Load shedding is once again an inconvenient reality across South Africa, and unreliable power supply looks set to be part of our home and work lives at least for the short to medium term.
Mandy Barrett, of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa offers some savvy advice to minimise the impact on your lifestyle, safety and assets. “If you are heading off for the holidays, make sure that an extended power outage or surge at home does not compromise your security in any way,” says Mandy.
Aon offers some valuable tips to help you cope with load shedding and minimise the disruptions:
- Check that the battery back-up on your alarm, electric fencing, irrigation and other programmable appliances is working and that you have sufficient back-up time to see you through an outage. If the battery runs down completely, you will need to re-programme the time slots when the power comes back on. If you’re away for the holidays, arrange with a trusted person to do this for you.
- Keep a spare key with you for your electric gate motor and know how to override your electric gate to gain access to your property if necessary. Be on alert for opportunistic crime – don’t leave your car running in the driveway while you’re occupied with the gate. Get someone at home to open and close immediately behind you. Better still, arrange with your armed response company to see you in and out of your premises.
- Power surges spell disaster for sensitive equipment like computers/laptops, TVs, fridges, sound systems and so on. Leave appliances unplugged when not in use and have good quality surge protection at all plug points. Better still, get a qualified electrician to install surge protection onto your main distribution board. Some insurance policies have surge protection specified as a requirement of cover, so check your policy wording.
- Empty your fridge/freezer of perishables if you are going away on holiday – there is nothing worse than coming home to a rotten mess due to a power surge or tripped switch.
- Switch your electric geyser off if no-one will be home during the holidays BUT If you have a solar geyser or heat pump, check with your qualified installer first before switching anything off – some systems have built-in ‘holiday protection’ and ‘anti-boil functions’ and in some instances switching your system off can cause overheating and damage to your system.
- Have standby/emergency lighting on hand for any outages and make sure its fully charged for when you need it. Be especially careful with gas lamps and open flames which pose a serious fire risk.
- Consider installing a small inverter and UPS system for items such as laptops, routers and TV to keep the basics on in an outage. Use pure sinewave technology which is designed to work with sensitive equipment.
Generators and Solar Photovoltaic systems
Many people are installing generators and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in a bid to reduce their dependence on the grid. “All such interventions come with their own risks so it is essential that you understand what these are and ensure that all work is done by qualified installers. Get an electrical certificate of compliance (COC) for any electrical work done at your home – your insurance will request this should you need to claim in future to prove that all work was done to required safety standards and regulations,” urges Mandy.
- The only safe way to use a generator is to have it professionally installed by a qualified electrician with a transfer switch to ensure that you can safely switch between electricity from the grid and from the generator when required.
- Never overload the generator with more appliances than it can handle as you can cause serious damage to sensitive appliances. Always use the specified heavy-duty power cable extensions as overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage.
- Never use a generator indoors or in an enclosed garage as a generator emits deadly toxic gases. Only purchase approved generators certified by the necessary local control boards.
- Solar Photo Voltaic (PV) systems are like any other electrical power generating systems although the equipment used is different than that used for conventional electromechanical generating systems such as generators. A PV array produces power when exposed to sunlight and other components are required to properly conduct, control, convert, distribute, and sometimes store the energy produced by the array such as DC-AC power inverter, battery bank and a system and battery controller. Surge protection and disconnect devices and other power processing equipment may be required.
- It is imperative to have your PV system designed and installed by qualified professionals to ensure the safety of your system which is attached to your most valuable asset – your home! Make sure you get an electrical certificate of compliance and advise your broker about the new additions to ensure that the sums insured on your policy are sufficient to cover these substantial new assets.
Beware of Crime
As with any industry that sees sudden and significant demand, criminals have not missed the opportunity to cash in by selling stolen property to consumers looking to save a quick buck. “It’s essential that you check that your homeowners sum insured is sufficient to cover the replacement of a newly installed generator or PV system. Make sure you are dealing with reputable suppliers with solid warranties and proof of origin – to avoid the purchase of stolen goods,” says Mandy.
Taking appropriate security measures to safeguard your investment against would-be criminals is also strongly advised. “A generator should be chained to a solid object or housed within a lockable metal cage. Ensure that your security gates and electric fencing are always in working order and arm your property alarm whenever you leave the premises. Outdoor, pet-friendly alarm sensors are a great addition to your security measures and will pick up any unwelcome visitors before they have a chance to get inside your property,” urges Mandy.
“Remember than any addition of an alternative energy solution to your home will require the assistance of an electrician. Make sure the people you use are reputable service providers who are bona fide members of their respective representative organisations, such as being a member of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and get electrical certificates of compliance (COCs) for all installations. You may unwittingly open yourself up to insurance problems that could arise out of using dubious electrical contractors who compromise safety and standards,” Mandy explains.
An expert broker will ensure that you have the correct covers in place and confirm what measures you need to put in place to mitigate any potential losses as far as possible. “Load shedding may be inconvenient, but with the right advice and support from a professional broker, you can avoid the pitfalls and get through it safely and smoothly,” concludes Mandy.