Choos­ing en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient op­tions can re­duce your bills, writes An­gelique Ruz­icka

CityPress - - Tenders -

Win­ter is a time when you snug­gle un­der thick blan­kets and per­haps turn down some din­ner in­vi­ta­tions on the other side of town, par­tic­u­larly when it’s wet and cold out­side. While you may re­duce the num­ber of times you ven­ture out – pre­fer­ring in­stead to cosy up on the couch – what you don’t tend to do is re­duce your con­sump­tion, both in terms of en­ergy us­age to keep the home warm and even when it comes to cook­ing food.

But even when you are in the mid­dle of the cold­est, wettest sea­son, there are ways you can still slash your con­sump­tion of re­sources such elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and food. Re­duc­ing the en­ergy and wa­ter us­age is vi­tal, not only to save on costs but to pre­serve these re­sources. Ul­ti­mately, the more we con­sume, the more we pay. Here’s how you can cut the costs:


1Dis­cov­ery cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial ad­viser Claire van Wyk rec­om­mends cre­at­ing a meal plan and stick­ing to it. “We eat more in win­ter and snack­ing will cost more money if not planned. Cut the empty calo­rie snacks – they gen­er­ally cost more and do very lit­tle for en­ergy,” she says. She adds that you can cut costs by buy­ing in bulk and cook­ing in bulk with meals like soup. “Search for sea­sonal fresh veg, usu­ally roots etc. They are cheaper than out-of-sea­son veg­eta­bles.”


2Med­i­cal costs tend to rise in win­ter too, as this is the sea­son in which we typ­i­cally get sick. Van Wyk re­minds us to get our flu vac­ci­na­tions and take ex­tra vi­ta­min C and cit­rus daily. This can help com­bat the flu or en­sure that we get a less ex­treme ver­sion of this ill­ness – one from which you tend to re­cover quicker and need less care as a re­sult.


3Ap­prox­i­mately 50% to 80% of the home’s warmth es­capes through the ceil­ing. Adrian Goslett, re­gional di­rec­tor and CEO of RE/MAX of South­ern Africa, says that home­own­ers can re­duce this to around 3% by in­stalling proper ceil­ing in­su­la­tion, which will also mean that far less en­ergy is re­quired to heat the home.

Mean­while, Derek Wil­son, head of on­line in­sur­ance and fi­nan­cial com­par­i­son web­site, rec­om­mends sim­pler meth­ods too, such as hang­ing thick cur­tains on all the win­dows and plac­ing car­pets on tiled or wooden floors to in­su­late your home.


4One of the most en­ergy-hun­gry ap­pli­ances in the home is the geyser be­cause it ac­counts for as much as 40% of the elec­tric­ity bill on a monthly ba­sis. Ac­cord­ing to Goslett, one so­lu­tion is to switch off the geyser dur­ing the day when no one is home and then turn it on for a set num­ber of hours when it’s needed.

Or you can in­stall a timer. “There are sev­eral au­to­ma­tion prod­ucts avail­able to home­own­ers in this coun­try that al­low them to con­trol the geyser’s thermostat re­motely. The home­owner has the op­tion of set­ting the times the geyser will be on and at what tem­per­a­ture – au­to­mat­i­cally,” says Goslett.

A geyser blan­ket can also add fur­ther in­su­la­tion, keep­ing the wa­ter in­side the geyser hot­ter for longer. A geyser blan­ket typ­i­cally con­sists of a 50mm layer of glass fi­bre in­su­la­tion with re­flec­tive foil sheet­ing on one side. A good geyser blan­ket will con­sid­er­ably re­duce the rate at which the wa­ter cools, mean­ing you will con­sume less en­ergy get­ting the geyser to heat the wa­ter again.


5Every­day ap­pli­ances that you use can ac­count for more than half of the wasted en­ergy ev­ery month, ac­cord­ing to Cala van der Westhuizen, spokesper­son for En­ergy Part­ners Home So­lu­tions. Be­sides your geyser, ap­pli­ances such as your tum­ble dryer, oven, swim­ming pool pump, air con­di­tion­ing and por­ta­ble heaters can be a huge drain on the grid.

For ex­am­ple, the typ­i­cal tum­ble dryer costs about R6 per hour in elec­tric­ity. “Run­ning a dryer for two hours a day, five days a week adds an­other R240 to the

6There is a grow­ing trend of house­holds in­tro­duc­ing en­ergy-ef­fi­cient el­e­ments to curb en­ergy us­age, thereby re­duc­ing the over­all cost of run­ning the home. “A study con­ducted by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Home Builders re­vealed that apart from a safe neigh­bour­hood, the fac­tor that in­flu­enced home-buy­ing de­ci­sions the most was a home’s en­ergy ef­fi­ciency,” says Goslett.

In­stalling so­lar pan­els is one way to re­duce your re­liance on elec­tric­ity and re­duce your costs. In­stalling them is not cheap and ex­perts say it takes about seven years to re­coup the money in­vested in the pan­els. How­ever, if you in­tend to stay in the home you cur­rently re­side in, do­ing this will save you money in the long run. “In most cases, so­lar panel sys­tems save be­tween 50% and 75% of an elec­tric­ity bill. The money saved can go to­wards pay­ing the so­lar pan­els off or other house­hold ex­penses,” says Goslett.

Ul­ti­mately, by re­duc­ing your en­ergy con­sump­tion and find­ing al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy you are not only sav­ing costs but help­ing pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment too.

“The ris­ing cost of elec­tric­ity and world­wide de­ple­tion of re­sources has made it all the more vi­tal to find ways to curb costs and re­duce car­bon emis­sions.

“Choos­ing en­ergy-ef­fi­cient op­tions and in­vest­ments now will have a mas­sive im­pact on our en­ergy and re­source con­sump­tion in the fu­ture,” says Goslett.

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