Live green; save bucks

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

The Green Building Council of SA’s My Green Home campaign is aimed at reducing domestic electricity, water and waste. Since April this year, the Ngewena family has lowered its impact on the planet by practicing an energy-efficient indoor lifestyle in accordance with the campaign’s goals.

We reported recently on the family’s intentions: here’s how their efforts are paying off. Literally. The Ngewenas’ efforts have resulted in a 40% reduction in consumption, plus considerable cash savings on its utility bills.

Here’s how they did it.

Water heating: 33%

The Ngewenas managed to cut their electrical consumption by 20% after switching off the geyser for a period every day and adjusting the water temperature to 55 degrees. They saw the most immediate results after changing their daily indoor behaviour – once the whole family started taking shorter showers and smaller baths.

The installation of retrofits to prove the possibilities of longer-term benefits of reduced consumption and utility bills is also part of the GBCSA campaign. This exercise shows that although initial layout costs for installations, including the rooftop solar heater, heat pump and low-flow shower may seem prohibitive at the time, they pay off in cash savings over the long-term.

Immediate affordability for some families however, may necessitate cheaper solutions. Electrical experts say that smaller adjustments, such as geyser timers and blankets, and boiling kettles sparingly instead of running hot water taps, are worth the effort and should not be underestimated.

Interior heating: 30%

The GBCSA advises consumers to seek out greener buildings to buy or rent. Energy-wise owners and landlords have a vested interest in modern retrofits, passive heating in sunny orientations and good insulation.

Older houses can benefit from modern technology to optimise energy efficiency by avoiding outdated electrical heaters. But good old fashioned wood-burning fires are also a good way to go, provided that the chimney is in good working order.

Property developers say that renewable energy sources can facilitate the production of biofuels, for instance when recycled domestic waste is converted into biogases for electricity consumption. Newly-built, energy-efficient houses also make healthier homes when geofuels are used to fire non-polluting wood burners, which eliminates the need for electrical heaters.

Lighting: 10 – 15%

Instant results are seen when households switch lights off in empty rooms, and after converting to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). The Ngwena family says that although the price of ultra-long-lasting globes seemed a luxury at first, it will be well worth every reduced energy bill.

When comparing the cost of old-style incandescent bulbs with ultra-efficient LEDs, it costs only one-sixth to one-tenth as much as electricity for lighting.

Cooking and laundry: 15%

“Techies” say that the use of modern appliances combined with planned meals and limited use of ovens, helps to increase overall savings. Likewise, modern washing machines allow cold and shorter cycles, while air drying cuts down on tumble drying and ironing costs.

The last word: 100%

When energy efficiency is practiced at home, the low-cost, no-cost and long-term investment benefits will soon turn into more money in your monthly budget as well as the satisfaction that you’re doing your utmost to live a greener life.

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