Advice: load shedding, insurance and generators

Advice: load shedding, insurance and generators

Eskom's decision to implement load shedding on a regular basis is having a severe impact on South African households - not least of which is the increased risk of damage to sensitive electronic items due to power surges, fires and crime as a result of security systems not operating properly. "Many households and businesses have also rushed to buy generators to keep the lights on and the onset of winter will add to more anxiety. We urge consumers to take extra precautions," says Marius Neethling, Personal Lines Underwriting Manager at Santam.

Neethling says the main risks during a power cut are:

  • Fire risks when candles are used for lighting;
  • The risk of electrocution, exhaust fumes, fire and burns when generators are used; and
  • Opportunistic robbery, theft and burglary resulting from tripped and false alarm triggers. 

Advice on buying a generator

  • You may want to advise clients to buy a portable generator that meets the needs of their household or business by initially creating a detailed list of appliances that run on generator power in the event of a power outage. The list should contain every appliance and the amount of power required to run each item.
  • To determine the size generator required, total the wattage of the appliances clients want to run at the same time. Consider that some appliances have higher start-up ratings than their run ratings. Clients should always use the higher rating to determine your power requirements.
  • Generators generally range in size from 750 watt for a small generator to 1500-2300 watt for a mid-sized installation that can operate lighting and computers and some appliances. Heavier users should buy a generator larger than this.
  • Appliances like refrigerators, washing machines and power tools require additional wattage to start up. The initial load only lasts a few seconds on start-up, but it is important when calculating your total wattage.
  • A petrol generator is better for domestic use and short power cuts of a few hours. Although a diesel generator uses less fuel, it is noisier and is better suited to extended independent power needs.
  • Consider talking to clients about inverter generators, which are ideal for load shedding, as this prevents the power the generator is producing from fluctuating. They cost more, but will protect sensitive electronic equipment such as televisions and computers.
  • There are various options for starting the generator: clients can provide for an automatic transfer switch with an uninterrupted power supply, which will provide a seamless switch-over to the generator power. A manual change-over switch will require you to switch the electrical supply from your main supply to the generator and start the generator yourself. Check what capability the generator will have and take advice from the installer.
  • Tell your clients to make sure their generators are professionally installed by a registered service provider. They should also make sure the generator is started first and that the power is switched on when the generator is running.
    • It emits carbon monoxide which, if not properly ventilated, could be very dangerous.
    • It generates electricity that has to be properly wired, earthed and sealed.
    • It is a mechanical device with moving parts and can become hot.

Ensure the installation and use of the generator comply with municipal bylaws, for the following reasons:

  • Advise clients that they may not store more than 20 litres of fuel on their properties and must ensure proper ventilation. Fuel for a portable generator should be stored in a separate area that can be locked when not in use. Generators should not be refuelled while running.
  • Encourage your clients to purchase a named brand supported by a recognised dealer who can provide safety advice, and to test the generator frequently.
  • Remember that external generators for homes should be in an expanded mesh cage with a solid roof.
  • Clients with generators should have a fire extinguisher of at least 4.5kg on site.
  • Check your clients' insurance policies to ensure they meet the policy requirements for generator use as failure to do this could result in a claim being invalid because of incorrect installation or use.
  • Look into solar power and battery systems too. They can be used to augment the power needs of certain appliances and be recharged during the daylight hours or when the power is on.

'You may need to take out additional insurance to cover your generator if you're using it at a private residence,' says Neethling. 'In any event, load shedding has become part of our daily lives, and households are advised to revisit their insurance cover and obtain advice from their brokers to take into account different circumstances and risk situations that may arise as a result of power cuts,' Neethling concludes.

Insurance protection during load shedding

Santam is ready to assist policyholders with any claims resulting from power cuts. We are committed to assist clients in the event of loss or damage to their property, over which they have no control and which result directly from load shedding. For example, if a burglary occurs during load shedding and the alarm system is not in working order due to the malfunctioning of the back-up battery, Santam will consider a client's claim.

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