Easy ways to help your wallet and keep SA switched on. By Helen Wallace
We’re living in dark times. Luckily it’s only for about two hours at a time, but still. We are now more aware than ever before of the cost of electricity, not just in terms of individual household usage, but for the country as a whole – and all of the strain being taken by our energy supplier, Eskom.
Electricity is also not cheap, surging its way deeper and deeper into people’s budgets. But there could be light at the end of the tunnel: effective and easy ways to lower your monthly bill and help our power stations to keep up with demand.
Shedding some light
The easiest and most obvious way to conserve energy – also the one that is most often ignored – is to switch off whatever isn’t being used. This means lights as well as electrical appliances such as TVs, heaters and computers. These should all be switched off at the wall so they can’t draw power on standby. And although it might not seem as though it would make a big difference, every bit really does help. And what better way to become an eco-warrior with a lower electric bill than to lead by example?
Go with the flow
Insulate the pipes and then turn the temperature of your geyser down to 60°C. This will ensure that the water is still warm enough for a nice, toasty shower, but you will use much less electricity than when the setting was higher. If you are planning on going away for a few days, turn the geyser off completely until you come home, so that it is not using up energy trying to maintain its temperature. It’s a myth, though, that switching your geyser off every day will help you save – after all, the geyser has to heat up all of that cold water again.
Some like it hot
It may seem very tempting to turn on the heater after coming in from the cold outdoors, but these little appliances guzzle energy, which is not good for your budget or for the environment. Rather invest in a few hot-water bottles you can fill up if the chill hits and wrap yourself up in a blanket to keep warm. If you have a working fireplace, you can create warmth and ambience at the same time by stocking up on braai wood and lighting up (as if we need a reason) when the mercury drops.
Another way to keep one’s house cosy, regardless of the weather, is to install insulation, which keeps the house not only warm in winter, but also cool in summer. More than half of the heat lost in homes is because of poor or no insulation, and this simple installation will result in there being less of a need for air conditioning, fans and heaters – appliances that rack up the rands on your monthly electrical account.
A smart way to conserve power that is becoming increasingly prevalent is to make use of the biggest and brightest thing that we can – the sun! Take a leaf out of the eco-warriors’ book and go solar; the sun is a free source of energy that can power up and charge certain specifically made devices and, unlike fossil fuel, it is not at any risk of being overused or running out, at least not for the next five billion years or so. A vast array of gadgets, ranging from phone chargers to jar lamps, is now available and can make your life in the darkness a whole lot brighter.
The bottom line
One’s home is one’s sanctuary and it is important that it is comfortable. And, with a few tiny tweaks and adjustments, you can create a cosy, enjoyable space that doesn’t contribute to the current energy crisis and should also end up saving you money every month. Make the roof over your head work for you and the planet, in more ways than one, and you’ll be smiling all the way to the bank and feeling much less guilty over what we are doing to the planet.
• Painting your walls a dark colour will require more lights to make the space usable. Having light-coloured walls will reflect the light and make rooms seem bigger and brighter.
• Gas heaters are a far more economical heating option than conventional ones. Eight kilograms of gas can last up to two weeks and a refill usually costs less than R200.
• Still think your bills are a bit too high? Contact your local municipality and ask to have an electricity dispenser installed in your home. That way, instead of receiving a monthly bill, you could buy prepaid energy, giving you increased control and a better idea of how much power your household is using.