Eskom’s proposed R16bn smart meter rollout might not be the only solution. What about smart geysers?

Eskom has announced plans to put "smart" metres in homes across the nation in an effort to lessen South Africa's continuing load shedding problems. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/ANA Pics

Eskom has announced plans to put "smart" metres in homes across the nation in an effort to lessen South Africa's continuing load shedding problems. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/ANA Pics

Published Jun 15, 2023


The geyser is the main electricity user in the house, using about 40% of one’s total monthly electricity consumption.

The greatest opportunity for cost savings is with geysers. Although more energy-efficient than ever, buying and installing a new geyser can be expensive, especially if your current geyser is in good condition.

Eskom has announced plans to put “smart” metres in homes across the nation in an effort to lessen South Africa's continuing load shedding problems.

Eskom will be able to remotely monitor and manage South Africans’ geysers with the use of these instruments, according to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, which will lessen the strain on the national grid.

The estimated number of households using the power system is 8 million, or 16% of Eskom’s installed capacity, with daily peak demand reaching up to 35%.

Geysers typically consume 10% less energy than this.

As a result, the power company will be able to disconnect customers that use more electricity than Eskom considers suitable using its R16bn Demand Side Management (DSM) programme.

What exactly is a smart geyser?

According to Heat Tech, a geyser manufacturer, your existing geyser is connected to a smart device that gives you control over and monitoring your geyser’s electricity use as well as 24/7 information on how your geyser is performing.

You can check the amount of electricity your geyser is consuming, the temperature of the water inside it, and most crucially, receive alerts for any electrical problems, pressure changes and water leaks that frequently occur before a geyser explodes, all through an app on your smartphone.

According to Heat Tech’s research, many individuals turn their geysers on and off at the distribution board (DB) in order to save money and energy because a significant amount of electricity is spent heating the water in the geyser continuously.

You no longer need to do this at the DB because of the app. You can program the geyser to heat the water at times that are most convenient for you and your family using the scheduling function.

Unless you require hot water for a longer period of time, you don’t need to think about turning your geyser on or off again once the morning and evening schedules are established.

Another fantastic feature of the app is the ability to remotely turn on and off your geyser.

If you neglected to do this before leaving for that long-awaited holiday, you can do it as you are travelling and ensure that your geyser is not boiling water while you are away. Use the app to remotely turn on the geyser on your way home so you arrive in hot water.

The purpose of this DSM initiative, according to Mark Allewell, CEO and founder of Sensor Networks, a local energy focused smart-home company that produces an innovative smart geyser controller and is also collaborating with geyser manufacturers to produce a stand-alone smart geyser, is to "flatten the curve" of peak consumption and promote positive behaviour change, which, in turn, will alleviate load shedding.

South Africans worry that after installing the Eskom smart meter, the government will be able to turn off their hot water whenever it pleases, taking away their freedom.

Smart geysers return control to your hands

Allewell is adamant that people should be able to self-regulate and that this is the true solution to the issue.

Real-time data is accessible through the smart geyser controller, allowing for well-informed decision-making.

eThekwini Municipality smart meter project is currently being rolled out and hopes to have 350 000 smart meters installed by 2024. File Picture: Screen grab of video

He continues, citing the hundreds of residents who have already placed these smart geysers in their houses, that it allows the homeowner to operate their geyser using an app.

According to an official statement, out of a sample of 5000 of our clients, close to 50% currently actively manage their water heating schedule using the app.

Allewell thinks that if each geyser could be controlled remotely, South Africans could assist “shift” 10% of the load on the grid (ie, meet the peak-time demand for electricity with power generated and stored at a different time of the day). Nearly a million geysers are sold each year.

He notes that smart geyser controllers provide homes with a number of advantages, including a 35% reduction in electricity use and energy costs as well as improved load shedding resilience due to the ability to optimise geyser heating schedules outside of load shedding peak times.

This is crucial since, according to Allewell, a typical South African household’s geyser accounts for roughly 40% of the monthly energy bill, making it the greatest single energy consumer in the home.

The benefits of smart geysers go beyond simple management; they also provide homeowners control by giving them access to information about the health, performance and function of their geyser.

This lowers the risk profile for the homeowner’s insurance by assisting in the monitoring and maintenance of a geyser.

The decreased claims for broken or malfunctioning geysers represents a big victory for insurance firms.

An appeal to the public sector

We need to rely on data to make better-informed judgements rather than just being able to turn off a meter, asserted Allewell.

“The collective savings we may make by deploying premium smart-geyser devices – not just in terms of energy expenses, but also in terms of house insurance – cannot be underestimated at a time when load shedding continues to be a daily reality for all South Africans,” said Allewell.

“Eskom and the government won’t likely need to manage it as much if South Africans can control their own electrical use more quickly.”