Ricochet News

How to stay warm and cut winter power costs for good

Aug 10, 2018
How to stay warm and cut winter power costs for good

Recent events have demonstrated once again that Eskom and city power supplies are uncertain and unreliable – and shown why SA home owners need to start making even more use of alternative technologies to keep their lights turned on and their homes warm in winter.

So says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, who notes: “A further incentive is the rising cost of electricity, with tariff increases of up to 8% coming into effect in most municipalities this month.”

Unfortunately, it is still too expensive for most owners to immediately convert their whole home to a photo-voltaic (solar) power system, but there are many solar-kit options available at a lower cost that will automatically come on and power essentials like fridges, freezers and burglar alarms during load shedding, and that’s a good place to start, he says.

“A generator is an alternative, but these can be problematic in terms of noise, pollution and petrol or diesel consumption, especially as fuel prices in SA continue to rise.”

It is also worth purchasing a few rechargeable lanterns, he says, to provide light when the power goes off, as well as power banks for your phones and computers. If your garage doors and security gates open with remote controls, you should also check that these have battery back-ups.

“In addition, home owners should now seriously consider installing a solar geyser if they don’t already have one, not only so they can have a hot shower during power cuts but because it will significantly reduce their electricity bills. Estimates are that a 2sqm solar geyser cuts household electricity usage by 2000KwH a year – and saves 1000kg of coal and 2600L of water used to generate electricity in the process.”

The next item to change, Kotzé says, is the electric stove, which is also a major consumer of power in most homes. “A gas stove will heat up instantaneously and will also make you independent of mains electricity for cooking – and boiling the kettle when the power goes off.

“Then, rather than relying on electric heaters for warmth, you might also consider gas heaters, or better still, a gas fireplace in the room where your family spends most of their leisure time.”

The most energy-efficient fireplaces (and thus the least costly to run) are of course those that burn pellets or “bricks” made from sawdust, wood waste, the husks of rice or other cereals, or recycled waste paper. These burn very cleanly and powerfully and provide a lot of heat for a relatively small amount of fuel, but they do require electricity to run so unfortunately won’t work during load-shedding, he says.

“When it comes to warmth, it is also very important for homes to have proper ceiling insulation. This comes in the form of thermal batts or blankets made from fibreglass, rockwool or paper that prevent heat loss, and is relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

“And finally, if you are trying to lower your electricity bill, it is important to remember that many little savings can add up to quite a big total. These include not leaving your electronic devices on standby, not letting your pool pump run for too long, turning an electric geyser off during the day and putting an extra blanket or duvet on your bed instead of leaving an electric blanket on all night.”