Pensioners in SA are using smart technology to reduce their electricity bills

In South Africa, there are an estimated 5.3 million people aged 60 or older, representing just over 9.2% of the overall South African population. These figures offer a sizeable estimate from Stats SA, and indicate that population ageing is taking place in our country, increasing steadily over the last 5 years.

The increase in the proportion of older persons in the population, or population ageing, offers a significant testament to one of the big social changes of the twenty-first century. The increase in the ageing index confirms that our elderly population has been increasing steadily over time, a phenomenon that is evident in most countries across the rest of the globe as well. 

The Ageing Index refers to the number of people aged 60 years (or older) per 100 individuals younger than 15 years in age. The ageing index in South Africa recently increased from 30 in 2017 to 33 in 2022 – confirming that population ageing is taking place in our country with a number of social and environmental implications. Housing, healthcare, and transportation for the elderly in South Africa will require national government’s critical attention in the coming years, as an increasing number of older people will impact how we deliver services and meet the specific needs of this population group.

Understanding this increase in the number of elderly people will be paramount if our government aims to develop appropriate policies, systems, and solutions that work for those who no longer do. Finding meaningful ways to address the cost of living crisis and the way in which it affects our pensioners must remain a top priority.

According to BankServAfrica, our pension system has about 1 million people out of an estimated 5.3 million over the age of 60 receiving private pensions. The government’s old age grants, for which pensioners receive less than R6 510 per month, only covers 3.566 million people. BankServAfrica believes that the overlap between the two groups could mean that as many as 200 000 pension-age people are receiving no income at all. While they could not verify this estimate, other reports suggest that up to 4% of old age pensioners had to engage in survival-oriented business activities in 2023. 

So what does this tell us? Being a pensioner in South Africa is hard. 

That being said, South African pensioners have the same resilient, can-do attitude as the rest of our population, and they are turning to smart technological solutions to secure significant cost savings on their monthly electricity bills while simultaneously decreasing costly water damage claims from their insurers. 

A recent survey conducted by analysts at a local communications agency revealed that pensioners were saving up to 40% on their monthly electricity bills by using smart geyser devices. These clever little devices are installed on household geysers, providing pensioners with the ability to remotely turn their geysers on – and off – with a scheduled daily timer that ensures they always have enough hot water without having the geyser on the whole day.

The same device is being used by pensioners to remotely detect any leaks before their geysers burst. The devices are linked to an app on their phones, providing them with instantaneous notifications regarding any geyser malfunction, preventing further water damage and costly insurance claims.

Danie (67) is based in Tshwane and says he would recommend that pensioners install smart geyser devices to save money. In the survey, he confirmed that in previous years, a burst geyser resulted in extensive damage to the infrastructure and belongings in his home after his entire ceiling collapsed. He was devastated—furniture, appliances, walls, paintings—everything needed to be replaced. It was an exceptionally overwhelming ordeal that cost him significantly. 

A smart geyser device can automatically turn off the element or shut off the geyser’s water supply in the case of a blown element or water detection. This feature can significantly limit the amount of damage caused to people’s businesses and homes as a result of geyser failure. When the system detects a leak, it automatically sends a message to your phone to inform you. Pensioners are not the only ones that have found immense value in this feature; home insurers are also advocating for its application and are willing to offer incentives to those who opt to use them. 

In fact, home insurance has already taken a technological leap forward with the launch of a new zero-excess smart-geyser policy for homeowner’s insurance cover (HOC) for those that have installed a Nedbank smart geyser device. Policyholders pay no excess fees associated with claims for water damage caused by burst or leaking geysers, if they have a smart geyser device installed at home. 

Nedbank Insurance was able to make this possible by partnering with a local smart-home platform to install smart-geyser devices in the homes of thousands of HOC policyholders across South Africa. Over the past 2 years, they’ve seen a 90% reduction in claims, with policy holders confirming that they saved up to 30% on their monthly electricity bill as well.

Another pensioner from the survey added that his electricity bill in summer is close to zero – because he can integrate the smart geyser device with his solar system. He stated that he only turns his geyser on for up to 1.5 hours a day, and they have never had an issue providing their household and its guests with plenty of hot water. He also confirmed that in the past, he had forgotten to turn off his geyser before leaving for vacation and was grateful for the fact that he could use smart technology to remotely turn it off while he was away. This helped him secure significant cost savings while decreasing the load on Eskom effectively.  

As we inch closer to the State of the Nation Address and Budget Speech next month, we would be well-advised to encourage the Department of Public Enterprises and Energy to allocate funding to smart technological solutions that will decrease the rate of loadshedding while improving the quality of life of pensioners in our country. In fact, all South Africans with an electric geyser should have a state-sponsored smart geyser device to optimize our collective energy usage and savings. 

With electricity prices set to rise once again in April 2024, government should prioritise its spending in a manner that protects the most vulnerable members of our society from the rising cost of living in our country. Thankfully, smart geyser devices offer low-hanging fruit by saving pensioners on their monthly electricity bills, decreasing costly insurance claims, and maximising energy efficiency to decrease the load on our national grid.

Originally published by Business Report via IOL

Image by freepik