Water is the subject, if you’ll excuse the excruciating pun, on everyone’s lips. It certainly deserves all the headlines it gets. But it may for the moment have taken our eye off the 42 090-megawatt gorilla in the room: our electricity supply.

Perhaps because the past few months have been load shedding-free – and Eskom suggests this will continue – we might be lulled into a false sense of well-being.
The point is, the maintenance that we keep hearing about has to be done at some stage. When we get to that stage, many of us will be looking for alternatives.

Which brings me to a reader’s plea.

Energy alternatives are all very well, he says. Some of them are marvellous. But often they are not all they are made out to be.

What got me thinking along these lines was my first fumbling attempts at DIY home automation, which you can read about in this month’s Tested. The point being that today’s smart home gadgets not only do stuff, they also tell you stuff – such as how much electricity you are consuming individually. Being able to monitor this suddenly opened the floodgates to a whole new level of obsessiveness, with the ability to compare LED vs LCD and so forth, in real time, from anywhere on the planet, at 2 in the morning if you like (I was just checking my Whatsapp messages, dear).

I began to realise that, like the nation, my newfound interest in kilolitres had momentarily distracted me from the very important question of kilowatt hours.

And so to our reader. I had filed away his letter, written at the time in response to my June 2015 editorial, “Eskom, consider yourselves shed”.

He noted my point that Eskom had betrayed the trust of all of us and that we needed to investigate installing solar electricity with immediate effect.

He had this warning, though: “But technophobes like me, who do not know the difference between a volt of electric potential and a bolt of lightning, actually listen to people like you; and we, in our ignorance, act on your advice and get ourselves into the most inordinate amount of trouble.”

What was lacking, he said, was an element of caveat emptor. “Your articles make it all sound so easy – if you have the money, you just go out and get someone to install a fortune’s worth of equipment on your roof, and there you have it. Exit Eskom. Your problem is solved. QED.”

Do you know, it really isn’t like that.

Instead, he says, he has been sitting with R300 000-worth of solar installation that has been seven months of nightmare.

He conducted due diligence, contracted apparently government-approved capable suppliers (“genuinely NOT flyby-night types”) with engineers who spent many days inspecting and checking and pulling at wires and walking around with meters.

Well, he has moved on. Found another electrical contracting company. At R450 an hour. They have been hard at work and at the time of writing their bill had topped R15 000. Oh, they haven’t actually done any real work yet – so far all they have been busy with is trying to work out what on earth the previous people installed.
You know, perhaps it is time, as he says, to write about the perils waiting for the non-technical reading public out there, and about charlatans and the clueless who claim to be solar installation experts.

So watch this space.

In the meantime, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful, blessed Festive Season and a sparkling New Year.