The energy crisis in South Africa is of grave concern; especially when our government is of the opinion that investing between R400 billion and R1 trillion in building 6 new nuclear power plants is the answer – the lack of logic and foresight as well as the blatant disregard of their responsibility to our natural environment and citizens is appalling.
If the government is prepared to invest this kind of money surely that should be going into the research and development of sustainable and renewable energy resources that will still create jobs, meet energy demands, be safe to the public and kind to the planet.
Although we know that it is big industry in SA that is most demanding on our power grid; we can however still make a valuable contribution to lowering the demand (and save some bucks) if we all put in an effort to consistently lower our consumption. Here is a list of no-cost tips to save electricity!
- Turn your geyser down to 60°C. Turning your geyser down from 70˚C to 60˚C will see a 5% reduction in your hot water electricity bill.
- 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).
- Turn off the lights if you leave a room for more than five minutes. Switching lights on and off may reduce the lifespan of the bulb, but it will also reduce your electricity bill.
- Maximise sunlight. Open the curtains in the morning rather than turning on lights. This will save energy, plus numerous studies have shown that natural light can reduce stress and improve health and productivity as well.
HEATING & COOLING
- 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.
- Choose a hot water bottle over an electric blanket. A hot water bottle filled by a 2 000W kettle running for five minutes uses 0.16kWh and gives you two hours of warmth. A 200W electric blanket running for two hours uses more than double the electricity (0.4kWh).
- 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 western-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. If your house is well insulated (as in Europe), running an air conditioner all the time may make sense. However, this is not the case with the average Cape Town home. 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.
- 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 times 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 100W 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. For example, 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.
- 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.
- Minimise hand-washing dishes, which can use twice as much electricity and nine times more water than a dishwasher.
- 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.
- Reduce the hours on your pool pump. At 10 hours a day, it typically uses about 11% of your electricity and you can halve that. 4 to 6 hours is enough in summer for most pools and just 2 to 3 hours in winter. Every pool is different, so add an hour if the water does not stay clear. 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.