The Smart Guide to Prepaid Electricity in South Africa

by | Oct 13, 2022

As of 2021, the number of South African households connected to electricity  through a prepaid meter was recorded as 79.6% of all households, while 12.5% received it via a conventional post paid meter, with 8% of households obtaining electricity from other sources.

These numbers show that prepaid electricity is not a new concept in South Africa, and that it is rapidly outpacing post-paid electricity. If you’re thinking of making the switch to prepaid electricity, we outline the benefits of prepaid electricity, and cover the basics on what you need to know about buying prepaid electricity, including when and where to buy from. We take a look at how prepaid meters work, and what you need to know about prepaid electricity meters in South Africa.

What is prepaid electricity?

Prepaid electricity is a usage model that allows consumers to purchase electricity in any amount and at any time, before they use it. Postpaid electricity, on the other hand, allows consumers to pay for electricity after they’ve used it. In other words, consumers receive a bill at the end of the month for the power they’ve consumed through that period.

How does prepaid electricity work?

Prepaid electricity runs using a prepaid meter, and when the credit balance on the meter runs out, the household’s electricity shuts off and it must be topped up with more prepaid credit in order to switch back on.

What are the benefits of prepaid electricity?

  • For consumers: gaining the ability to control their own consumption.
  • For utility companies: better recovery of funds owed by municipalities and consumers.

Read more about the benefits of prepaid electricity.

How does a prepaid electricity meter work?

Monthly electricity consumption is calculated based on kWh – Kilowatt Hour.  One Kilowatt (or 1 Unit) is equal to 1000 watts. Your prepaid electricity meter measures the flow of electricity used in kWh, and the balance decreases as you use electricity.

  • The LED on the left of the meter flashes red as electricity is used: the faster it flashes, the more units are being consumed.
  • The LED on the right of the meter indicates your credit balance. Green when there is enough, red when the balance goes below a certain amount, and flashing red to indicate that you will need to top up soon.
  • When the credit balance goes below a certain amount, the red light flashes in addition to a beeping alarm sound.

How is the number of units calculated?

A prepaid electricity meter is recharged using a token or a voucher. By buying a token/voucher, you are sending a request to the municipality’s vending system. The vending system checks the tariff applicable to the meter and converts the Rand amount requested into a specific number of units.

  • Each prepaid electrical meter has a unique identification number. The vouchers for the meters work on an encrypted numbering system which are individually generated.
  • Each voucher is specific to the meter it was generated for and cannot be used on any other meter.

Most municipalities apply the inclining block tariff, in terms of which you will pay more per unit, the more you consume and buy within a given month.

Where can you buy prepaid electricity?

Good news! You can buy prepaid electricity online using the Home+ app. It’s quick, easy and convenient.

  • Secure online payment
  • Recharge in under a minute
  • Earn rewards every time you recharge, no extra cost!

How to buy electricity prepaid online

With the Home+ app, buying prepaid electricity is now quicker and easier than before! You can pay via EFT or using your debit or credit card. It’s safe and secure.

You’ll receive your prepaid electricity voucher code via email or SMS, depending on your selected preferences.

How to load electricity on your prepaid meter

Enter your unique voucher code into the keypad on your prepaid electricity meter, followed by the ‘enter’ or ‘return’ button. If the voucher is valid, your balance will be credited with the corresponding electricity units in kWh.

When to buy prepaid electricity

With Eskom’s inclining block tariff, the price of electricity does not change during the month. The price changes according to how much you’ve consumed. In other words, you are charged at Block 1 tariff up to 350kWh. Thereafter electricity bought will fall in block two which is a bit more expensive. This process repeats automatically as the customer purchases further electricity to move into Block 3. At the end of the month, the history is reset and the customer will again start the next month from Block 1.

  • The process to move from one block to the next is automatic and depends only on the amount of electricity you purchase.
  • The movement to the next block does not depend on whether the purchases are spread over many transactions or if all electricity is bought in one transaction.
  • Because the blocks increase in price, you can save money by not buying more electricity than what you will use during the month. You can save by waiting until the following month to purchase again at Block 1 prices.
  • Electricity is measured in kWh along the horizontal line at the bottom.
  • The first purchase for the month is counted from the left and follows the line as more electricity is purchased during the month.
  • As more electricity is purchased beyond the step points, that portion will be at a higher price.

In other words: The total electricity bought during the month determines the step up to a different block price, not the date or the number of purchases.

Interested in learning how to reduce your electricity consumption and lower your spend on prepaid electricity? Take a look at what uses the most electricity in your home and learn about the impact of your geyser on your utility bill. This should equip you to start being more energy-conscious at home with these  power and money-saving tips (that actually work!)

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Article by

Vincent Gaemers
Vincent Gaemers is the Growth Lead at Home+. He breathes the Home+ brand and his mission is to deliver the Home+ knowledge to our customers.
Vincent Gaemers
Vincent Gaemers is the Growth Lead at Home+. He breathes the Home+ brand and his mission is to deliver the Home+ knowledge to our customers.

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