If you are considering whether to install a solar water heater, you might want to move fast. Eskom’s rebate programme has been extended to cover solar systems installed by the end of April 2015 as long as applications are submitted by the end of May. The rebates can reduce the up-front costs of a solar water heater by up to R11,000.
This isn’t necessarily the end of solar rebates. A plan was in place to shift the responsibility for the rebates from Eskom to the Department of Energy. The extension is a stopgap measure because it appeared that the DOE was not ready to launch its rebates, and the prospect of halting incentives at a time when the grid needs all the help it can get was exactly the wrong message to be sending. The DOE has not made public all of the details of its rebate programme, but has warned that it will place a heavy emphasis on requirements for South African manufacturing content. If you can afford to install now, at least the rules are public and the rebates well-established. Better the devil you know . . .
In this era of load-shedding, there is an extra consideration to take into account when deciding on a solar system. The most efficient solar water heaters use a circulation pump between the panels and tanks, but when the electricity is off, not only does the water stop heating, but the panels can overheat. So opt for either a thermosiphon system, which needs no pump, or a pumped system that is powered by solar cells. Some hot water panels are even sold with a miniature photovoltaic panel built in to run the pump.
To help you get started, read the Guide to Solar Hot Water that I wrote for the My Green Home website.
Finally, Eskom has extended the rebate but not their solar hotline. Direct any questions to the ordinary customer service line 08600 ESKOM.