Guardian an­gel

Gey­sers burst­ing with prom­ise

Finweek English Edition - - Cover - COLLEEN NAUDÉ

“BURST GEY­SERS are like ter­ror at­tacks – we never know when they will hap­pen. One of the big­gest dan­gers is lurk­ing in the ceil­ing right above you and your fam­ily,” reads the in­tro­duc­tion on www.the­wa­t­ It’s in this very real dan­ger that Wa­ter An­gel Group CEO Hen­nie Stander and six part­ners spot­ted an op­por­tu­nity.

The patented early-warn­ing con­trol sys­tem that they de­vel­oped over the past three years was voted the most promis­ing emerg­ing en­ter­prise at the De­part­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy’s Tech­nol­ogy Top 100 awards last year.

“We had a prod­uct with cred­i­bil­ity but we still had to mar­ket it suc­cess­fully,” says Stander, who last year sold his fil­tra­tion busi­ness. Stander and the other part­ners have in­vested more than R6m in the project.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the fact that some 30 000 cases of burst gey­sers re­ported to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies a month cost them more than R700m in claims a year, pro­vided am­ple proof that there was a need for an early-warn­ing sys­tem like Wa­ter An­gel.

“We have had dis­cus­sions with var­i­ous play­ers in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try and are also set­ting up a di­rect sales team in con­junc­tion with a black en­tre­pre­neur. We are slowly rolling out the prod­uct, pro­duced in our fac­tory in Rand­burg. A hun­dred units (R4 300, in­stal­la­tion and VAT in­cluded) have been in­stalled. We’re aiming at 550 in March, will up that to 750 in April and 1 200 in May.

The unit is fixed in the ceil­ing next to the geyser and a re­mote ter­mi­nal unit inside the house, where the home­owner can see the panel. The prod­uct uses ex­tremely sen­si­tive wa­ter de­tec­tion mats that will ac­ti­vate the unit and an alarm. The mat is con­nected to all in­com­ing and out­go­ing pipes, and the drip tray will also be lined with a mat. Once the alarm has been ac­ti­vated it will im­me­di­ately set off the alarm on the unit in the house. At the same time the valve will shut off the wa­ter sup­ply and power to the geyser. The unit also mon­i­tors the tem­per­a­ture and sets off the alarm if it ex­ceeds 72 de­grees C.

The re­mote ter­mi­nal also en­ables in­sur­ance as­ses­sors to down­load en­ergy and wa­ter move­ments for the pre­vi­ous 18 months, and a mi­crochip in the unit will en­able Eskom or the owner to com­mu­ni­cate to the geyser via SMS. “This fea­ture has been in­stalled but not yet pro­grammed as we are in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Eskom re­gard­ing dis­tant geyser con­trol, which will help to save en­ergy,” says Stander.

Be­cause cor­rect in­stal­la­tion forms an in­te­gral part of the prod­uct’s suc­cess, the com­pany has set up a train­ing fa­cil­ity for elec­tri­cians and plumbers, cre­at­ing ac­cred­ited in­stall­ers and, in the process, the po­ten­tial of 1 000 new jobs. “The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in SA is scream­ing for im­prove­ment in th­ese in­dus­tries,” says Stander. “There’re sit­u­a­tions where drip trays have been in­stalled in­cor­rectly, valves have been blocked and pipes start leak­ing within days of in­stal­la­tion. The Wa­ter An­gel’s long-term goal is to bring a new set of stan­dards to the mar­ket, while pro­tect­ing house­holds and sav­ing the in­sur­ance in­dus­try mil­lions.

“It took some three years for the tracker model to be recog­nised by the in­sur­ance in­dus­try to the ex­tent that hav­ing one in­stalled in your ve­hi­cle will bring about a dis­count on your in­sur­ance pre­mium. That’s what we’re aiming for with the Wa­ter An­gel,” says Stander.

Hen­nie Stander

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