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Survival Tactics: The best tips to save on electricity and fight the cold

Keep warm this winter and don’t break the grid. Picture by Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

Keep warm this winter and don’t break the grid. Picture by Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

Published Jun 2, 2022

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Cape Town - Confronted with the winter chill, load shedding and tariff hikes at the same time, South Africans will have to walk a fine line between staying warm and reducing pressure on the grid, as well as their wallets.

"Winter is typically associated with an increase in load shedding due to the high demand on the grid, but through a collective, proactive approach to saving electricity and staying warm smartly, we can make sure that we stay warm, save and keep the lights on," says Susan Steward from Budget Insurance.

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She says that a smart starting point is to know how much you're paying for each device and appliance that you use.

For instance, did you know, she says, that simply changing from 75-watt incandescent bulbs to 11-watt LED bulbs could slash your bulb bill by 85% - saving you around R2150 a year.

"Electricity in South Africa is currently charged at R1.33 per kWh (a kWh is 1000 watts used for one hour) however, energy regulator, Nersa, is proposing to hike municipal electricity tariffs by another 7.47% in July 2022, which has just been confirmed by the City of Johannesburg.

“This means that electricity will cost as much as R1.46 in a few months' time. It's important to keep in mind that this is a base price and that many consumers actually already pay an average of at least about R2 per kWh," says Steward.

To work out your electricity spend, use an online calculation such as this. select the type of appliance or device you have, and how many hours that appliance or device is in use.

As an example:

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* A single 75-watt incandescent light bulb, used for 35 hours a week: R21 per month.

* A 100-watt computer and monitor, used for 40 hours a week: R32 per month.

* A 42" LED TV (80 watts) used 4 hours a day: R18 a month.

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* A 2400-watt kettle, used 30 minutes a day: R67 a month.

* A 2100-watt oven used 30 minutes a day: R59 per month.

* A 150-watt fridge-freezer, used 24 hours a day: R202 per month.

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* A 4000-watt (combined) washer and dryer, used for an hour every day: R224 per month.

"This means that if you use only 10 bulbs, a laptop, a small TV, your kettle, your oven, your fridge, and your washer / dryer, you are spending about R812 per month.

“Add other devices and appliances to the mix, including high energy devices like heaters, and it soon amounts to a massive bill," says Steward.

"On the flipside, a few very minor adjustments to which electric devices you use and how long you use them for can make a significant impact. Simply changing from 75-watt incandescent bulbs to 11-watt LED bulbs, for example, could slash your bulb bill by 85% - saving you around R2150 a year."

Budget Insurance offers the following penny and grid wise tips to save to the max this winter:

1. Focus on the biggest consumers: It's wise to focus on the biggest energy consumers in your home, led by heating and cooling systems (including water heating), lighting, washers & dryers, refrigerators and electric ovens.

2. Keep geysers and pipes warm: Consider investing in a geyser blanket and timer to not only save on electricity, but also to help avoid a burst geyser caused by extreme fluctuations in heating and cooling. Installing pipe insulation is also wise.

3. Invest in ceiling insulation and seal gaps around doors and windows: Approximately 40% of heat in a home is lost through the roof if no insulation is installed. Any gaps in window or door frames are also a waste of valuable energy.

4. Electric blankets: Switch these on an hour before you go to bed and off the moment you get in.

5. Bright idea: switch to energy efficient light bulbs if you haven't done so already. They may be more expensive, but last longer and use substantially less electricity.

6. Out with the old: letting go of large appliances such as a fridge can seem counter-productive when trying to save money but newer fridges are far more energy efficient and will save you more in the long run. Appliances are graded from A to G on their efficiency, with A being the most efficient and G being the least.

7. Low consumption alternatives: Taking a shower instead of a water-and electricity-consuming bath, using the microwave instead of the stove or oven to cook and warm food, opening windows instead of using the air conditioner or closing them to retain heat, instead of using heaters are all simple, smart examples of saving energy and money.

8. The habit of saving: Get your entire household to turn off any lights and appliances that are not in use, and to use them only for as long as required.

The South African National Energy Development Institute highlights these examples:

* Heat only the room you're in - it's a waste of energy to heat up unoccupied rooms

* Do not use warm water for small tasks. When you quickly wash your hands, opening the warm water tap releases warm water from the geyser into the pipes, but by the time it reaches you, you'll be done washing. Some hot water will be stuck in the pipe and left to cool, but the geyser still needs to heat up cold water that was let in.

* Boil only as much water as you need - heating up a whole litre of water if you only need a cup wastes precious energy.

* Smart plugs for smart people: Smart plugs can be set to switch off your appliances such as TVs and sound systems entirely as opposed to putting them onto stand-by mode which guzzles power. Smart plugs typically have a companion app allowing you to set preferences, schedules and names for the devices. Alternatively, you can switch off these devices manually when not in use.

* Time for timers: Timers, or smart switches - whether for geysers, pool pumps or security lights - will help you only consume electricity at specific times. Especially useful with geysers - one of the most energy consuming items in the household.

* Long-term planning: there are some bigger ways to reduce a home's electricity consumption and should be considered as part of a longer-term investment and cost saving exercise.

This includes putting in solar panels, solar-powered security lights, switching out electricity-run stoves and ovens for gas and replacing air conditioning with ceiling fans and fireplaces. A pre-paid electricity meter would also be an effective way to monitor your home's power consumption and assist with budgeting for power on a monthly basis.

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