Alternative power sources pay off in the long run

Friday, November 27, 2009

With soaring electricity prices making many South Africans cringe, people could soon switch to alternative power in their homes, writes Neo Semono.

While going green and installing alternative power can be a costly exercise, in the long run, it can be beneficial for your already depleted pocket.

Many local and international celebrities and philanthropists have heeded the call to go green and with documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth by former US Presidential candidate, Al Gore, painting a grim picture of the effects of carbon emissions, many South Africans have opened up to the option of installing solar water heating and switching to gas stoves.

Installing solar panels for water heating would cost between R16 000 for a 200 litre geyser and R22 000 for a 300 litre geyser, according to one green energy company.

To install this, one would need to change from the conventional geyser to a solar powered one, which only takes about a day. Once the geyser has been installed, a flat plate is then put on the home's roof that will then absorb sunlight.

To ensure efficiency, the plate should face northwards to optimise sunlight.

"The moment one replaces the conventional geyser with a solar powered one, immediate results will be seen. This enables consumers to reduce their electricity consumption by between 30 to 40 percent," says Yoram Gur-Arie, managing director at solar heating company Suntank.

In addition to solar water heating, households can convert to cooking by gas.

While purchasing a gas stove will set you back between R4 500 and R9 000, a gas cylinder also needs to be installed near the stove, pushing the price up to R18 000 and R22 000.

According to Funki Gas cc and Noble Energi, a company that installs gas as well as solar power energy, the maintenance of both forms of energy is minimal. It also said that the installation of such mechanisms can result in an immediate drop in electricity consumption.

Both companies agree that using alternative energy is extremely safe.

"With gas technology the risks are the same as with regular electricity. However, installation must be done properly and conducted by certified people," say the companies.

A less pricey way to save energy in the home is to make use of energy efficient light bulbs (LED bulbs). Although a lot more costly than regular bulbs, they use less electricity and last longer.

South Africans are facing the real possibility of a tariff hike in the electricity price next year if the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) grants Eskom its request.

Alternative forms of energy such as this can offer consumers relief from a looming hike.

Gur-Arie said that while there are options out there, South Africans were reluctant to install different kinds of energy.

"The attitude has been that people had been indifferent, but now with the likelihood that electricity prices are going to go up, the level of interest in alternative energy sources is rising in both business and residential customers," he says.