“Price hikes and load shedding have had a significant impact on all of us. Through a few relatively simple and practical changes to the way they use electricity, consumers can help to keep the lights on and save a substantial amount of money in the process,” says Susan Steward from Budget Insurance.
Budget Insurance offers the following tips to take pressure off the grid and save money:
- Bright idea: switch to energy efficient light bulbs if you haven’t done so already. They may be more expensive, but last longer and use substantially less electricity.
- Out with the old: letting go of large appliances such as a fridge can seem counter-productive when trying to save money but newer fridges are far more energy efficient and will save you more in the long run. Appliances are graded from A to G on their efficiency, with A being the most efficient and G being the least.
- Low consumption alternatives: Taking a shower instead of a water- and electricity-consuming bath, using the microwave instead of the stove or oven to cook and warm food, opening windows instead of using the air conditioner or closing them to retain heat, instead of using heaters are all simple, smart examples of saving energy and money.
- The habit of saving: Get your entire household to turn off any lights and appliances that are not in use, and to use them only for as long as required.
- Smart plugs for smart people: Smart plugs can be set to switch off your appliances such as TVs and sound systems entirely as opposed to putting them onto stand-by mode which guzzles power. Smart plugs typically have a companion app allowing you to set preferences, schedules and names for the devices. Alternatively, you can switch off these devices manually when not in use.
- Time for timers: Timers, or smart switches – whether for geysers, pool pumps or security lights – will help you only consume electricity at specific times. Especially useful with geysers – one of the most energy consuming items in the household.
- Long-term planning: there are some bigger ways to reduce a home’s electricity consumption and should be considered as part of a longer-term investment and cost saving exercise. This includes putting in solar panels, switching out electricity-run stoves and ovens for gas and replacing air conditioning with ceiling fans and fireplaces. A pre-paid electricity meter would also be an effective way to monitor your home’s power consumption and assist with budgeting for power on a monthly basis.
Another important box to check is to make sure that you are adequately prepared to deal with load shedding.
- Put the proposed load shedding times somewhere handy so that your family will have enough time to prepare for the power outage.
- Get a few high-wattage solar powered lights for your garden, and a few LED lights for inside. Light is also a deterrent to would-be burglars.
- Keep your cell phone charged, or invest in a portable phone charger, so that you can still call for help if you need to.
- If you need to manually open and close your gates when you get home, try to have someone come and meet you at your entrance, or arrange for an escort from your security company.
- Use padlocks, burglar bars and deadbolts to provide an extra level of home security that isn’t power-dependent.
- Alarm systems, garage doors and electric gates generally rely on electricity so make sure that these items all have good back-up batteries.
- Keep a torch or a solar, battery powered light that is charged beforehand in multiple, easily accessible locations around your home. Be sure to also have plenty of spare batteries.
- Your fridge and freezer supplies should be okay without power over night if you do not open and close it repeatedly. If you’re worried about certain food items, prepare an ice-box for these.
- Make sure that all appliances – especially those that pose a fire risk if left unattended – are switched off when load shedding starts and gradually turned back on once power returns. This not only minimises the pressure on the grid when the power is turned back on, but also minimises the risk of damage to appliances due to power surges, or a fire risk causing a power outage to turn into a catastrophe.
There are also less direct, but equally dangerous consequences of load shedding such as street lights and traffic lights being down at night. This places a greater burden on motorists driving home through load-shedded areas in the dark.
“Motorists are encouraged to drive cautiously at all times, but especially so in these poorly illuminated areas. Treat all inoperative traffic lights as a four-way stop, and when in doubt, yield to oncoming traffic from the right. Do not assume that all other drivers will stop so exercise extreme vigilance and drive defensively.”