Geysers bursting with promise
“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.thewaterangel.com. 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.