You’ve probably noticed that your electricity bill is one of those expenses that can easily get out of hand, especially during the winter months. This alone is a good enough reason to save on your electricity usage (and your electricity bill). But, here in South Africa, we have another reason too. With the country’s power supply struggling to meet everyone’s needs, we all need to do our part to save electricity and reduce the demand on the national grid. Here, we list several ways to both cut energy costs and help avoid load shedding.
You can’t manage what you don’t understand, and that’s why the first step towards effectively reducing your electricity usage is understanding how electricity is used in your home. This is how the average South African household’s electricity is distributed:
Larger appliances like washing machines use more electricity than smaller appliances like kettles and toasters, but certain older models of the same appliance also use more electricity. Nowadays, appliances are made with the goal of being energy efficient and eco-friendly. These products are rated on a scale from A (indicating most efficient) to G (least efficient) which you can see on the coloured sticker usually found on appliances in store.
While most appliances can be turned off when not in use, some, like fridges and remote controlled gates, need to be on all the time. Some of these use as much as a 100W lightbulb would if left on. This is why you also need to look for Energy Star labels. Appliances and brands are awarded this star if the energy consumption of the machine in standby mode is less than an agreed limit. Old household appliances use up to 40% more electricity than an Energy Star appliance. If you have any of these in your home, consider replacing them with newer energy efficient models.
Electric water heaters are known for using a lot of electricity, and your energy bill can be higher than necessary if your water heater is left on 24/7. You only need hot water at certain times throughout the day, so there is no need to keep it on all day. Rather turn it on a few hours before you need hot water. Some people prefer to do this manually, but you can also get an electronic timer switch installed. Available at stores like Makro and Game, these cost between R150 - R300 and can be programmed to daily or weekly schedules so the geyser only heats up when you need it to.
Another great way to reduce your electricity usage is to use energy efficient lighting. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to save money as CFL light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Simply replace your old light bulbs with energy efficient ones and remember to recycle the old bulbs. You can buy a broad range of energy saving LED, solar and eco-friendly lights at sustainable.co.za.
Electrical ovens also take up a great deal of electricity. Fortunately, the eco-friendly alternative is not only more energy efficient, but also more convenient. Gas ovens may be expensive to install, but overall gas is cheaper to use and creates heat in an instant, unlike electric stoves which take some time to heat up. If this investment seems a little out of your price range, consider getting a gas cylinder with a cooker top attachment which you can use instead of the stove plates.
Water heating can account for 30 - 50% of your electricity bill, but in sunny South Africa we have a readily available alternative. Solar heat pumps don’t need sunlight and indirectly use solar power by extracting energy from the surrounding air, meaning that they can provide you with hot water no matter the season or time of day. These cost about R2 000 - R3 000. You can also use a solar water heater which will require more of an upfront investment because it works with solar panels, but it will lower your water-heating costs by as much as 50%.
Households can also be completely powered by solar panels, but these are quite costly to install and require batteries to save the converted energy, which can also add up. But if you’re willing to make the investment, you could run a completely energy-efficient home.
There are many ways to save if you only know where and how. For more green and money-saving tips, read our blog articles How to save on your water bill.