SPEAKING at the opening of its new Cape Town branch in Montague Gardens, Helukabel South Africa branch manager Thomas Hall, warned of the pitfalls of installing inferior cables in the avalanche of solar projects, both in the commercial and particularly in the residential markets.
Helukabel Group is a family owned business of 45 years standing, with multiple manufacturing facilities and having 61 sites across 39 countries, supplying high specification TUV approved cable and cable accessories to a wide spectrum of industries.
Its Cape Town branch is the latest addition to the Helukabel family with its South African head office in Johannesburg and a branch in Durban.
“The rapid expansion of commercial, industrial and residential activities – particularly solar – in the Western Cape dictated that we open a branch here in Cape Town to service and expand upon our existing customer base of some 280 plus distributors and channel partners” explained Hall.
“The rapid rise of the solar industry on the back of failing power supplies and continuous loadshedding has led to an explosion of solar installers which has attracted its fair share of ‘bakkie brigade’ operators. Many have little experience in the multi-disciplined expertise required for successful solar installations, and it’s fair to say that there are an increasing number of especially residential customers who have got their fingers burnt by unscrupulous installers who through either ignorance or by design, install inferior cabling.
“It is vital that the correct specification cabling is used for solar installations to prevent system failures, poor panel performance and in the worst case present a fire hazard. The average householder who commits to a solar solution is ignorant of the complexity of the installation and often price is the incentive in making a selection of a solar installer.
“At present there is little or no regulation or an overseer to ensure that solar installations are safe and perform according to specifications. This is less of a problem in commercial or industrial installations as businesses usually enlist the assistance of a qualified professional engineer to specify and oversee the project.
“For the homeowner, the cost of hiring a professional to ensure compliance can become prohibitive, so they rely on the ‘reputation’ of the installer.
“There is a role that insurance companies can play here and some are looking seriously at the potential risk to their business and their policy holders from a poorly installed installation.
“While solar is the ‘flavour of the month’, Helukabel has other sectors which are receiving attention from our new branch – that of marine, aviation and fire protection to name but a few. Agri-processing is a major market in the Western Cape and automatic packaging and processing machinery require specialist cable products to ensure maximum up time and to prevent unexpected break downs due to ineffective maintenance.
“It’s all down to education and we are establishing a series of training courses initially for our partners and distributors to educate them in the complexity and necessity to install quality cabling in specific applications. Further along these training courses with be open to professional bodies and insurance personnel.
“While there will always be someone who will buy at the cheapest price, perhaps they should remember the old adage “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten!” Hall concluded.