Pay for your Solar Water Heater the Painless Way

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Instead of laying out large capital sums to purchase high pressure solar water heaters, Cape Town residents will soon be able to pay for these via their consolidated rate bills. Individual households will be able to select a re-payment period best suited to their monthly income, also coinciding with the City’s vision for long term environmental sustainability, where over time the cost of electricity savings will exceed that of purchasing a unit.

If the City of Cape Town’s plan to install high pressure solar water heaters to replace existing conventional electrical geysers goes ahead by 2013, Cape Town residents will be saving electricity as well as avoid the initial capital outlay of large amounts for this purpose. Instead, those consumers keen on joining the City’s environmental sustainability program in its efforts to conserve energy by reducing domestic electricity usage, will benefit from the luxury of paying it directly to the City on a monthly basis.

In July the City of Cape Town issued a Request for Proposals from service providers for a solar water heater roll-out to households as part of a five to seven year plan. In line with the city’s commitment to a reduced carbon footprint, the intention is to relieve pressure on the national electricity supply, support local economic development through job creation, and provide cost savings for households faced with increased electricity costs.

Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environment and Spatial Planning says the city’s intention is for appointed service providers to provide high pressure solar water heaters to replace existing conventional electrical geysers in Cape Town households. She says from a cost perspective to consumers, replacing a conventional electric geyser with high pressure systems is currently around R20 000.

This system has an electric element and provides the equivalent hot water service of a conventional electric geyser, except that it replaces some of the electricity by using solar energy. If monitored on a seasonal basis, and by introducing saving mechanisms such as timers, optimum savings are possible. Low pressure systems currently cost around R4 000, are not fitted with electric elements and usually serve households in the absence of conventional electric geysers.

Walker said: “There would be no upfront payment, and households would typically pay less for units than their associated savings on electricity, for not heating water in electric geysers.” She says that households can select pay back periods to suit circumstances, such as retirees with more disposable income than young families whose cash flow is limited. Walker says the City is committed to service providers that can prove quality, dependability and reliability in product and service delivery, warranty and maintenance.

Mr Peter Haylett, Chairman of the Cape Chamber of Business Industrial Focus Portfolio Committee said: “The mass roll-out of solar water heaters will actually cost the city some of their income from electricity sales, but there is no doubt that it will benefit us all in the long term.” He said this imaginative scheme sets an example for the rest of the country, and the introduction of similar schemes nationally would be welcomed.

In view of consumers possibly seeing future increases rather than decreases in national grid tariffs, the city’s new high pressure solar water heater solution will provide immediate relief through savings, as well as long term savings once SWH’s had been paid off.

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