South Africans are faced with steep electricity price hikes this winter, and have little choice but to reduce energy consumption.Eskom says it requires major cities to save up to 10 percent of energy this year to avoid blackouts during peak usage periods, and residents are urged to reduce energy consumption by between 25 and 40 percent this winter. In the City of Cape Town alone, where residential electricity consumption is responsible for a massive 43 percent of the city’s total consumption, appeals have gone out to residents to reduce energy consumption by between 25 and 40 percent. Sarah Ward of the City of Cape Town says consumers are warned of the implications of not reducing household consumption by July, when new electricity tariffs will be implemented and households using in excess of 450 kilowatts will pay more. For consumers wishing to reduce electricity bills without laying out capital, a number of cost free consumption habits can be cultivated. Eskom’s research shows that geysers account for 39% of all household electricity, and one of the biggest savings, of a minimum of 5 percent, can be achieved by turning geyser thermostats down to 60°C. Increased financial and consumption savings from turning geysers off whenever homes are not occupied, also results in increased awareness of the reduction of carbon emissions. Another cost free saving can be made by adjusting timers on electrical equipment such as pool filter pumps, which account for up to 20% of house hold electricity consumption. Electrician say overall reduced energy consumption can be implemented by replacing old equipment with modern, lower power usage equipment. By avoiding the over usage of electrical heating systems, and maintaining room temperatures of between 18ºC and 22ºC during winter, further savings are possible.Additional options, but which require financial output, are available to increase property values and maintain long-term savings. Electricians advise that simple installation of geyser and water pipe blankets, as well as energy efficient showerheads, should cost no more than R2000 in total, and will soon be offset by energy savings. Property developers say a big selling point of new homes are sufficient insulation to maintain interior temperatures, all year round. By installing insulation between wall cavities, underneath flooring surfaces and inside roofs, minimal heating or cooling is required. Replacing old timber frames and doors with modern aluminium fittings, will result in both energy and maintenance savings over time.More costly options such a solar heating pumps, currently subsidised by Eskom but under budget review, not only produces considerable reductions in the total carbon footprint of a household, but also adds value to properties. Solar power remains a popular option despite the reduction of Eskom’s maximum rebate on solar heating systems from 29 April, and Eskom ‘s limited funding and a second adjustment to solar rebates due on 3 June 2011. Government’s target for renewable energy should contribute 10 000 giga watt hours (GWh) of final energy consumption by 2013, and solar water heating could contribute up to 23% towards this target. Eskom says solar heating is one of the most effective renewable energy sources available, and by implementing it in water heating, consumers can target one of the most power-intensive household activities for maximum power savings.
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