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Alternative hot-water source for low-income homes

12th November 2010

By: Christy van der Merwe

  

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There has been much focus on the roll-out of solar water heaters to deliver the benefits of hot water to those living in low-income households. However, entrepreneur Quintus Jordaan urges decision-makers not to lose sight of other solutions that could yield benefits for these sectors.

Jordaan’s company, CBS, has developed and patented a paraffin geyser which provides affordable energy to generate hot water in lower-income communities.

The geyser is a ‘tankless’ in-line geyser, which heats water up to about 60 °C in less than 60 seconds – as tested by Eskom – and provides a constant flow of hot water for as long as required, explains Jordaan.

When hot water is no longer required, the in-line geyser is switched off, which makes it energy efficient and economical, he adds.

Jordaan says that the hot-water system offered by CBS will benefit both Eskom and government enormously, as it is less capital intensive than extending an electricity network, and the running costs are affordable for those in the low-income category.

“A family of four can now have hot water for as little as R60 a month,” he adds.

Jordaan insists that paraffin for the low-income market is a better option than solar water heaters (SWHs), for a number of reasons.

Firstly, good-quality SWHs are relatively expensive – usually between R15 000 and R30 000 for an approved Eskom unit. “The cost of subsidising a SWH is enormous for the taxpayer, particularly considering that the cost of constructing a Reconstruction and Development Programme house is about R46 000,” adds Jordaan.

Secondly, Jordaan states that SWHs are also more expensive to install, as skilled and expensive labour is required.

He also questions the efficiency of SWHs, and notes that they usually only have a life span of between seven and ten years. Jordaan maintains that the paraffin geyser is a simple and durable product that will outlast a solar geyser, as the CBS geyser is robust and has no wearing parts.

“At R1 650 a unit, it is the most affordable geyser on the market, is easy to install and requires no maintenance, other than needing to be cleaned with a brush once every two to three months,” says Jordaan.

The wicks used with the paraffin geyser are said to last for up to three years and new wicks can easily be bought for about R20 from paraffin suppliers.
Paraffin is commonly used by low-income communities, and implementation of the paraffin geyser would be a fairly easy exercise, says Jordaan. Addressing safety fears, Jordaan notes that it is a completely safe product to use as it is bolted to the wall and cannot fall over and create a fire hazard.

“The paraffin geyser does not pose a serious environmental threat because it is only switched on when hot water is required, and then only for limited periods. Burning coal to supply electricity to three-million or four-million homes with energy is far more damaging to our environment than three- million or four-million paraffin geysers operating for 1 h/d. Paraffin is also known to be fairly green, in the sense that it has a 98% clean burning factor,” explains Jordaan.
Consultations have been held with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) about their requirements, and the production line has been set up accordingly. “The prototype to be lodged for SABS approval is due to arrive soon,” says Jordaan.

One-million solar geysers would cost about R15-billion, while installing one-million paraffin geysers would cost R1,65-billion, maintains Jordaan.

The paraffin geyser originated from a request by a civil engineer and major low-cost housing developer, who tasked CBS with finding an affordable solution to provide hot water for the low-cost housing market.

Jordaan further explains that CBS offers a package solution for low-income homes, which includes a solar lighting unit, with a small solar panel with a battery, which supports four light emitting diode lights for up to eight hours, as well as the paraffin geyser.

The solar unit includes a charger for a variety of cellphones and will provide suitable lighting for houses without electricity. The cost of such a unit is less than R600, which Jordaan says makes it inexpensive to replace, if necessary.

“At a total cost of R2 250 a unit, houses can be equipped with hot water and electrical light- ing, thus improving the living conditions of [low-income earners],” concludes Jordaan.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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