(Bloomberg) -- South African cities could reduce the electricity outages hobbling its economy by installing water heaters powered by artificial intelligence, a 30-month study has shown.

Installing devices that automatically switch off to avoid consumption at peak times and take advantage of solar power at the sunniest hours of the day in just a quarter of a city’s households could slash blackouts by 20 hours a month, research by South African startup Plentify showed. 

Plentify, whose chief executive officer is a former head of Google’s energy business in Africa and has a former Tesla Inc. executive as an adviser, carried out the study on 500 homes in Cape Town and the Western Cape province’s Hessequa municipality. It showed that maximum demand from water heaters, which can account for as much as half of household electricity usage, could be reduced by 60%.

South Africans have regularly had to endure power outages of more than 10 hours a day over the past 12 months as the country’s fleet of aging coal plants regularly break down.

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