Picture: Wikipedia

With the country already in the icy grip of winter, South Africans are hauling out their heaters and electric blankets and bracing themselves for the cold months ahead. Unfortunately, they’ll also need to brace themselves for increased electricity bills.

“The good news is that there are ways to stay warm while saving yourself from sky-high bills,” Susan Steward, Marketing Manager of Budget Insurance, said.

Ways to stay warm, smartly, this winter:

Go easy on your geyser
– geysers use a huge amount of power and can make up as much as 40% of your total electricity bill. You can save up to 10% by simply lowering the thermostat’s temperature to between 50C and 60C, instead of 60 to 65C. Don’t set it lower than 50C, however, as this could cause bacteria to grow inside the geyser. Also, by using a geyser blanket, insulating your water pipes and installing a geyser timer, you could save your geyser a lot of hard work, and yourself, a lot of money. 

Choose your heaters wisely – the way that different heaters warm up affects the amount of electricity they use. For example, oil heaters consume smaller amounts of electricity because they warm up gradually and consistently.  Bar heaters, on the other hand, warm up much faster, using more electricity. Wall mounted heaters take a long time to reach optimal temperatures, drawing on a lot of electricity in the process. Your choice will depend on the space you’re heating as some heaters are more cost-effective in smaller spaces, but oil heaters and small fan heaters are generally best for the average home.

Cook very fast or very slow – Microwaves remain the cheapest way to cook food while ovens draw heavily on electricity. Slow cookers are far more energy-efficient than ovens and are a great alternative for soups and stews. If you are using the oven, reduce power by turning it off a few minutes before the food is ready, and allow the built-up heat to finish the cooking.

Fill in the gaps – the cold can creep in the smallest of open spaces. The small slits in door and window frames can be lined easily with a few millimetres of foam material and rolled up towels can be placed against the bottom of doors.

Go thermal – thermal clothing has come a long way, is now more accessible than ever and is available at most retail outlets, at an affordable price. It’s a smart and lightweight way to keep the heat in and the cold out without using external heat sources.

Change the pool rules
– less algae grows in winter so there’s no need for the pool pump to run day and night. Reduce electricity use by cutting the running time by up to two hours.

Rate before you buy – before purchasing new appliances like heaters and kettles, check their energy rating – A being the most efficient and Gthe least.

Soak up and seal in – open north-facing curtains and blinds during the day to soak up the sun and close them at night to keep the heat in. Keep the windows and doors closed during the day to keep in all that precious heat.

Curtains up, rugs down – it’s not just about adding warmth to your home but about keeping it from escaping. Thick, heavy curtains on windows and rugs on tiled or wooden floors are great ways to reduce heat loss in your home.

Be bright about light – invest in energy-saving lightbulbs. While they are more expensive to purchase, they use as little as one-sixth of the energy of regular lightbulbs and can last up to 25 times longer. Since it can be a bit pricey to replace all your bulbs at once, spread out the cost by replacing them as they go out.

“While you may need to adjust your electricity budget to allow for increased use over winter, you can avoid the shock of an astronomical account if the whole household works together to keep that bill in budget,” Steward said.

The Mercury