load shedding remedies” without significant financial commitments.

Note: If you’re living in a homeowners association, body corporate, block of flats or any other densely populated area, there will be general rules and safety regulations that would have to be adhered to, or permissions requested and granted by relevant authorities.

1. WARM WATER SUPPLY

1.1 Solar Geysers

  • Average household geyser consumption is approximately 30% of the total monthly consumption.
  • Solar geysers reduce the need for electricity to heat water by using the sun’s energy, or a combination  of the sun and electricity.
  • Solar geysers come in different models and water storage abilities.
  • The application and volume of water to be used and/or stored will guide the type of solar geyser  to be used.
  • Cloudy and rainy days directly affect the heating capability of the solar geyser.
  • Solar water storage often requires electricity to drive circulation pumps.
  • Approval from HOA, BC or other relevant authorities is required before installation.
  • Installing a monitoring system on your geyser and adapting the requirement to when water heating is needed can also reduce costs.
  • Keep in mind that the usage of large volumes of warm water at any given time will influence electricity consumption when reheating cold water flowing into the geyser.
  • Leaking geysers and warm water taps should be repaired as soon as possible as these affect electricity consumption and water usage.
  • Geysers use more electricity during autumn and winter to heat the colder incoming water.
  • We often take longer showers and fill the baths up with more warm water during winter. This also increases electricity usage on our geysers.

1.2 Heat Pumps

  • On average, a properly installed and correctly placed heat pump is more efficient than a normal geyser.
  • Models vary from a direct infeed to having water storage with circulation for when the water temperature drops below a set point.
  • Heat pumps require electricity to function (for heating and the water pump).
  • Approval from HOA, BC or other relevant authorities is required before installation.

1.3 Gas Geysers

  • Gas geysers are not dependent on electricity.
  • In most household applications, they are used for direct heating of incoming cold water.
  • Legislative requirements must be adhered to, and the installer needs to be certified.
  • Low risk of geyser bursting.
  • Requirements include gas storage safety, cut-off valves, and ventilation, to name a few.
  • Approval from HOA, BC or other relevant authorities is required before installation.

1.4 Geysers and Timers

  • Average household geyser consumption is approximately 30% of the total monthly consumption.
  • Properly insulated geysers and pipework will help reduce heat loss and additional electricity costs.
  • Geyser blankets on geysers installed on the exterior of a house or living unit will also help keep the water warmer and reduce heat loss.
  • Reducing the geyser thermostat temperature to a comfortable, warm water temperature reduces electricity consumption.

2. ELECTRICITY GENERATION SUPPLY

2.1 GENERATORS

  • The size and capacity of a generator will be determined by equipment and other electrical needs during power interruptions.
  • Automated switch-over functionality can be added to/or included in the generator for when electricity supply disruptions are detected.
  • Safety is of utmost importance, and no electricity should be pushed back into the internal grid past the household with the generator.
  • Notice of generator integration must be clearly displayed on the electrical kiosk and at the unit.
  • Notice of the installation of a generator must be given to the utilities company.
  • Installation should be done by a qualified electrician or installer that will provide a Certificate of Compliance.
  • Modifications will be done on the electrical distribution board of a household or living unit to supply power to essential electrical equipment.
  • Typically, geysers, stoves, heating systems and kettles are excluded from the essential electricity supply, as the amount of electricity consumed at a given time by such devices would damage or overload a small generator.
  • Insurance should also be updated.
  • Sufficient ventilation is required as well as the reduction of noise (which may not be a disturbance to your fellow residents).
  • Rules of the BC/HOA regarding the use of generators must be adhered to.

2.2 SOLAR SYSTEMS

2.2.1 Direct Solar System (Without Battery)

  • Least expensive system with no battery backup or charging.
  • The size of the system will be determined by the client’s needs.
  • An inverter regulates the solar supply into the household or application during the day.
  • Electricity requirements over and above  solar production are drawn from the municipal supply.
  • During load shedding, the direct solar system will also shut down.
  • Safety is of utmost importance, and no electricity should be pushed back into the internal grid past the household.
  • Installation must be done by an accredited installer or supplier that will provide a Certificate of Compliance.
  • Insurance should also be updated.
  • Rules of the BC/HOA with regards to permission for installing solar systems, placing of panels, in-feeding to households and insurance must be adhered to.

2.2.2 Direct Solar Systems With Battery Backup

  • More expensive system.
  • The size of the system will be determined by the client’s needs and preferences.
  • Battery size for backup electricity is also determined by the clients’ specific requirements and needs.
  • An inverter regulates the solar supply into the household or application during the day.
  • Battery backs up electricity supply, preferably to essential equipment or services only.
  • Excluded equipment and services are geysers, stoves, heat pumps, air conditioners and other high-consumption electrical devices.
  • Electrical work is needed on the distribution board to separate essential and non-essential supply to the household.
  • During load shedding or power interruptions, the system will regulate electricity supply from the battery backup in accordance with the setup of the system.
  • Safety is of utmost importance, and no electricity should be pushed back into the internal grid past the household.
  • Installation must be done by an accredited installer or supplier that will issue a Certificate of Compliance.
  • Rules of the BC/HOA with regards to permission for installing solar systems, placing of panels, in-feeding to households and insurance must be adhered to.

2.2.3 Inverter and Battery Backup

  • No solar panels.
  • The size of the system will be determined by the client’s needs and preferences.
  • Battery size for backup electricity is determined by clients’ specific requirements and needs.
  • An inverter regulates and charges the battery backup when there is municipal electricity supply.
  • During load shedding or power interruptions, the inverter will regulate and draw power from the battery backup system to power essential equipment.
  • Once the battery is depleted during an extended period of load shedding or power interruption, the system shuts down.
  • Battery backup electricity supply preferably to essential equipment or services.
  • Excluded equipment and services are geysers, stoves, heat pumps, air conditioners and other high-consumption electrical devices.
  • Electrical work is needed on the distribution board to separate essential and non-essential supply to the household.
  • Installation must be done by an accredited installer or supplier that will issue a Certificate of Compliance.
  • Safety is of utmost importance, and electricity should be pushed back into the internal grid past the household.
  • Depending on the type of inverter installed, a solar panel infeed could later be added to the system.
  • Rules of the BC/HOA with regards to permission for installing solar systems, placing of panels, in-feeding to households and insurance must be adhered to.

The above is a general guideline and will vary depending on your installation. Comparative quotes are advised from different suppliers. Referrals play an important role in deciding which supplier to contract.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How can I purchase pre-paid electricity?

By making use of one of the following:

  • MidCity Utilities App
  • MidCity Utilities Website
  • Internet Banking
  • Unipin vouchers
Where can I buy a Unipin voucher?
  • Unipin vouchers can be purchased at registered retailers, garages and other suppliers.
How do I load a Unipin voucher?
  • When providing your pre-paid meter number to the cashier, the pre-paid purchase will transfer over to the meter automatically.
  • If you do not provide your meter number to the cashier and you receive the voucher slip, you must follow the steps as set out thereon.
  • Make sure you are using the correct meter number.
Where do I get my meter number/meter serial number?
  • After registering with MidCity Utilities for pre-paid electricity, our Customer Care Personnel will SMS you your meter number.
  • When you register for the Mobile App or on our website, you will also be able to see your meter number.
  • Clients who also request to receive monthly statements, even though they are on pre-paid, will be able to see their meter number on their monthly statement.
  • Contact our Customer Care Personnel.
How do I see what my meter balance is?
  • Log in to either our Mobile App or website.
  • SMS the word Balance (space) meter number to 37823. You will receive an SMS with your meter balance and predicted zero balance date.
  • Use your keypad, if you have one.
Will I receive low balance warnings or notifications?
  • Yes. A low balance notification will be sent to the registered cell phone number that is loaded onto our system.
  • The low balance notification will be sent 48 hours before the calculated depletion date.
  • The depletion date received on the low balance notification, Mobile App or website is an estimation and depends on a client’s consumption habits and changes.
How do I know that credit has been loaded?

Mobile App or Website

  • The final step in the process on the Mobile App or website will indicate if the transaction was successful.
  • Transfer of credits to the meter can take approximately 10 minutes after the purchase is completed successfully.
  • On the Mobile App, website or SMS balance enquiry, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to update the effective current balance after a purchase was made.

Internet Banking

  • Confirmation of transaction is provided by your banking service.
  • You will receive an SMS or email with the value of the token as well as the 20-digit code already loaded on your meter.
  • Purchases through Internet Banking can take approximately 30 minutes to transfer over to the meter.
  • On the Mobile App, website or SMS balance enquiry, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to update the effective current balance after a purchase was made.

Unipin voucher

  • After following the process reflected on the voucher with your cell phone, you will receive confirmation and notification on your device.
  • Purchases through Unipin vouchers can take approximately 30 minutes to transfer over to the meter.
  • On the Mobile App, website or SMS balance enquiry, it can take between 30 minutes to an hour to update the effective current balance after a purchase was made.
My token is not loading. What do I do?