I didn’t even have to climb a ladder
If you’re tired of Eskom taking your money, I have good news. The national electricity company want to give you a gift worth at least R10 0000.
The gift is in the form of LED downlights, and these freebies are already lighting up my house—and saving electricity. If you have halogen downlights in your ceiling, or tracklights that use the small halogen reflectors, and if you live in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban or Port Elizabeth, this present is for you.
Until this week, when I wrote about the program for the Mail and Guardian, Eskom’s Residential Mass Rollout was actually a well-kept secret, marketed quietly to avoid long waiting lists. That is changing rapidly, however, so if you want these bulbs in a hurry, I suggest you sign up right away. Tell your friends about it only after you’re already in the queue.
For this year, Karebo is the only service provider, and will keep installing until they run out of approximately 1.7 million LEDs. From next year, Eskom promises to expand the rollout and enlist more installers as partners.
If you are interested, here are the steps:
1. Count how many downlight bulbs you can use. The maximum number you can get for free is forty. Note separately how many of those bulbs are on dimmers.
2. Consider whether you would also like free CFL bulbs, low-flow shower heads, a pool timer or geyser timer. (More about those below.)
3. Go to www.karebo.co.za and click on “sign up” in the box that should pop up in the upper-left corner of the screen
4. Fill in your details.
5. Make a deposit if you are paying extra for dimmable bulbs. (More on that below.)
6. Wait a week or two to be contacted for an installation appointment.
And here’s what you will get:
LEDs: These are top-of-the-line, warm-white, Philips bulbs rated at the same light output as 50 watt halogen downlights. They would retail for R250 to R300—if you could find them. The LEDs come in four flavours. The mains voltage, non-dimmable bulb has the lowest consumption, just 5.5 watts. That’s barely 10 percent of the 50 watt bulb it replaces. It also has the longest lifetime: 40,000 hours. They carry a three-year warranty, but I’ll consider myself lucky if I outlive these bulbs. The mains voltage, dimmable bulb is the same, except that it uses 6 watts and costs R25 extra. (For a bulb worth more than R250, it’s a steal.)
The low-voltage, non-dimmable bulb uses 7 watts, and is rated for 30,000 hours. The dimmable low voltage LED uses 10 watts. In addition, the low-voltage transformer draws some power, again proving that low-voltage is not the same as low wattage. The low-voltage LEDs not only draw slightly more power and have shorter lifespans, but they also bear the risk that a small number of transformers are incompatible with them.
Three years ago, Greenerhouse predicted that the best way to prepare for the LED revolution was to only install mains-voltage downlights. Unfortunately, I put the lights in my ceiling before I knew that. So to get the very best free LEDs, I ripped out my transformers in advance of the installers’ arrival and rewired the fixtures using R30 kits that I bought from Lighting Warehouse. (Radiant brand, models HG10 or HG11) But I’m hard-core, deep-green. If you have low-voltage lights and don’t want to fuss, get the low-voltage LEDs. I didn’t succeed in removing two of my transformers, and the two low-voltage LEDs I installed work perfectly.
Dimmers can also raise compatibility issues. Of the three dimmers in my house, two—Clipsal 2000 series—are working flawlessly with the new LEDs. One is not. At various points in the rotation, the lights will flicker and even go out. For now, I’ve learned how to position the dial so that the lights work as they should, but Karebo offers a R250 dimmer for the LEDs, and I plan to purchase one.
One final limitation: Eskom only wants working, 50 watts halogen globes. For years I have paid extra for the most efficient halogens, 20 and 35 watt IRC, energy-saving bulbs. Even if I had kept all of my old low-voltage sockets, I would have had to buy 40 new bulbs, just have to have Eskom destroy them. Buying new bulbs for no purpose other than to have them crushed felt like the most wasteful thing I’ve done all year. But in the end it has saved a lot of electricity.
CFLs: Eskom has been offering free CFLs for years, but if you missed the opportunity last time, these globes will cut your electricity consumption in fixtures that use ordinary screw or bayonet bulbs. Karebo will install a maximum of twenty.
Shower heads: I already have a low-flow shower head that I love , so I didn’t accept this gift. Karebo claims that this shower head is used in some five-star hotels. I have spoken to one homeowner who years ago removed low-flow shower roses from his home because during his showers he had to “run around chasing drips of water.” This same fussy person is very happy with the low-flow heads Karebo recently installed for him. Karebo does admit, however, that a few customers have asked for their old shower heads back. As with the lights, the installers have to keep the originals to prove to Eskom that they did their job, but, amazingly, they keep track of each shower head for a period of time in case customers want Karebo to reinstall them.
Geyser Timer: Again, I’m happy with my Geyserwise, so I said “no, thank you.” Eskom may soon insist on installing geyser timers for those who want free LEDs and do not already have their own geyser timer or solar hot water system. The timers are installed on your DB board and have four pre-programmed settings, all of which keep the geyser off during Eskom’s peak times: 6 to 8 in the mornings and evenings. This is definitely good for the country and good for Eskom. It plays a part in reducing the risk of load shedding. But is it also good for your electricity bill? Well, if you only use hot water at limited times of the day, a timer could save some electricity by keeping the geyser off while you are at work. And if Eskom carries through with its promise to charge varying rates according to the time of day, the timer could one day save you significantly more.
Pool timer: The intention here again is to keep your pump off during peak hours. Otherwise, it has only a few advantages over ordinary timers. It knows to reset the time after a power outage, for example. Karebo’s managing director says that the main opportunity for savings is that the installers will calculate for you the optimum running time for your pool and pump size. Since most people run their pumps for too long, these savings could be significant.
And the end result? Nearly every room in my house is filled with warm, beautiful, bright light. No one in my family has made a single complaint about the quality of the light. And I still marvel at the fact that my TV room is lit up by a mere 11 watts and one rather large bathroom by 27 watts. My electricity consumption, which I check almost daily, has been 12 kilowatt hours or less for 11 of the last 20 days, something that has never happened before. I would estimate that my savings now in the summer are at least 3 kilowatt hours a day, which should cut my monthly utility bill by at least R100. The savings will be much greater in the dark of winter. And the cost-benefit analysis has never been simpler: all benefit, no cost.