Electricity, or rather the lack of it, is an ongoing headache for most Harare residents. We’ve learned to cope with no TV at night, doing homework by candlelight or freezing cold showers. More difficult to deal with are fridges and deep-freezers that continually defrost, electric gates that won’t open trapping you inside your property, or cell phones and computers that need charging. As a result, anyone that can afford it has invested their hard earned cash in a generator. In the medium density areas residents often hear no fewer than six generators chugging away from as early as five o’clock in the morning until late into the night. And it’s not only in the suburbs – I’ve even seen generators in blocks of flats where the noise and the fumes must be unbearable. A medium sized diesel generator is not too different to a small truck engine in terms of noise and air pollution. Imagine having a small truck running outside your window all night. Some people don’t have to.
Here are a few ways to deal with the problems inherent in using a generator. An extended exhaust pipe helps considerably – it deadens the sound a little and if it’s high enough the emissions are dispersed without creating choking fumes or making your walls black with soot. They’re fairly simple and inexpensive to have made up. It’s basically a pipe that fits over your generator’s exhaust output and is then clamped onto a nearby wall or post to keep it upright. There’s virtually no limit to the length of the pipe but try to have as few bends in it as possible. 90 degree bends can cause the back pressure to damage your machine.
Another way to deaden the noise is to create a little shed for your generator. It not only blocks the sound but also protects your generator from theft and from the elements. Probably one of the simplest solutions (if you’re not too hands on) is to speak to the guys at the Chisipite flea market. They can make you up a sort of glorified dog kennel with a door on it that can be padlocked and a waterproof roof. If you leave a couple of horizontal slats out you can be sure that the air circulation will be adequate and prevent your generator overheating. For a normal sized generator your ‘kennel’ should be about 1.5m square and 1.5m high. Remember that you’ll have to get inside with a jerry can to top up the fuel. The carpenters at Chisipite can make one up for between $120 and $180.
It would be best to cast a concrete slab for the ‘kennel’ to sit on, and this is relatively easy and cheap. Check out www.kemptonsand.co.za. They have a handy online calculator that works out all the quantities of sand, stone and cement for you. If you decide to build a more substantial shed out of brick or air brick, this web site will also give you all the quantities of materials that you’ll need. Air bricks are a good option as they work out cheaper than ordinary bricks and will ensure that there is adequate air flow around the generator. If the air flow is not good, you’ll risk your generator overheating and possibly needing expensive repairs. Corrugated iron sheets are not recommended for the roof as they will vibrate or even amplify the sound. The best roof is made from timber slats covered with thick waterproof sheeting on the outside and a sheet on Kaylite on the inside.
Hope these suggestions help you enjoy peaceful evenings and quiet mornings, even with the generators working!
John Herbst from Generator Services can make up and fit an exhaust for you. Call 446423.
Air bricks are available from Coventry Road Plasterers for around $4.50 each.