We are all increasingly aware of resource constraints and the rising costs of keeping the lights on in South Africa. The load-shedding struggle is an inconvenient reality for all households and businesses in South Africa and it has a financial impact on many different industries such as the agricultural industry. Farmers reliant on electricity for parts of the business said load shedding has a devastating impact on farming activities. … “For agriculture, load shedding will have an impact on irrigation-reliant and energy-intensive industries such as horticulture, dairy, poultry, grains and agro-processing”.
So why is load-shedding necessary?
Load shedding is aimed at removing load from the power system when there is an imbalance between the electricity available and the demand for electricity. Load shedding is therefore done to protect the national power system from collapsing
We also have to consider the connection between our energy use and the environment. When we consume less power, we reduce the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants, conserve the earth’s natural resources and protect ecosystems from destruction. Adopting energy-saving practices will help safeguard the environment and help ensure energy security for the future.
We live in a country where the cost and the consequences of past and potential future load shedding on us, our families, our businesses and our local economy is a huge one.
For these two very important reasons it is vital that every one of us do our part to save electricity where we can, improve the efficiency of our homes and even generate our own electricity where possible.
You can save 30% on your electricity bill or more by adding a few low-cost items, usually for less than R1000. But if you want to make a real difference and save 50% or more of your electricity bill every month, you should invest in energy-efficient equipment.
Water and Geyser
Turning your geyser down from 70˚C to 60˚C will see a 5% reduction in your hot water electricity bill. In some cases, 55°C is a good option (but not below that for health risk reasons)
Use less hot water. Tackle excessive use with more efficient habits.
- Do not let the hot water run unnecessarily. Use cold water to wash your hands instead of hot water. Use a basin plug when washing.
- Shower instead of bathing. You will save up to 80% in water and use 5 times less electricity than heating bath water if you take a short shower.
Switch off your geyser when you go away for a few days or more. The element heats up a few times daily if you leave it on. When you get back, give the geyser a couple of hours to heat up again.
Switch your geyser off during peak hours. Less demand on the national electrical grid helps reduce the risk of load-shedding. In winter months peak demand comes in the morning from 6-8am and evening from 5-9pm. In the summer months, demand stays high all day long between those peaks (mostly from air conditioning).
Insulate your water pipes and wrap your geyser in a geyser blanket. This prevents heat loss, reducing the cost of electricity needed to keep water hot by R500 or more a year. Blankets cost about R200 – R400; and pipe insulation usually less than R100 per month.
Fix leaking hot water taps. A dripping hot tap can waste up to 18 litres of water a day and cost hundreds of rands.
Switch to a low-flow, energy and water efficient aerated showerhead. They’re designed to use up to 40% less hot water. To test your showerhead, hold a bucket under the shower spray for 12 seconds. If you collect more than 2 litres, it should be replaced.
Fit your geysers close to hot water points. This will optimise electricity efficiency.
Installing a solar water heater can save 25% and even as much as 50% on your bill. Upgrading costs can vary and ther are rental and financing options available. If your geyser bursts you could use your insurance pay-out to upgrade to solar.
Install a heat pump. If a solar water heater is not be suitable for your household a heat pump can be very effective at reducing electricity consumption.
Turn off the lights if you leave a room for more than five minutes or install a motion sensor that detects movement.
Maximise sunlight. Opening the curtains in the morning saves energy, reduces stress and improves health and productivity as well.
Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are priced low, incredibly efficient and they save 80% to 90% on your electricity bill.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) remain a somewhat more affordable way to save, if LEDs are too pricey for your whole house. Replace the most heavily used lights in your home with CFLs.
Choose light colours for interior paints as dark colours can double the wattage necessary to light a room, you could also use paints which boost reflectivity significantly.
Use solar powered lights in your garden. They’re easy to install and rely entirely on energy from the sun and contain a small chargeable battery so they can be used at night.
Put light only where you need it and try ‘de-lamping,’ by removing a bulb or two.
Use motion-sensor lights outside. Outdoor lights burning overnight will certainly lead to higher utility bills, but numerous studies suggest they may also light the way for criminals to do their deeds, particularly if high walls shield the property. Infrared motion detector light fittings (that switch on when something moves and stay on for a preset time) are more likely to surprise unwanted visitors, while using less electricity.
Let the sky light dark rooms. If you need lights on during the day, dark and windowless rooms can benefit from light tubes or skylights. In summer, skylight blinds can help avoid overheating.
Renovate to be LED-friendly. LED manufacturers try to accommodate existing bulb styles and fixtures, but a renovation is a great time to make the change. The technology is perfectly suited to long strips of lights that can be concealed in crown mouldings or under cabinets. Recessed downlights and track lights should be wired for mains voltage, without low-voltage transformers. Dimmable LEDs need dimmers designed for them. For long term best results, use high quality products from reputable brands, and qualified installers.
Heating and Cooling
Choose a hot water bottle over an electric blanket. A hot water bottle filled by a 2 000 W kettle running for five minutes uses 0.16 kWh and gives you two hours of warmth. A 200 W electric blanket running for two hours uses more than double the electricity (0.4 kWh).
Make your electric blanket more energy efficient. Turn it to the highest setting for a few minutes before getting into bed and then turn it off for the night.
Place heating right where it is needed. An electric blanket, hot water bottle or fan heater all direct the heat to warm you up quickly. Infrared, or quartz bar heaters are also efficient as long as you are in front of them. Invest in a gas heater, or a heater with a short warm-up time and built-in thermostat. Only heat rooms that you and your family will be spending time in, and avoid using underfloor heating.
Check how you are dressed before switching on the heater. Cottons are great for summer, but consider putting them away for the winter. Wool, fleece, down and insulating synthetics trap heat much better. Use layers for added warmth and control. We lose a lot of heat through our heads, so use a cap or other head covering. Scarves also make a big difference.
Insulate your ceiling. Approximately 40% of heat loss takes place through the roof. Insulation slows heat transfer and makes your home up to 10°C cooler in summer and 5°C warmer in winter, saving up to 16% of the electricity you need annually to heat or cool your home. Roof paints specially formulated to ward off the sun’s heat are also available.
Use your windows wisely. Any north-facing house is already built for passive solar heating, but you have to help. As soon as the winter sun is shining, open all curtains to let the warm sunshine in. But leave windows and doors tightly shut until temperatures peak in the afternoon. That’s the time for fresh air. Seal up again before it gets cool in the evening, with heavy curtains or blinds on windows so you don’t lose heat. In summer, close curtains of west-facing windows against the hot afternoon sun.
If you must use air conditioners when it’s hot, use them economically. Set them to maintain the temperature at the ‘Golden Zone’ between 18°C and 22°C, but keep an eye on the outside “ambient” temperature and try to minimise the difference from outdoors to indoors – consider notching up the air con a few degrees on a particularly hot day. It will feel cool anyway, use less electricity, and prolong the life of your unit. Though air conditioners are best avoided if possible, if you already own one, they are actually more efficient at heating than at cooling. Compared to ordinary electric heaters, most air-conditioners can generate 2 or 3 times more heat per watt. If located high on a wall, make sure their louvers direct the air toward the floor.
Eliminate drafts blowing under doors and around windows. Trace their edges with a burning stick of incense or the palm of your hand to find air leaks and block them with self-adhesive ‘weatherstripping’. Attach a ‘sweep’ to the bottom of a door to close the gap to the floor, or use a beanbag ‘snake’ or ‘sausage’. Check the ceiling for gaps where heat escapes, such as the attic hatch. Better insulation of the home makes a big difference to thermal comfort in winter, and reduces the need for heating.
Install roof awnings and overhangs. These can help shade windows from the hot sun in summer, while still allowing the warm winter sun in.
Switch off all unused appliances at the wall. Appliances in ‘stand-by’ mode such as TVs, DVD players, HiFi’s and computers consume as much as 50% of the electricity they would normally use. Switching a computer on and off does not reduce its lifespan unless repeated more than 40 000 times, or every 5 minutes. It is not necessary to unplug an appliance if the socket is switched off.
Only use your washing machine once a full load of dirty laundry has accumulated. Automatic washing machines use the same amount of electricity for a full load as they do for a single item.
Use cold-water or lower heat settings as often as possible. Wash bed linen at 60°C (instead of 90°C) to cut back on the amount of electricity you use.
Skip the pre-wash cycle for clothes that aren’t particularly dirty. This can cut down hot water usage by up to 20%.
Never overload your automatic washing machine. Overloading will reduce the cleaning action. Varying the sizes of garments in a full load improves the cleaning action by allowing free circulation.
Take advantage of special features on your washer that can save money. For example, soak cycles remove stubborn stains in one wash cycle.
Hang your clothes outside to dry. If possible, avoid using a tumble dryer altogether. Do your laundry on a sunny day, or use an indoor drying rack to dry your clothes.
Remove excess water before putting clothes in the dryer. This minimises the drying time required.
Dry multiple loads of clothes consecutively. Your dryer will be warm already so you’ll save energy.
Make sure the lint filter in your tumble dryer is cleaned.
Only iron what really needs to be ironed. Certain clothing will appear ironed with careful folding.
Iron large batches of clothes at a time. This saves the iron from needing to be reheated.
Complete the last of your ironing with the iron switched off. An iron consumes as much energy as ten 100 W light bulbs so let some of that stored energy work for you.
Only use distilled or boiled water in a steam iron. This will keep it clean and energy efficient.
Use specialised appliances for the appropriate tasks, this is the easiest way to save electricity in the kitchen.
Ovens and Stoves
Always make toast in a toaster instead of using the oven.
Ensure the oven door is kept closed until the food is done. Constantly opening and closing the oven door dissipates heat, and electricity is wasted in reheating the oven.
Only use pots and pans that completely cover stove plates. Also keep stove plates and reflectors clean to ensure all the energy is being used to cook the food.
Use a pressure cooker or insulation cooker when preparing foods that take a long time to cook. It will speed up the cooking process and save electricity.
Turn off the stove before you’ve finished cooking. Hot plates retain heat and will continue to cook your food while saving electricity. Alternatively, bring food to the boil on the ‘high’ setting and then turn down the plate to simmer until cooked. Keep the lid on the pot to retain heat.
Use the microwave for small to medium amounts of food. Leave the conventional oven for large meals.
When using a kettle, boil only as much water as you need.
Don’t open the fridge door unnecessarily or leave it open for too long. Cold air sinks so it literally falls out of the fridge, and so your fridge has to start again. An empty fridge has to work hard to keep things cold so put bottles of water in the fridge as these ‘hold onto the cold’ – equally, an overfull fridge also has to work too hard.
Let hot food cool down before putting it in the fridge. It will require less electricity for further cooling.
Empty your fridge and switch it off when you go on holiday.
Defrost your freezer regularly. This will ensure it runs more efficiently.
Run the dishwasher only when it’s full.
Link the dishwasher to the cold water supply. The dishwasher heats the water itself and only requires hot water for one wash and one rinse cycle. If the dishwasher is linked to a hot water tap, it will draw power for the full duration.
Turn the dishwasher off before the drying cycle. Use a cloth to dry the dishes or let them drip-dry.
Invest in a front-loading washing machine instead of a top loader. It uses less water and costs less to operate. Also ensure the new machine offers a variety of water temperature settings.
If you’re buying a new tumble dryer, choose one with Electronic Humidity Control (EHC). It shuts the machine off automatically when clothes are dry instead of relying on a timer.
Reduce the hours on your pool pump. Don’t operate your pump between 6 – 8am or 5 – 9pm. Avoiding these peak electricity use hours will help reduce blackouts and the need for load-shedding.
Clean your pool pump filters regularly. A clean filter allows the pump to run for fewer hours but still keeps the pool clean. Use a wall brush and leaf skimmer regularly and take foreign materials out of the strainer basket.
Buy a more efficient variable-speed pool pump. While most pools have 750-watt and 1 100-watt pumps, newer models use about 150 to 300 watts at their lowest settings.
Invest in a pool cover. It will keep your pool cleaner for longer and the water warmer over the winter months. It is still recommended to run the pool filter periodically.
Have the seals in your fridge replaced to keep the cold air in.
When buying a dishwasher, choose a model that uses less water. A water efficient dishwasher uses up to 50% less water than a conventional one, which means 50% less water to heat up.
Choose a dishwasher model with a no-heat air-drying feature to save even more electricity, if you can’t use a cloth to dry the dishes or let them drip-dry instead.
In order to create a more affordable and secure energy future for us all it is imperative that we do the most we can to save electricity.
Saving electricity and reducing our carbon-footprint go hand-in-hand and will benefit both our pockets, the national electricity grid and our planet. If each of us does as much as we can then together, we will:
- Soften the impact of forthcoming electricity tariff increases
- Protect our local economy and jobs
- Boost our local energy efficiency and renewable energy economy and create local jobs
- Reduce South Africa’s carbon footprint and build a sustainable, resilient country