Home Automation

A fully automated home should be a thing of beauty. It is delicate systems working together for a common goal, to have a more efficient, more comfortable and more user-friendly home that improves your quality of life.


Top reasons why you should invest in home automation

You’ll be able to monitor and manage all types of electronic devices (lights, home audio, motorized shades, security system, intercom, irrigation etc.) from the screen of a smartphone or tablet.

A home automation system helps prevent potentially bad things from happening by enabling you to monitor parts of your house conveniently from tablets or smartphones.

A lot of a home’s energy use is wasted because we don’t take the time to make the small daily adjustments needed to maximize it. An automation system can automatically adjust the geyser temperature based on the time of day. It can also open and close shades to take advantage of daylight.

Many people think that home automation is for lazy people but just think of a pregnant woman who can automatically switch off lights instead of getting up to do it or people with special needs, allowing them to feel independent.


So what is all the fuss about…

There is many devices out there on the market that is a simple do it yourself systems that gives you the ability to tap on the app and turn on a light or set the temperature of your geyser. Although for many this is an exciting and fun new gadget, but it is not even touching what a home automation system can do. Adding different individual smart devices to your home will leave you with a phone/tablet filled with individual Apps for each smart device.

This is fine if you are just looking to automate your security alarm or geyser but if you would like to have the ease of controlling many elements (lights, heating, security, music) a custom home automation system is for you. The perfect system will set your alarm earlier based on the calculations of the traffic on your route to work or clean the pool base on the weather! Now that’s cool

You’re hooked now what?

Find an automation company that you like  or visit a few to find the one that suits you best. Start discussing and finding out what is available and what is possible for your home. Then look at your everyday tasks or rooms in your home to see how you can automate them, here’s a few ideas:

  1. Automate one room at a time – normally this would be your living/dining/entertainment area, see what “items” you have in this room that can all be linked together (air-conditioning, TV, Sound system, lighting, window blinds).
  2. Combining 1or 2 systems – another way to test the waters before you automate your whole home, here are some combination ideas to start off with:
    • Blinds & Lights – combining these two will allow you to make the best of the sunlight during the day and save on your electrical light bill. This type of system should allow you to have a program where your lights will be automatically switched off when the sun is out and open your blinds and when it starts to get dark switch on your lights and close your blinds.
    • Intelligent Lights.jpgHeating & air-conditioning – this type of systems will allow you to programme your heating and cooling to switch off when you leave and switch on before you get home so that you enter a kief or warm home.
    • Electricity & security – to combine these two systems is a good idea because when you set your alarm system to off. or away your electricity automated system will automatically adjust to a setting where you will save you money.
  3. Decide where or if you have space for the automation controls, normally a garage is a good option or unused space under stairs.

What to look for when choosing a system

  • Pick a system that allows you to combined all the function of your automation system onto one interface (App on your phone or tablet) while still allowing you to install touch panels in your house.
  • Decide what spaces you will like to get involved in your home automation system and how they can be combined or controlled e.g. study, kitchen, patio, bedrooms, pool, dining room and cinema.
  • Get a system that is reliable and that does not rely on the internet, no internet means not automation system.
  • Choose a system that suits your needs now but also allows for expansion when you might want to add on to your home.

New and existing home

As we have discovered there are many exciting options for home automation when you are planning a new home but can you automate your existing home?

Ideally, a home automation system is designed during the initial construction of a home but an automation system can be installed in existing home. It is normally harder to design and sometimes install but it is possible. Most of the newer technology are wireless thus making it allot easier and faster to install automation systems in an existing home. Although going wireless to automate your existing home sounds quick and easy it still needs careful planning to allow you to really reap the benefits of an automated home.

If you are planning to build a new home but don’t have the money now to automate your home, just design your home in such a way that a system can be integrated at a later stage.

So we love home automation but don’t want to remodel our home.

There are many devices out there on the market that will allow you to have the feeling of home automation without the installation of a home automation system. Such as the Amazon Echo. This device works with voice control (hands-free), unlike a home automation system. The Amazon Echo can read audiobooks, news, traffic and even weather reports out loud on your demand.

It has recently added features that let you connect your smart home to your Amazon Echo allowing you to control your lights, fans and heaters all with your voice.

So there you have it, whatever your need or desire for using technology in your home, there is a possibility out there just for you.


The basics on Energy Saving Solutions

With the price of electricity and the attention to sustainable living increasing, renewable energy technology for heating is becoming very popular.

In most South African homes water heating is done by geysers taking electricity and converting it to heat. Solar heating and heat pumps offer a more sustainable and cost effective way to heat water.

How do you decide?

Your roof will help determine how you should heat water. If you have a roof that faces north and gets full sun, flat panels are the most trouble-free option and will provide most of your hot water needs. If your roof gets limited sun, evacuated tubes may be necessary to provide enough hot water. If your roof gets very little or no sun, you may need a heat pump.

Flat panel & evacuated tubes

Heating water via sunlight comes in two basic forms: flat panels and evacuated tubes.

Flat panels have a single large panel of glass over a collector lined with copper pipes to collect the sun’s heat.

Evacuated tube panels are made of rows of long glass tubes. In each glass cylinder, the heat is absorbed by a copper rod filled with a fluid (either water or an anti-freeze mix) which is insulated from the colder outside air by an insulating vacuum. Evacuated tubes generally create more hot water, especially when the sun is weak and the weather is cold, but they have one important disadvantage. Due to their efficiency, the collector risks overheating in summer. This problem could easily be avoided by covering the collector with a UV reducing product (preferably not sunscreen lotion).

Heat pumps

Heat pumps, although also using electricity, are a method of heating water more efficiently than an electric geyser. Heat pumps use similar technology as air-conditioners in that they transfer heat from the air outside into the water. This is done using a refrigerant which absorbs heat as it vaporises. The condensed refrigerant releases the heat in order to warm the water. Heat pumps are reported to be three to four times more energy efficient than electric geysers. However, if it’s a greener option you’re looking for, a heat pump may not be suitable as most refrigerants (which are in the process of being phased out) create greenhouse gases which are harmful to the ozone layer.


Direct or Indirect?

Some panels heat water directly, which is called a direct system. But many heat a glycol solution so that panels don’t freeze on cold nights. The glycol solution heated in a flat panel flows through a coiled pipe inside the solar tank to heat the water. (The glycol and water never come in contact.) This is called an indirect system. With indirect evacuated tubes, the fluid is sealed within each tube and heats the water at the top of the tube, where it is inserted into a water pipe or tank.

Direct systems are less expensive and more efficient, so if you live in a frost-free zone, they are a great option. Having a home in an area that gets winter frost  regularly, an indirect system is the preferred choice. Based on these facts a house in Cape Town, for example does not require an indirect system as temperatures do not reach below freezing point.

A timer

A solar water heater should eliminate not all but most of your electricity use for waterGeyserWise-unit-1-mbvklxzwruwlmad48gzm8929385k9r3cguk3wxt3cw.jpg heating. An electrical backup element in the tank is standard. A timer is essential for many reasons. First for managing the electrical usage to your element. Secondly the pure convenience of not manually switching the geyser on and off. The third reason is that timers (i.e. Geyserwise) recognize errors within the SWH system making troubleshooting detectable for maintenance. Finally having an intelligent controller system like Geyserwise manages the SWH equipment.

But with cloudy weather or a weak winter sun, extra heat will be needed to bring the warmed water up to a hot enough temperature. The key to saving energy is to avoid heating the water with electricity just before the sun gets to work. Therefore, every solar water heater should have a timer.

If your family is in the habit of showering and bathing at night, you can save the most by keeping the electricity off until the next afternoon. If morning showers require extra hot water, experiment with a short boost at 4 or 5 am, shutting off by 6 am for the rest of the morning. A thermostat timer like the Geyserwise allows the extra control of setting different temperatures for different times of the day.

A Roof Bracket

Your roof may be pitched at too low a slope to take the best advantage of the winter sun. Many people prefer the look of panels flat against the roof, but for maximum efficiency, your installer should be able to tell you the ideal angle for panels at your latitude. (36 degrees to 44 degrees) If your roof has too low a pitch, consider installing a bracket to support the panels to the ideal angle, which will increase winter heat gain by about 10 to 20 percent.

Heat Pump Systemits_pool_5_6hpp_heat_pump.png
  •  Installation tends to be simple
  • Average life expectancy of fifteen years if annually maintained
  • A heat pump using a discontinued refrigerant may need to be replaced
  • Still require electricity to operate
Evacuated Tube SystemAus-58-stand-hq.jpg
  • Best thermal efficiency throughout the year
  •   Easily repairable ·         Simplicity in maintenance
  • Fragile
  • Overheating during hot summer days
Solar Flat Panel System solar2.jpg
  • Average of twenty-year life expectancy
  • Almost fully recyclable
  •  Heat of the fluid
  • generated is not as high as an  evacuated Tube System

For more information regarding solar energy options please contact Kenneth Higgins from Solar Rise on 076 648 0490 or solarrise.cpt@gmail.com


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Energy Saving In Your Home

The typical residential home consumes electricity as follows: water heating (geysers) 35%, food preparation 22%, space heating 18%, lighting 10%, space cooling 10% and other 5%.

By saving energy can save you money as you’ll spend less on your electricity account each month. Saving energy is also important as producing electricity in South Africa is damaging to the environment due to increased carbon emissions.

Did you know? Leaving your laptop on and plugged in at home all day can cost you up to R85 per month while leaving your printer on in sleep mode can cost you almost R70 per month.



Product labelling for energy efficiency will assist the consumer when making a purchase or renting an appliance on the performance over the lifespan of the product 

When you’re shopping for an appliance, think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price – think of it as a down payment. The second price tag is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You’ll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance.

  • Use a microwave to cook as it is quicker and cheaper, 1 oven uses the same power as 18 microwaves.
  • Use a kettle to boil water for cooking as it is quicker and uses less energy than a pot on the stove.
  • Only fill the kettle with the amount of water that you need.
  • Every time you switch on your dishwasher, it’s the same as switching on 120 CFL energy-saving light bulbs. Wait until the dishwasher is full before you switch it on and use the economy programme wherever possible.
  • Physically turn off appliance switches or at the wall (e.g. a TV or Hi-Fi), instead of leaving them on stand-by (they still use electricity otherwise).

Did you know?
Leaving a computer monitor on overnight wastes as much energy as making 800 A4 photocopies!


In most homes, lighting accounts for around 17% – 20% of the electricity account.

  • A considerable amount of electricity can be saved by replacing your ‘tCapture-d’écran-2013-06-20-à-10.25.37.pngraditional’ (incandescent) light bulbs with compact florescent lamps (CFLs). They are more expensive, but CFLs last 8 times longer.
  • Clean your lamps and bulbs regularly, because dirt decreases
    the amount of light given out.
  • Put timers on your outside lights so that you won’t forget to switch them off during the day.
  • Make the most of the natural light entering your home.

Geyser and water:

  • A geyser blanket will insulate your geyser not allowing the heat to escape.1444391832492301064Geyser-200L-Kwikot-Slimline-20140826025716.jpg
  • By simply reducing the temperature setting on your geyser you can increase efficiency and save on your electricity bill. The default temperature setting on most geysers is 65°C, but for optimal geyser efficiency, you should set your thermostat to 50°C in summer and 60°C in winter. This can save you R44.00 per month
  • Shower instead of running a bath, as a shower uses much less water and therefore, less hot water and less electricity. By showering instead of bathing you can save R162.00 per month.
  • Fit low-flow shower heads, this will not only save water but, electricity too.
  • Install a solar water heater or heat pump. Using a solar water heater can save up to two-thirds of the total water heating cost you build up at home.

Air Conditioning:

Air conditioners has come a long way over the past couple of years and is much more advanced not only in technology but also in energy saving technologies. Air conditioning does more than cool the air. It truly “conditions” it by removing dust and dirt as the air is drawn through a filter

  • Keep filters, indoor and outdoor coils clean. A dusty filter reduces airflow.
  • Ensure your air conditioner operates correctly by getting an air-conditioning company or contractor to carry out the installation. An improperly installed unit, even one with a very high-efficiency rating, will waste energy. They will aclean-dirty-central-air-filter.jpglso be able to advise you on the best placement of the indoor and outdoor units to ensure the unit reaches its maximum lifespan.
  • Do not try to hide the unit’s external part behind shrubbery. The shrubbery reduces the unit’s ability to exhaust air and lowers its efficiency.
  • A bigger unit is not necessarily better because a unit that is too large will not cool an area uniformly. Also, an oversized unit will cool an area too quickly, causing the air conditioner to frequently turn on and off. This wastes electricity and money.

Building a new home:

When building a new home, take the opportunity to include further energy-saving measures in the design. Building positioning, sun shading systems, window design, and integrated heating and cooling systems can naturally maximise home comfort and provide real low-cost energy savings.152966476-web.jpg

  • A skylight in the roof allows natural light into the house on sunny days and eliminates the use of artificial lighting. Make sure that the sloping glass of the skylight faces north.
  • Natural materials are most suited to keeping the home cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • Floors made out of brick or concrete maintain comfortable temperatures in your house as they are good at absorbing heat during the day and releasing this slowly at night.
  • Install a solar water heater – these are relatively expensive but result in substantial savings on your electricity account.
  • If your windows are not double glazed and using proper thermally efficient material around them, this element of your home can cost you up to 25% in lost energy.heat_loss_heat_gain1.jpg
  • Installing your geyser vertically rather than horizontally will result in greater energy efficiency.
  • Orientate the longest side of your house to face north for light and sunshine. 

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Last week we listed the advantages and disadvantages of an open plan living area. Should you decided to go this route, but still want each of the areas to feel separated? We have a few ideas…

 If you are planning to build your new home, or are renovating, consider the following:

  1. Add split levels to your open plan design. This is a great option for a plot with a slope. By having even two, three or four steps from one area to the next will make it feel like a different room, but will still be open plan.


  2.  Use a kitchen counter or island to section off an open plan kitchen from the dining room or TV room. Add a bulkhead over the island or counter with downlights or a striking light fitting to add an extra design element and extra light
  3. Pillars and beams in strategic places is another way to section off areas – if it fits the style of your home of course. Use it between the kitchen and dining, the dining and living areas, or even to section off the entrance area.
  4. Go for something a bit different by adding bulkheads or suspended ceilings in certain areas to define it. Our idea is to have a bulkhead over a dining room table with a gorgeous chandelier.
  5. Use folding or sliding doors inside to temporarily enclose an area. The doors stack/slide away should you want the area to be open plan, and easily close to lend some privacy. It is ideal between a bedroom and en-suite, and could even be used if you prefer the braai area to be closed off from the house when it is in use.
  6. Another way to get that open-plan-but-still-closed-off feeling is by using sandblasted glass panels and doors. Section off a scullery or pantry from the kitchen or use it between the bedroom and en-suite.
  7. By adding a central fireplace between the living area and the dining area will separate the two rooms, and add some warmth. This is practical, functional and adds aesthetics to your home. 


    Of course you do not need to do any structural work to section off your existing open plan living area. We have a few ideas for that too…

    Add bookshelves (free standing or built-in) between living areas to section it off.


    Place a piece of statement furniture to divide two areas, like a corner couch to define the TV room.

    Room dividers are another easy option, and these days we have a lot of options to suite any style.


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This month our focus falls on living spaces. Some inspirational photos, talk about open plan living and even how to enclose open living spaces. Two decades ago the ideal house would have consisted of separate rooms, each one for a specific purpose. The more rooms you had definitely made the house more attractive on the market! Do keep in mind that the houses built at that time was bigger and built on larger plots.

As times have changed, and the cities filled up, space became an issue. With this came the trend of open plan living spaces.  This would normally combine the Kitchen, Dining room, Living room (and in South Africa even the Braai room) in one big space. Here are some pros and cons to consider when planning you new house or renovation.

Conventional house layout                                               Open plan layout

Conventional layout.jpg       Open plan layout.jpg


Space – Having one open living area will give the illusion and feel of more space than three or four separated rooms, with great flow between the different areas. This option also lends to furniture to be moved around easier, without going around walls and through narrow door openings.

Family togetherness – Open plan design allows parents to fulfill their household duties, like cooking or cleaning, while keeping an eye on the kids playing in the Living room. This way the family wouldn’t feel quarantined while each is busy with their own activity.

Entertaining – Having a dinner party but the hostess is hidden in the Kitchen? Not with an open plan design. When the Kitchen, Dining room and even the Living room are connected it makes it much easier to entertain as you could cook and join in the conversation.

Airflow and natural light – Without walls in the way light and fresh air can travel freely through the room. And not to mention the uninterrupted views to the outdoors!
Easy to separate areas – Should you wish to temporary separate areas there is a number of options to choose from. From furniture, like room dividers and cabinets, to design options, like glass or wooden folding doors or built fireplaces.
Example of an open plan design –

Open Plan 1.jpg

Open Plan 2.jpg


Keeping it clean – When one area of the open plan living area is messy it reflects over the entire room. This is especially true when looking at the Kitchen. Having a tucked away Scullery will take care of this problem.

Heating and cooling – Heating of cooling a big room takes a lot longer and will definitely cost a lot!

Noisy and busy – Due to the many areas within an open plan living area, the room could get very noisy and busy. As each household member is a different age and have a different schedule this could cause distractions and interruptions.

Privacy – Keep privacy in mind especially when thinking about the study and bathrooms. When the study is a part of the living room, cooking or watch TV could be disruptive for the person using the study. The same applies when having the En-suite open to the bedroom. Light and noise from the En-suite could disturb your partner sleeping in the bedroom.

Limited space against walls – When most of the internal walls are taken out, you are only left with the external walls, which are mostly occupied by windows and doors. For the art enthusiast this will be disappointing!

Example of a conventional design –

Conventional 1.jpg

Conventional 2.jpg

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Water Saving Tips

As part of Kwali Mark Construction’s water wise month we would like to share our water saving tips with you. Everyone needs to do their part in order to preserve our precious water resource.

Interesting water facts:

  • If you have a dripping tap with one drip per second you can waste up to 30 liters a day.
  • If you take a shower for less than 5 minutes you can save up to 70 liters per shower.
  • Using a bucket of water and not a hosepipe when washing your car can save up to 300 liters per wash.

Water saving tips:

  • Shower for less than 3 minutes
  • Check your meter regularly.
  • Close your taps while brushing your teeth
  • Always keep all taps closed when you are not using it.
  • Do not water your garden between 10h00 and 16h00 in the day
  • Repair water leaks immediately



Water saving in the Bathroom

You can replace your shower heads with water efffefficient shower heads to save water. Kwali Mark Construction recommends the Hansgrohe shower heads. Your water consumption can be reduced up to 60% by using their shower heads. By replacing your shower heads you can reduce your water and conserve our valuable resource.


Water saving in the Garden

In our first article we spoke about rainwater harvesting. By accumulating all the rain water in a tank you will be able to use that water for garden irrigation. Rainwater harvesting is easy to maintain and very cost effective. You can re-use your bath water to water plants in the garden. Ensure that you do not waste running water and that you do not water the paved areas. When you water the garden less frequently but for longer times it will encourage a deeper root system and that can result in stronger plants.

Water saving in the Kitchen

While waiting for your tap to heat up you can capture that water into bottles not to waste it. By using the basin filled with water to rinse cutlery and glasses rather than letting the tap run while rinsing. This water can then be used again to water your garden.


Remember as implemented by the municipality only water your garden on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays before 9am or after 4pm.



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Let’s make it a water wise year

Our water resources are under pressure due to the drought and low water levels of dams, this occurs when there is significant changes in the rainfall patterns and climate changes therefor we need to value water and use it wisely. We are dependent on water as we use it on a daily basis, by trying to save a little water we will be able to make a difference to the environment. There are various alternative solutions you can look at to conserve water. This month we are looking into rainwater harvesting.



Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse on site rather than allowing it to run off. Rainwater can be collected from the roof and other places where it is redirected to a tank for storage. This water can be used for garden irrigation or filling up the pool. There are bigger and more complex systems available that can be incorporated into the plumbing system of your home. With rainwater harvesting you are creating an independent water supply.


Some benefits for rain water harvesting:

  • It is very cost effective
  • You can have adequate water for irrigation
  • It is easy to maintain
  • You will have available water for water outages


Kwali Mark Construction recommends Nel Tanks.

According to Nel Tanks rainwater harvesting is one solution to preserve water and to ensure water security for future generations. Their water tanks are manufactured to prevent sunlight penetration and algae growth. One millimeter of rain on one square meter of roof equals one liter of water.

Nel Tanks have a variety of tanks to choose from to help you with your rainwater harvesting process.

eeeeNel Tanks


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