Water scarcity is a major challenge in South Africa, with severe water shortages in some areas of the country.  However, for various reasons (for example the free provision of basic quantities of water to connected households), water is not always perceived as a scarce commodity.

 

For example, many people do not realise that a washing machine consumes approximately 100 litres of potable water per load, or that a bath uses four times as much water as a shower. 

 

The smart geyser project was initiated to address these challenges using the influence of another resource – electricity.  By raising awareness about the cost of electricity, it was possible to spread awareness of the cost and quantity of water usage in a household too.

 

The project, which started in April 2016, focused on the remote control of geysers, measuring and managing electricity supply, temperature settings, and water supply.  A smart device, called the "Geasy", is attached to the geyser.  The device analyses consumption patterns, recommends and applies optimised control schedules, gives water and energy costs for each bath or shower taken, and controls the water temperature. It shuts off water supply when a burst is detected.

 

Minute-by-minute information is presented to users in an easily understood format, either online or through a cellphone app.  This gives households remote access to the geyser, allowing people to turn their geyser on and off, or to schedule on and off times. 

 

The app allows people to use only what they need.  If geysers are not on the whole time, electricity is saved.  Over 100 smart geyser devices have been installed to date, of which 77 are used daily.  The average electricity savings per month among participants is about R322.  In addition, four bursts or leaks were reported through the network. 

 

Local plumbers and electricians were trained to install the device on geysers, creating employment opportunities.

 

While the project, which ended in June 2017, was a success, some challenges were noted.  The cellphone signals in Mkhondo are weak, which was initially a setback to the project.  In addition, community members were not all technologically aware, so extensive training was required. 

 

Finally, there was limited uptake of the project.  In spite of a substantial marketing campaign in print and social media, there were initially difficulties in securing enough participants.  It has been suggested that a big event be held to tell people about the technologies and how they can improve their lives.

 

Smart Geyser video

 

Implementing agent

 

Water Research Commission

012 761 9300