Holiday tips for load shedding

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town - 12 February - Stage 4 loadshedding in Goodwood. Garages are closed while some shops have minimal lights produced by generators. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Leaving your home unprotected against load shedding while going on holiday this Easter, could prove costly warns an insurance expert.

“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 Barrett, of insurance brokerage and risk advisers, Aon South Africa.

She offers some advice to help you cope with load shedding and minimise its impact on your home and its contents:

* 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 reprogramme 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 emergency lighting on hand for any outages and make sure it’s 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 uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system for items such as laptops, routers and TV to keep the basics on in an outage.

Use pure sine-wave technology, which is designed to work with sensitive equipment.

Many people are installing generators and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems 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 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,” says Ms Barrett.

Here are some things to remember if you have a generator or solar PV:

* 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 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.

* 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.