Of isolator switches and geyser timers…

This morning – after the (half-)city-wide power failure last night – Richard decided to finish the job of wiring the isolator switch and the geyser timer. (For the Yanks out there – I think you call geysers “hot water cylinders” – geysers seem to be those things that spit fire and brimstone, and I don’t mean preachers.)

Perhaps I should go back a step and explain what we are trying to do: We bought a gadget called a Geyserwise Timer) from a company called HotFlo in Voortrekker Road, Maitland, for about R730. It consists of a programmable user interface that you mount somewhere easily accessible, like the kitchen. From there, a cable runs into the roof, where it is connected to a controller box, which in turn is connected to a funny metallic probe that replaces the existing thermometer in the geyser. The controller box is installed between the geyser and the isolator switch. The 5m cable supplied with the Geyserwise timer was not long enough for us, so we needed to buy an additional 5m cable.

Although Richard was confident that he had wired up everything correctly and logically, there appeared to be no current flowing – even with the circuit breaker up again. Either the timer or the switch was faulty – or the controller.

The first person we asked was the owner of the hardware store at Central Square. He said that Richard should try to have the live wire going through the isolator switch, but to bypass it with the neutral wire and to re-connect the two ends of the neutral wire (which he had already cut in order to run it through the switch) to each other.

Even though he was very confident about this advice, Richard was a bit unsure. He thought that a double-pole isolator switch was supposed to disconnect both live and neutral.

So we trekked over to Mica Hardware Store in the Howard Centre. Although we asked several of the sales assistants, none of them was able to clarify how the wiring should be done. And this is despite the fact that they SOLD us the unit. Hm… They did kindly phone the manufacturer, but alas, on a Saturday morning nobody was there. I was a tad unhappy about spending the weekend and Monday entirely without hot water.

So they sent us to Claude’s Electrical in Voortrekker Road, who were open. The nice chap at the till said that he did not feel confident giving such important advice, and recommended an electrician just down the road, WG Dixon in St Anne’s Road, next to the Police Station. Judging from the beautiful and expensive cars in the carport, their business seemed to be thriving, and so we were sure that someone would be able to help us.

The receptionist gave us a startled look when we walked in, and when we asked to speak to an electrician, she went to an inner office, whose door was open, and said that “a guy wanted some help”. The man – apparently ‘only’ the manager of the business – was shockingly rude: he snapped at us that the security gate should not have been open and that we should not have come inside. I retreated outside, biting my tongue, or I would have cursed at him in a most unladylike fashion – while Richard bravely asked whether he could nonetheless help us with some advice. Nothing doing. A thoroughly vile man.

Thoroughly frustrated but none the wiser, we returned home. A flash of inspiration: let’s phone Brights! We’d been to the hardware shop in Boston (near Parow) often in the past, as they were at that time the only hardware store open on a Sunday morning and afternoon, and there was almost always someone available who could give sound advice. And indeed, this is where Richard got the confirmation that he desperately needed – he had wired the switch correctly, and should definitely not let the neutral wire bypass the switch, as this could cause a short-circuit in the roof, and possibly even a fire given that we have a wooden roof.

Richard phoned M, our neighbour, to ask whether he had a multimeter so that he could test whether there was in fact current flowing through the switch. Back into the filthy roof … And that’s how we found out that the brandnew switch was faulty! We raced back to Mica, got a replacement, and within an hour or two had hot water again!


Now we still have to figure out how long we need to leave the thermostat of the geyser on in order to have hot water… From initial experiments, Richard estimates 15 mins in the morning, and 15 mins in the afternoon… it could be too little, but we’ll see.

3 thoughts on “Of isolator switches and geyser timers…

  1. Geyserwise is simple to install but it is worth the small cost to have an experienced person do the job. To know the units ha sbeen installed correctly and have someone explain the settings clearly is well worth. You can nullify Eskoms increase with the Geyserwise.

    078 400 3727

    • Hi Doug, actually, no, unfortunately it doesn’t nullify Eskom’s horrendous increase(s). I don’t think it has made a dramatic difference at all, but it still felt like the right thing to do. It’s certainly better than allowing the City to switch on/off your geyser!

  2. I had one of Mr.Power’s geyser controllers installed and it works very well. Good savings, but what I like about it is that it is very user-friendly, easy to install, fit’s neat into the d/b board, no wiring on the walls and climbing into the ceilings and it’s easy to remove should I relocate to another home!

I'd love to hear your views

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