Thrifty tricks to lower your energy bill

And help you survive load shedding.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

May is National Energy Month in South Africa. How ironic with all the power failures and load-shedding schedules going on. But, all negativity aside – there are various frugal power savings tricks that you and your household can incorporate this winter to help lower your electricity usage and make your home energy-efficient.

When you cut down on your energy usage this winter, you’ll get into the habit of running an energy-efficient home and save money in the process. Remember: Practice makes perfect, and small behavioural changes can help lower your winter energy bill.

Here are our top energy saving tips and tricks this winter:

  1. Prepare home-cooked and power-saving meals – Lower your stove or oven usage and prepare a few meals simultaneously. Remember: Keep the lids on your pots while cooking your food, and don’t use a small pot on a large stove plate, for example. And, think power-friendly microwave, pressure cooker or air fryer as energy-saving alternatives to help you prepare your frugal and hearty meals.
  2. Keep yourself warm and snuggly – Layer your outfits and dress for the winter season, keep extra throws or blankets in your living area and drink hot drinks to stay warm and fill a hot water flask to avoid overusing the kettle.
  3. Don’t overuse energy-hungry appliances – Limit your dishwasher usage per week. Also, ensure you wash a full load of washing when you do your laundry (in cold water) and line-dry your clothes to prevent using a tumble dryer.
  4. Turn off unused lights – And, since you tend to use a lot more artificial lighting during winter, make use of low-energy light bulbs (LEDs) that use up to 80% less electricity than standard bulbs.
  5. Switch off all power outlets, and unplug appliances or gadgets when not in use – For example, your computer or laptop. And, remember: you don’t have to charge your phone or power bank for an entire day.
  6. Hot water is expensive – Take short showers and turn the water off during the time you shave, brush your teeth and wash your hands.
  7. Fit a power surge protector to key plug sockets – As electrical surges can damage appliances, install a protector to avoid costly repairs.

An energy-saving trick is one thing, BUT how do you deal with your winter ‘party pooper’, load shedding.

  • Use a power bank or car charger to ensure your phone’s battery lasts during load-shedding.
  • “I NEED LIGHTS”: Use rechargeable LED lanterns (that switch on automatically during power failures, are safer to use than candles and can be charged with 9V solar panels). Or, get yourself a head torch (that works with batteries) to help make your way outside/through the house.
  • What about the fridge/ freezer? Good question. Find a dry ice provider nearby (the cost has to fit your pocket) and leave a few cubes in your fridge or freezer (especially when you have a long non-power stretch). Or, take out some of your water-filled (frozen) plastic bottles from your deep freeze and put them in your fridge to keep food cold until the power comes back on.
  • Solar options: Solar mobile phone chargers, garden lamps, geysers, and (more expensive) inverter systems are available to consider (to fit your specific needs and pocket).
  • Use a gas stove: Gas stoves have become increasingly popular these days – so if it fits your pocket, a gas stove can be a good solution during load-shedding. Alternatively, you can invest in a camping gas stove – a viable solution for a tight money situation.
  • Get a generator: If you can afford this expensive option, a generator is a good idea (but keep the increasing fuel prices in mind). There are various options to fit your needs (to power your entire house or to only keep the fridge and freezer running, for example).

The best way to start saving on your energy costs this winter is to get ‘power savvy’ with how you use electricity. And, by implementing practical solutions to fit your needs (and pocket) when trying to endure load-shedding periods, you can look beyond the blues of power cuts these upcoming months.

Carla Oberholzer, debt advisor at DebtSafe.

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