The price of electricity is only going to keep rising, so it is a good idea to start using power more wisely. These nine tips will get you on your way.
1. Switch to prepaid electricity
There are two huge benefits to using prepaid. Firstly, you have full control over your consumption, so no more surprise bills. Second, it helps you gain an accurate sense of just how much power you consume. Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is progress.
2. Don’t keep chargers plugged in
Much like the money in our bank accounts, most power does not get used in huge leaps, but small drips and drabs. The chargers we use to power our gadgets don’t individually draw a lot of electricity. But if you have several plugged in across the house, over time they can contribute to a substantial bill. Even though chargers aren’t charging anything, they still circulate power. The same goes for any device that has a standby mode, such as a television: those are slowly draining electricity.
3. Don’t always wash clothes with warm water
Washing machines are wonderful, but complicated. When are you supposed to wash something in cold or hot water? Warmer water is ideal for getting out heavy stains or killing germs (so when washing bed linen). It can also stop some dyes from running, but modern dyes are good enough to make that a rarity. If none of the above qualifies, use cold water. Even if you do use hot water, the rinse cycle can always be through cold water.
4. Get a geyser blanket
The geyser (or water heater) is a staple in every building, but also a pain. The debate rages around whether a geyser should be turned off from time to time: some say this saves power, others claim it makes no difference. But everyone agrees on a geyser blanket. This piece of insulation wraps around the geyser, stopping heat from escaping. As a result the geyser uses far less power to sustain its core temperature.
5. Get a gas stove
Electric stoves are huge electricity hogs. It is far cheaper to use a gas stove: a standard 9 kilogram bottle can last for several months, far less than the cost of a month’s worth of electricity for a stove. Gas is also safe, providing it is handled correctly. There are many options on the market: you can start with a basic burner, use a camping stove or get a deluxe model installed in your kitchen. Best of all, food made on gas taste a lot better.
6. Start small with solar
Solar panels are expensive, but you don’t have to rig our your entire home immediately. Small solar kits that can charge your smart devices and run a few lights are actually very cheap. They are also portable, so take them with you and never worry about running out of juice on your phone again.
7. Avoid using air conditioners
South Africa has very nice weather. We rarely experience biting cold or ridiculously humid heat. This is not Scandinavia or the tropics. Still, some people love their air conditioners and run them as often as they can. Unfortunately air conditioners can dry the air, which may aggravate nasal problems and even allergies. Above that they use a lot of power, so think twice before switching it on.
8. Use energy-saving lightbulbs
If you are still using incandescent light bulbs – the classic bulb shape with the wire in the middle – it’s time to join the new century. Yes, new energy-saving light bulbs are not as cheap, but the average fluorescent light bulb is not much more expensive and uses far less power. It also lasts longer. LED light bulbs are quite pricey, but hugely efficient: consider those to replace outdoor spotlights.
9. Install insulation
Much like we try to control the heat with air conditioners, we use heaters to stop the cold from getting in. Electric heaters are terrible energy drains, but even a gas heater tends to work overtime and spend more energy than you might realise. Yet the real culprit may be the building: poor insulation will allow a lot of heat to escape. Check if there are insulation mats on top of the ceiling. Look at glazing windows and close a few doors: that can make a huge difference.