Lights will go off in some 7 000 cities around the world for this weekend's Earth Hour event. Picture: Cara Viereckl

Eskom is calling on South Africans to save electricity, especially in winter. In particular, it recommends switching off energy-intensive appliances such as geysers and pool pumps during the high electricity use time of 5pm to 9pm.

“The evening peaks are a big issue for us. We need an extra power station just for those four hours. If everyone were to switch off their geysers and pool pumps during these times, this could save up to 2 940MW.

“This is enough to power three cities the size of Durban, Port Elizabeth or Bloemfontein,” says Eskom’s Hillary Joffe.

To save money on winter electricity bills, Eskom also recommends only using electric heaters that are controlled by thermostats, switching on electric blankets an hour before going to bed, and only heating rooms that are in use.

To add to these savings, you should switch off appliances such as TVs, computers and radios on standby mode, as this still uses up to 50 percent of the electricity the appliance would normally use.

“If every household makes some minor changes, we can lower our collective electricity use by 10 percent,” says Joffe.

Your geyser is the biggest electricity guzzler, accountable for up to 40 percent of your monthly electricity bill.

This is because it works on a thermostat and each time it cools to below the set temperature, it kicks into action, heating the water again, whether it is needed or not.

So the first thing to do, says Joffe, is check that the thermostat is on 60°C. “It sounds low, but 60°C is more than warm enough for a bath or shower, and it saves significantly on your bill,” she says.

If you’re only using the geyser to bath or shower, switch it off until two hours before you need to wash – and always remember to switch it off when you’re away.

Between the geyser and heaters, you’re looking at 55 percent of your bill in winter.

Other measures such as switching off lights in unoccupied rooms, installing a wood-burning fireplace and using gas heaters and energy-saving light bulbs and appliances will also cut your bill.

Of course, there are a whole lot of other daily household chores that account for the rest of the bill. So to make savings more significant, Eskom gave these tips on how we might economise and some costings we can relate to.

How much it costs:

l A batch of ironing for 30 minutes, with a thermostatically controlled steam iron – R0.94

l To run a vacuum cleaner for half an hour – R0.75l To run a medium-sized oil heater on medium heat for an hour – R0.63

l A fan heater on medium power for an hour – R0.80

l To boil a kettle of cold water – R0.23

l To cook a stew at 150°C for two hours – R5.50

l To run two electric hot-plates on medium heat for 30 minutes – R0.94

l To have a half-full bath, comfortably warm – R4.41

l To have a warm shower for five minutes – R2.86

l To run a washing machine cycle with both pre-wash and spin cycles – R5

l To run a washing machine cycle without the pre-wash, but with spin cycle – R3.44

Eight simple ways to reduce your use:

1 Use an electric kettle to boil water rather than boiling water on the stove. When you are boiling the kettle, don’t fill the kettle to the brim. Only boil the water you need.

2 Iron low-temperature fabrics first to reduce the iron’s warm-up time. Use a thermostatically controlled iron.

3Use the warm water setting on your washing machine. It reduces the energy needed to heat water. Also, only do full loads, not small loads.

4 Avoid tumble-dryers. They are high energy consumers. It’s more environmentally friendly to hang washing on the line.

5 Use a pressure cooker to prepare foods that normally have a lengthy cooking time such as some vegetables, rice and certain cuts of meat.

6 Make sure the oven doors stay closed until food is fully cooked.

7 Use pots and pans that completely cover stove plates.

8 Keep the fridge door closed. The more you open it, the more energy it uses to maintain its temperature. - Cape Argus