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Invest to save

According to an article in RACA (The Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Africa Journal) published on 1 February 2011, the solar water heating industry’s response to the high capital cost of acquiring and installing a solar water heater has been to offer smaller and cheaper units. Although smaller units will still save energy, it will not save on water heating costs. According to Jim Hickey, managing director of Selected Energy, smaller solar water heaters aren't the solution to the high input costs of solar water heaters.

With the uncertainty surrounding electricity price hikes that might stretch over the original three year price increase timeline, as reported by The Daily Maverick, one should invest in the correct solar water heater that will address the household’s needs.

Size matters

The maximum solar water heater size that is available on the South African market is the 300-litre (suitable for a household consisting of four to six people).

When a smaller geyser is installed and the water consumption of a household exceeds the heating capacity of a solar water heater, the water needs to be heated by the geyser’s electrical resistance element. The savings experienced on water heating will therefore not be as significant.

For the past 29 years Selected Energy has installed 20 000 x 300-litre systems. These systems have replaced all the previously used geysers, resulting in an 80% - 90% saving on water heating costs.

Replacing a geyser with a solar water heater of the same capacity does require a significant upfront investment. However, considering the uncertainty surrounding future price hikes in electricity, the return on investment might be far greater than expected. 

Heat pumps vs. solar water geysers

Heat pumps are considered a cheaper alternative to solar water heaters. Although heat pumps aren’t as expensive as solar water heaters, the return on investment and efficiency isn’t as considerable as with solar water heaters.

“Gauteng winters are ideal for solar water heaters with our beautiful clear and high radiation sky. Heat pumps on the other hand struggle to operate efficiently on cold winter days when hot water is most needed,” said Jim Hickey. “Solar water heaters are more expensive than heat pumps, but investing in a Solahart gives one a return that is ten times more than a heat pump.”

Tel: +27 861-SOLAHART (76524278) - Fax: +27 (11) 705 2614 -