The days are short, the nights are long, and the landscape has taken on a brown hue. Yes, winter is upon us. As is typical of this time of year, all most people want to do when they go home is relax and stay warm. Typically this entails switching on lights and heaters, taking a hot bath and enjoying a hot meal in front of the TV.
Simple as this scenario may seem, it requires a fair amount of energy to make it a reality. It requires a lot more energy to make it happen for the many millions of South Africans who come home – paradoxically around the same time.
According to Eskom, South Africa’s residential sector typically utilises approximately 17 percent of the country’s energy supply. During peak periods, this consumption increases to approximately 35 percent.
In countries where the energy supply is stable, this peak usage period doesn’t present a problem. In South Africa, the situation is very different. It’s a well- known fact that the country’s energy supply is constrained. Winter, increasing energy demand, grid maintenance, on-going labour unrest at the country’s unfinished new coal plants and a lower-than expected electricity tariff increase has not improved the outlook and load-shedding appears to be on the cards once more.
According to Eskom, it is doing all it can to balance the country’s electricity supply and demand, including running emergency power stations. Of course some serious steps will have to be taken in addition to the measures already being pursued but these will take time to bear fruit. In the interim, there are a number of quick and easy energy and cost saving initiatives home-owners can undertake:
• When you arrive home, Eskom advocates switching off your geyser until after 9pm as it uses the most electricity. Not only should your water remain hot for many hours but it will save power and shave as much as 50 percent off your electricity bill.
• Your pool pump is another big energy guzzler. Set your pool timer so that your pool pump does not operate between 5pm and 9pm and limit it to one filtering cycle every 24 hours.
• Avoid using electrical heaters and under-floor heating. Under-floor heating is arguably the most energy intensive home heating method and typically costs a lot of money. Rather dress warmly, switch to gas, fan or oil heaters and use blankets and hot water bottles to keep warm.
• Switch off lights in unoccupied rooms.
• Seal gaps around windows.
• Draught proof wall cavities throughout your home.
• Switch off and unplug your appliances when you have finished using them. Appliances still draw power when they’re plugged in.
• Use slow-cookers to prepare stews in winter. Microwaves are best for small volume winter meals.
• Kettles guzzle energy too. With this in mind, boil only enough water for the beverage you want to prepare.
• Opt for a shower over a bath. Not only will you save electricity, you’ll save water too.
• Consider purchasing a solar water heating system or a heat pump. Eskom has a rebate programme in place for homeowners who wish to buy such systems.