Slow uptake for solar geysers. I’m not surprised.

Posted by Laura Grant on August 22, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

South Africans need incentives to replace their electric water heaters with solar water heaters because the conversion process isn’t going well, Dorothy Mahlangu of the Gauteng local government said at the Green Building Expo in Midrand this week. [Engineering News] Why am I not surprised? Last October when my electric geyser broke, I wanted to replace it with a solar geyser, but I didn’t and here’s why.

My insurance would only pay out about R4,500 to replace my geyser (because that is what it cost for a replacement electric geyser). I asked a plumber to recommend a solar geyser company – having heard that not all solar geysers are equal – this was before Eskom published its list of approved suppliers. I was told a new solar geyser, plus installation etc, would cost in the region of R18,000.

So, let’s just assume that I would have got a R3,000 consumer rebate from Eskom (which I suspect may be on the generous side), add to that the R4,500 from my insurance, and I would have been left needing R10,500 to pay for a new solar geyser. But I would have had to apply for the rebate after I’d paid for the geyser, so I would, in fact, have needed to have R13,500 handy. Compare that with getting a new electric geyser installed for basically no extra cash except the insurance excess, which I think was less than R1,000. Guess which option I chose?

I still would like a solar geyser, but I just can’t afford it.


16 Responses to “Slow uptake for solar geysers. I’m not surprised.”

  1. gmk
    August 22nd, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

    Agreed, i also investigated this as an option and encountered much the same thing, the reality is its way to expensive.

  2. Jacques Bands
    September 5th, 2008 @ 5:16 am

    I know of someone in Pretoria who can install a solar geyser for R9000. Most of the people on Eskom’s list is from R14000 and upwards. They are not SABS approved yet, but they are using the same technology that these approved suppliers are using.

    Feel free to contact me at jacques.bands at gmail dot com if you need one 🙂

  3. Haldane Cunningham
    September 10th, 2008 @ 7:01 am

    We have a Solar water heating Company and have same problem. This is exactly the reason that the sales of these solar units are so slow. An example, every supplier in the Country is using the same pumps in their systems, yet everyone has to get a Letter of Authority (LOA) from SABS for the same pump and each time it costs about R1060 and these LOA needs to be renewed.
    We also cannot understand why it costs such a large amount of money to have a geyser passed by SABS (R72K) for a unit that has been manufactured, passed and sold world wide for the passed 20 years or more. It is not as if solar hot water systems are new to the world as they have been used successfully across the world for many years, but has only reached SA now that there is an energy crisis. All of this uncertainty has led to the absolute terror of the plumbers, who appear to be scared away with this system Why I do not know.

  4. Weekend Dad
    September 10th, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

    The price of all types of cylinder geysers have not been kind to average joe like me who, like most South Africans nowadays are also struggling with the added electrical and rates prices increasing. I ended up going back to basics. I purchased a 2 MiniGezas at R300 each (ISO9001 approved), which is essentially an oversized element that’s just dropped into two 20litre drum each, for 20 minutes costing me R4.00’s electricity. So I empty the 30 litres water into my bath tub, leaving 10 litres on hand to rinse me when done. Safe, cheap, on-demand hot water. Did I mention its so portable it fits in my bakkie’s glove box when I go on caravan trips?

  5. Ian
    January 28th, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

    The policy makers in this country live in a dream world. For as long as a Solar geyser costs two times plus (2 ) more than an Electric geyser, no one is ging to waste his time in searching for one. Lets take, for instance, a person who stays in Soweto and wishes to acquire an electric geysers because he/she is fedup with boilig water on the stove/kettle every morning for his/her family needs. How do you convince this person to spend R9000 instead of R4000 . The answer is no thanks, go and build power stations and stop hiding behind environmental concerns & renewable energy stories. If you want to reduce the carbon footprint, invest in nuclear energy. As they say, the idea is theoretically pleasing but of no practical significance.

    Even more interesting, Eskom is building coal fired power stations (talk about reducing carbon footprint by building to increase it) at a cost of R342billion. This money has been borrowed and thus must be repaid by selling the enery that these power stations generate. If there is no one to use this energy, how is Eskom going to pay this money back (by sucking dry the few that use electricity with ridiculous price increases).

    I comletely agree with Laura Grant above and she has done the right thing. The solar geyser must be at the same price level as the electric geyser if there is any hope of it being bought by any person who knows the difference between R9000 and R4000. Ask yourself one thing : how many Ministers,Deputy Ministers,Municipal Managers,Mayors,Councillors, Chiefs,Director Generals and Deputies have converted their electric geysers to solar geysers ? I bet you, those that have done it have used the taxpayers money because they, themselves, cannot afford the financial implication of their own policy proposals. Ridiculous, ridiculous……..!

  6. Antoinette
    March 13th, 2009 @ 10:31 am

    In repsonse to the above comments, I would just like to HIGHLIGHT the fact that a solar geysers cuts a households electricity bill by up to 50% per month.

    This is a huge saving in the long run. Within three years you have made back the money on the geyser and from then on are saving R 100’s per month.

    Secondly, the average lifespan of an electric geyser is 5 years whereas average lifespan on solar geyser is 20 years so by replacing your geyser every five years you are spending double that cost over twenty years, as well as missing out on the monthly savings that come with solar geysers.

    So in short, with the economic situation that most people find themselves in, what better way to go then to start saving half your electricity bill per month thus saving thousands over the next few years.

    What a PLEASURE!!!

  7. Laura Grant
    March 13th, 2009 @ 11:06 am

    Hi Antoinette.
    Thanks for highlighting the benefits of solar geysers. It’s for the reasons you list (and the obvious environmental benefits) that I would love to install a solar geyser in my home. In fact, I think every building in South Africa should be heating water with the sun. With the amount of sunshine we get in this country it’s crazy not to convert to solar.

    It’s just that replacing an electric geyser with a solar water heating system is expensive and information about the options for home owners is hard to come by. For example, it was only when someone wrote to me in response to an article I’d written in a daily newspaper last year that I discovered that I could convert my existing electric geysers (my house has two) to solar for less that a total replacement would cost.

    How about if, when your electric geyser bursts and you phone your insurance company, it offers you the option of a replacement electric OR a solar heated one, instead of only the cheapest option (ie, electric)? What if the person at the insurance company’s call centre could explain the solar option to you, or at least put you in touch with someone who could? What if the insurance companies could send a solar installer round to your house with a new geyser within 24 hours after your geyser bursts, like they can when your electric geyser bursts? What if there was an option to pay for the bit extra to install a solar geyser by having it added to your bond or paying it off in installments?

    I don’t think enough is being done to provide incentives for South Africans to install solar geysers.

  8. Ian
    March 15th, 2009 @ 6:27 am

    I am not sure if Antoinette has done her calculations properly. The 50% saving in your electricity bill resurfaces as an increase in your household insurance premium. You must remember that your household has a R16000 gadget sitting high up in the roof and is exposed to storms etc. Even more interesting, from an insurance point of view, is that solar theft is big business in latin america, california and africa. The very people who install your solar geyser are gonna come back and rip it off to sell in the townships for R2000-. This is how its done in Brazil : your maid lets them know that you will be away for the weekend. They come,rip it off and sell it for a song. When you come back, you are met up with water leaking from your roof into your expensive sofa/bedroom/floor rug etc. Even more infuriating, you have no hot water, no geyser and trust me, you will never want to see a solar geyser. Forget about the environmental benefits (if they were that serious about environmental degradation, they’d be building nuclear. Of course they are not stupid. The capital cost of nuclear is about double that of coal fuel yet for you and me the cost of solar should not be an issue even though its thrice of the electric geyser).You’d be naive to think that the insurance companies are not aware of the huge risk associated with solar geysers. Besides, when the new power stations come on line in 4 years time, Eskom will not be the least bothered about whether you have a solar or electric geyser. They will have achieved their objective and, infact, will want energy consumption stepped up by you and me so that they can repay the R342 billion spent at Medupi and others. Many solar companies will close shop and you will not have spares for your solar device. Remember the people with cars, right here in South Africa, for which there is no spares or dealers. Don’t get me wrong, I like solar, but the total cost of ownership is way beyond the affordability levels of most households. Would be interesting to get other views on this top.

  9. Leonard
    September 12th, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

    Eskom is giving a R2,000 rebate on a R20,000 Solar water geyser installation, which removes 3kW off there grid. They are also building two new power stations, one of which will generate 42 000MW costing R38Billion.

    Now consider this!

    1. 1.4 Million 3kW geysers will draw the output of this station.
    2. It would cost R28Billion to purchase 1.4 Million equivalent 3kW Solar geysers
    3. The Power station costs in the region of R38 Billion.
    4. Eskom could pay for all the these solar geyser systems and thereby build a virtual power station, thereby solving their alleged current power crises.
    5. Just as many job, perhaps even more, would be created in the process.

    It would be one of the greenest in the world, However Eskom is a state owned company and the state is not in the business of advancing the economy, technology or it’s people for that matter!

  10. Bertus
    October 2nd, 2009 @ 12:38 pm


    What about preheating systems that increases the water temperature before it enters a normal geyser? why do we not see more of them and are they so expensive? I realize they can have the opposite effect in winter but we have more warm days in South Africa than we do cold.

  11. GEOFF
    October 23rd, 2009 @ 10:25 am


    I have been toying with the idea of replacing my 3 *150l geysers with solar.Last month September after recieving an exhorbitant electricy bill, i took the plunge and installed a solar geyser.In 1 month it slashed R500 of my electricity bill ,definately worth every cent. Fair enough it wasn’t the cheapest purchase i have made (R33000 – Eskom rebate R5000).There are many solar suppliers out there,my word of advice is to go with a well known brand. After much research i opted for the Solahart system -Australian product, which has been manufacturing solar geysers for the last 50 years.DO NOT GO CHEAP IT WILL COST YOU MORE IN THE LONG RUN!!!!!!!

  12. Kevin
    October 25th, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    I started looking at solar geysers last year already. I am finally taking the plunge and have decided to go with the vacuated tube concept. This can be added to your existing system on its own or with a geyser attached. Seems to be the most advanced technology around currently – from Daimler-Benz Aerospace. It has been used extensively in Europe and Canada.

  13. Kevin
    October 25th, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

    By the way Ian, the solar geyser will not be classified as “contents of house” but as part of the fixed assets. As a result the insurance will be carried by the bond holder. The paymens as a result will only be fractionally affected by the investment. Also any savings being made on the electicity bill can then be payed in on the bond, thus reducing your term!!

  14. brigs
    November 23rd, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

    Clearly this is something you have not thought though all the way, for starters while your price for solar conversion is correct as is your eskom rebate, you are forgetting the major point, YOU WILL NOT BE PAYING APPROXIMATELY 40% OF YOUR ELECTRICITY BILL. For the rest of your geysers existence!!! So even in my modest household flat of that’s R80 / month say 4 years from now i’d have payed it off. and my bill is tiny by comparision to some households.

  15. John Hardie
    November 30th, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    I am a plumber in the Overberg area and agree with the idea of preheating the water before it enters the cylinder. This can be done very simply and cheaply. Buy 300m of 22 mm black class 6 plastic pipe. Connect this between your geyser and supply. Lay the coils evenly on a piece of roof that gets sun most of the day. It works and will cost you little, and save you a bomb!

  16. Marius
    January 9th, 2010 @ 8:51 am

    Good Day
    I’ve reading so many comments /views etc. Thought I’ll add this. I think Escom(Goverment) is the clever one here.
    I personally think this whole “power thing” is a gimmick. First they create the “blackout” nightmare, the result, everyone import/buys generators,ups’s etc. Goverment made billions on import duties,fuel taxes ect. not lifting a finger, ok I think I got that wrong, they actaully did use a finger now and again, to flip a switch or two. Then blackouts gone. Everyting quiets down for a few months.Now they start again by letting us now in a professional way that they are going to increase the price of electricity. All they are doing is to collect additional funds from you and me. In return they offer us a rebate on the installation of a solar geyser. Actually all they are doing is giving back a small % of the impossed increase. Know that’s what I call business sense.

Leave a Reply