Winter in South Africa is fairly predictable. The scarves come out. The quantity of Facebook status updates about the cold reach an annual peak. And the rising readings on our electricity meters (and subsequent bills) are most often upsettingly inversely proportional to the plummeting temperatures, both outside and inside.
In order to help save you from both icy toes and frozen accounts this winter, we’ve put together a list of both conventional and somewhat unconventional tips and tricks you can use to help restore equilibrium to both the temperature around you and the content of your wallet.
Investments To Help You Save
Insulate your house. Effective insulation is key to keeping the temperature inside moderate and the temperature outside at bay. This means less electricity required to heat up the home, and more money saved. A well-insulated ceiling can keep the temperature indoors 5 degrees warmer in winter and up to 10 degrees cooler in summer. Not only this, but according to Eskom, between 25% – 35% of a house’s heat is lost through the roof (no surprises there, considering hot air rises). As a result, insulation is the single most effective way to keep a home warm.
Buy a pool pump timer. The pool filter pump is another mass consumer of electricity. Use it as little as possible. Consider investing in a timer so that it isn’t left on for longer than it needs to be. Also consider readjusting your pump schedule as algae doesn’t grow as fast in the colder months – which means cleaning less is advisable.
Replace your light bulbs with LED Lights. Lighting is generally responsible for about 20% of a home’s electricity bill. A large portion of electricity can be saved by switching out conventional tungsten bulbs with LED light bulbs. They may be pricier, but they will last you much longer.
Buy thicker curtains. Thicker curtains help to retain heat better. Also consider drawing the curtains earlier in the evening as the temperature drops to help keep the warmth in.
Change from a regular geyser to a solar geyser. The geyser is the biggest electricity guzzler in most homes – and is responsible for roughly 40% of a home’s electricity spend. As a result, investing in a solar powered geyser can help cut a chunk off your monthly electricity bill. They cost in the region of R20000, but taking into account how much they will save you every month, they end up paying for themselves after a while. And then, the savings begin.
Use a geyser blanket. This will insulate your geyser and help retain the heat for longer. Also consider insulting the pipes.
Seal up your fireplace when it’s not in use. Heat can easily escape through the chimney if it’s not closed up. Place a chimney plate or protector, a blanket, a piece of board or large painting in front of the fire place to help keep the warmth inside where it belongs.
Install low-flow shower heads. This will result in less hot water being used. Which means both less water and less electricity spent heating it. Bonus!
Habits To Help You Save
Use an electric heater in one room only. This is another power guzzler, so rather than using one simultaneously in each room of the house, use one in the living room and keep it closed off from the rest of the house. This way you can enjoy warmth in at least one room properly, and possibly a little extra family time too.
Warm the bed with an electric blanket. Avoid leaving the electric blanket on all night. Rather use it to heat up your bed for 30 minutes before you turn in for the night, and rely on your body and blankets to do the rest.
Place tin foil behind any wall-mounted heaters. This stops heat from being absorbed by the cold wall, and redirects it back into the room. Remember, the shiny side needs to face the room, not the wall.
Use a kettle to boil water for cooking. It’s faster and uses less electricity than bringing water to a boil via stovetop.
Always match the size of the pan with the size of the stove plate.
Use a microwave to cook. It’s both quicker and cheaper than using a stove or an oven. In fact, one oven uses the same power as eighteen microwaves.
Only fill the kettle with the amount of water that you need. Boiling a kettle uses a fair amount of electricity, and the more water is in the kettle, the more power is required to bring it to a boil.
Cut food into smaller sections before cooking. This will help it cook quicker and use up less electricity.
Do not place hot food in the refrigerator or the deep freeze. This will raise the temperate overall inside the fridge or freezer and require it to work overtime to compensate and bring the temperate back down to what it was originally. Rather allow the hot food to cool outside first.
Wait until the dishwasher is full before you switch it on. The dishwasher uses a large amount of electricity, so try to run it as little as possible. Also use the economy programme wherever possible.
Turn off the lights that you don’t need. For obvious reasons.
Use lighter lampshades. They will trap less light and make the most of the electricity used.
Turn the TV off. Properly. Allowing a TV to remain on standby mode uses up to 50% of the power the TV would use if it was actually switched on completely. This same concept is applicable to sound systems as well as computers and other electrical devices.
Avoid electric heaters. Rather use a gas heater or a temperature-controlled oil heater.
Shower. Shower instead of running a bath. Because a shower uses far less water than bathing, it also requires a lot less electricity when it comes to heating the water.
Turn the geyser temperature down to 60o Celsius. Dropping the set temperature of your geyser results in less electricity used to heat the water. Avoid dropping the temperature to any less than 60 degrees however, for health reasons.
Use cold water when possible for washing clothes.
Turn it off at the wall plug. Make sure you switch appliances off at the wall plug as opposed to leaving them on standby. Appliances left on standby may be responsible for about 20% or more of a regular electricity bill.
Turn the geyser off when you go on holiday.
Hang your washing up inside. This may sound like an odd one, but, the result will be an increased humidity level in the house. And an increase in humidity will raise the temperate noticeably.
Turn your ceiling fan on low. This may also sound a little strange, but if you’re using a heater, consider turning on your ceiling fan to a low setting. This will help the hot air that has risen to circulate. Which in turn means less electricity used on additional heating.
Long term saving is the product of making long term changes in the form of habits. While putting all of these tips and tricks into practice may seem rather overwhelming, why not pick a few that you feel are the most manageable for your family this winter and work on solidifying those. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! For more advice on how to save electricity and adopt more eco-friendly practices, visit www.sustainable.co.za.