Monday, April 22

Q&A with Handy Mac: Electricity meters and practical showers

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Tim is trying to make a decision and Selwyn has now broadened his reason for asking the question.

Tim is trying to make a decision

Q: Should I keep our old electricity meter (we take a picture and send it to the council each month) or go for the free pre-paid meter they are offering? What are the pros and cons?

A: This question came in some time ago and I promised Tim I would do some investigation, but I do not appear to be getting very far.

I am sure it is a question many of you have dealt with and I would be interested to get other readers’ views.

From what I can gather, the city is running a “free” installation process. For more details go to the city’s website and follow the links.

A free residential electricity meter upgrade programme is now running for targeted suburbs in Cape Town.

The city has appointed a contractor to replace old single-phase credit meters with new prepaid meters. The cost of the new meters is covered by the city in suburbs where the programme is active.

There is an attached schedule that shows when your suburb is due to receive this service.

What I am not sure about is if the installation service is totally free, as we all know not every job is straightforward and the installer may hit problems with existing supplies, which have to be substantially altered to get the prepaid meter in.

The other thing I have not been able to establish is whether the cost of the electricity is cheaper on prepaid.

The consensus seems to be that it is not. This was discussed on Cape Talk Radio the other day and lots of listeners were giving different opinions.

It seems to revolve around how much you buy at a time and how much you use.

I enjoy having a prepaid meter. I check it once or twice a week to see how we are going with regards to the budget for the month. I think it makes you more aware of what you are using. Whether or not this encourages savings is questionable because you still use what you must use.

I have become more prone to turning off lights off at night as well as computers and other obvious appliances.

It is interesting to turn everything off and then see how it affects the days of usage you have left when you switch on individual items again. Sunday roasts in the oven get the usage light flashing.

Luckily it has become a lot easier to purchase units at your local shops or online. In the early days it was awkward if you suddenly ran short after the corner shop had closed.

The Powertime website sums it up as follows: “Using a prepaid meter thus allows you to save electricity, which in turn leads to saving money: you will never get an unexpected, exaggerated electricity bill!

“Therefore, one of the big advantages of prepaid electricity is that it enables you to manage your cash flow and allocate costs properly.”

The biggest downside is when you find yourself cash-strapped for a while, you can’t use the council’s generous credit facility.

Selwyn, who was looking for advice last week on how to find pipes in walls, has now broadened his reason for asking the question.

Q: What I didn’t tell you is that I want to remove the fixed shower heads in two showers and replace them with the height adjustable type that slides up and down a pole. I find this type much more efficient and, because it can be adjusted to be closer to the “showerer”, it saves water too.

A: A little tongue in cheek here, but I have to say that my two pet hates in the bathroom are adjustable showers and shower curtains over baths.

I have yet to find an adjustable shower that stays at the height you set it or at the correct angle, but if the head is able to be detached you can give those hard to reach places a good rinse.

As for shower curtains over baths, to me they are as effective as umbrellas in a hurricane. Maybe I am just clumsy but I have yet to get out from behind one of these abominations without finding a flooded floor.

*Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:

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