- There has just been a massive price increase in the cost of geysers sold in South Africa. Up to 100% in some cases.
- The question is why? It all comes down to new rules relating to allowable heat loss on geysers for heating water, both electric and solar.
- Sadly, while the government may be making an attempt to save energy and contribute to climate change obligations, there is already in place legislation that would save far more energy, if only it was enforced on all new buildings.
Understanding Heat Loss
- Just in the same way as a cup of coffee goes cold over a period of 10 minutes or so, a geyser while insulated loses heat.
- Until very recently almost every geyser sold in South Africa was a Level E efficiency. From September 1st, it is illegal to install any geyser that is not Level B efficiency.
- Level E efficiency means, in simple terms that the geyser was allowed to lose heat over 24 hours, as tested in a controlled environment. In the case of a 150l geyser, (the most common size sold in South Africa), the allowable heat loss was about 2,60 kWh per 24 hours.
- The controlled test was where a geyser was put in a sealed environment at a constant 20°C ambient temperature. The geyser was heated to 60°C and turned off. At the end of 24 hours the temperature of the water was taken. By calculating the difference between the start point and the end point, the amount of kWh’s in energy terms could be calculated. Using the specific heat of water formulae, the allowable loss was about 15°C, or put another way the temperature after 24 hours should be just about 45°C.
- In Europe, almost every geyser sold has a Level C or D heat loss efficiency. But in South Africa Minister Davies of the Department of Trade and Industry in April 2017, went one better stating that all South African geysers should be Level B.
- The heat loss now allowed in 24 hours for a 150l geyser is about 1,36 kWh, or putting that into lost temperature, it means an end point of about 52°C, (rather than 45°C).
The Cost Implications and Financial Benefits
- In the same way, as a cup of hot coffee in an insulated mug will stay hot for longer than in a non-insulated mug, to achieve the new requirements of level E efficiency in geysers, more and better insulation is required.
- But the cost of extra insulation comes at an increase in cost, and has also required retooling and changes in the manufacturing processes to meet the targets. Hence the substantial cost increase in geysers.
- The downside for consumers is that the price of geysers are going up.
- The upside for consumers buying geysers is that they will save money over time.
- Using a round figure of R2,00 per kWh, the Level E efficiency geyser will on the test parameters lose approx. R5,20 per 24 hours.
- In the Level B geyser that financial cost will reduce to approx. R2,72 per 24 hours, or a potential saving of R2,48 per day.
- A few months ago, a Level E 150 litre geyser could be bought for as little as R1,999 (inc VAT). Today a geyser from the same manufacturer of 150l will cost R3,800 (inc VAT) and sometimes more.
- The difference of R1,802 is nearly 100% increase, but the cost from the savings on heat loss is likely to be recovered in about 2 years.
- Over the five year warranty period of the geyser the customer will be better off with Level B than Level E, but at an increase in upfront cost.
Does it Make Sense?
- There are a number of factors to consider. Your conclusion will depend on which side of the argument you prefer.
- Eskom need desperately to sell electricity, so the savings on heat loss will result in less electricity sales for them (who cares?). The flip side of that argument is that for every kWh of energy saved, about 1 kg of carbon is not pumped into the atmosphere, and about 1 litre of water is saved in generating 1 kWh of electricity.
- Increasing the prices of geysers, with about 450,000 sold every year, will add to the inflation rate, already escalating at an uncomfortable rate compared to most of Europe.
- In turn, as approx. 40% of all geysers sold in this country are insurance claims, it will result in increased insurance premiums for all homeowners. (The insurance industry was apparently not consulted about the change before it was implemented).
- South Africa has a far more temperate climate than most of Europe. Heat loss is far quicker in colder climates than in South Africa. Yet insisting on even more rigorous heat loss saving than European standards, results in more increased cost, (Level B is much harder and expensive to attain than Level C or Level D).
- SANS 10400 XA -2 came into law a few years back, and requires that more than 50% of the electricity used in heating water is replaced by energy efficient technology. Solar water heaters are the obvious solution. Yet, new buildings that are required to observe SANS 10400 XA 2 have blatantly ignored the legislation, which if it was enforced would save far more energy than improved heat loss ever will.
- While much of Europe and the USA offer rebates or tax incentives on putting in solar water heaters, in South Africa the government scrapped all incentives a few years back. Rather than adding an additional R400m to the cost of geysers, if the government was serious about saving energy and carbon emissions, it would be far better if this extra expense was used in promoting people to go solar.
- In terms of the new rules and legislation, any geyser including solar geysers that have electrical back up, must comply with Level B efficiency. Industry players are complaining that as the heat loss is being lost from solar energy in solar geysers, rather than electrical energy, they should be exempted.
- But this is South Africa and blanket decisions made by government, without the necessary due consideration and consultation, can result in expensive mistakes, when there are far better options available.
- Pushing up the cost of solar for all, but particularly for the poorer in society just cannot be the interest of a government that purports to be helping those very people.
Does it Make Sense?
- While we will be passing on the increase in the cost of geysers, without any mark up, an improved geyser from a heat loss perspective does make sense. If the overall energy savings including heat loss are higher, then the decision to have to pay a bit more is justified.
- It is just a pity that increasing the number of solar sales would have had far more benefit from an energy perspective, it would have created jobs, it would save more carbon emissions and water, and the costs would have remained less.