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Turning off your geyser the right way

CAPE TOWN 260108: Solar heating and skylights help cut lighting and geyser bills. Leonard Gardner, built their first solar water heater – it lasted 20 years, and the new one should do too PICTURE: SUPPLIED

CAPE TOWN 260108: Solar heating and skylights help cut lighting and geyser bills. Leonard Gardner, built their first solar water heater – it lasted 20 years, and the new one should do too PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Published Jul 9, 2013

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Durban - Many consumers are heeding Eskom’s call and switching off geysers to save electricity and money, but there has been some concern about the effect on the longevity of a geyser.

Although there is debate as to whether constantly switching a geyser on and off manually will wear out the circuit breaker, the general consensus is that geysers will not be damaged by doing this.

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Geysers account for a large portion of electricity consumption, with estimates ranging from 39 to 50 percent of a household’s monthly bill.

Eskom’s energy saving campaign states that switching off 5.4 million geysers during peak hours (6am to 9am and 5pm to 9pm) frees up enough electricity to power Durban, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein for the day.

Roy Wienand, deputy head of the municipality’s electricity department, said it was critical to ensure the geyser was switched off at the right time to ensure money was saved.

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“If you’re going to bath at 6pm, the geyser should be switched on an hour before, or an hour-and-a-half in winter, depending on the size of the geyser, and turned off while you bath. If you bath while the geyser is on, the cold water filling the geyser is then heated and not used, so this energy is wasted. It’s like boiling the kettle after you’ve made tea,” said Wienand.

Geysers can be switched off manually. However, this isn’t necessarily the best option.

Rui de Almeida, owner of Power Saver Services, said manually switching geysers on and off every day can affect circuit breakers.

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“Circuit breakers are designed to switch off if the circuit is overloaded. They are not designed to switch on and off daily.”

De Almeida said geyser timers did not affect the circuit breaker and could be programmed to suit individual households.

They can also be manually overridden if needed.

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“If you have good habits and don’t waste hot water, you can do with a geyser being switched on for four hours a day.”

He estimated households would save between R250 and R300 a month on electricity.

Kevin Flack, customer services manager from the CBI electric group, a manufacturer of industrial goods, said circuit breakers could be manually controlled, but suggested timers were a better option.

“In the past we’d switch geysers off only on holidays, now it’s daily. Although the circuit breakers have about 4 000 to 6 000 operational ‘on/offs’ using it daily could wear the circuit breaker quicker. We’ve seen a huge increase in the sale of geyser timers in the past year and they’re also convenient.”

Flack said he’d heard of incidents where people claimed geysers had stopped working because of the daily on/off switching, however he said there was no electrical or technical reason that would cause damage, but that it was more likely the quality of the geysers was questionable.

Water quality and geyser material could determine the lifespan of a geyser, according to manufacturers, Geyser Allied Products HR manager, Robert de Roubaix.

“The quality of the material and the valves can affect how long the geyser lasts. You can have two geysers made at the same time and one will last 10 to 15 years and the other only three years.”

De Roubaix said although copper was favoured in years gone by, copper geysers are a lot heavier and more expensive than today’s steel varieties.

“Water quality will also affect the anode because it takes impurities out of the water.”

The function of an anode is to give additional protection to your geyser. An anode basically sacrifices itself in order to protect your geyser.

He recommended replacing anodes and having the geysers checked every two years.

Setting the thermostat at 60 degrees to 65 degrees was also recommended. “I switch off my geyser and only switch it on between 3pm and 6pm. I have seen a reduction in the electricity bill from about R860 decreasing to R580 or R620. You won’t see an improvement in the first couple of months, but from about three to six months the bill goes down.”

Another option suggested by Eskom and eThekwini municipality was the installation of solar water heaters. The municipality encourages residents to install solar geysers to save up to 30 percent on the electricity bill.

According to information provided by Eskom, solar geysers can retain heat for prolonged periods of time without sunlight.

Other suggestions are insulating water pipes and wrapping geysers in a geyser blanket.

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