By Alina Hardcastle
With the plunging dip in temperature and an icy chill in the air, households tend to spend more and more on electricity during the dreaded cold winter months trying their outmost to create and retain heat in their homes in every way possible. But the good news is there are plenty of ways to save this winter and still avoid the chill.
The four areas where you should consider trying to reduce your electricity bill in winter, are: your home appliances; lighting and hot water usage; and appliances for heating and cooling.
Computers, laptops, cell phone chargers and TVS
Our lives revolve around sitting in front of our laptops and talking to friends and family on mobile phones; and in our free time we tend be a couch potato vegging out in front of the TV, even more so in winter, when our outdoor actives are limited.
For those who are fanatical about technology, Eskom advises never leaving appliance such as TVs and computers on standby mode. When these appliances are left on standby mode they still use up to 50% of the electricity that they would normally use.
The City of Cape Town also suggests switching off all unused appliances at the wall. Switching a computer on and off does not reduce its lifespan unless repeated more than 40, 000 times, or every five minutes. It is not necessary to unplug an appliance if the socket is switched off.
I think we can all agree that leaving your bed is never an easy task, especially in winter. For those you don’t have time to fully rely on your natural body heat, Eskom suggests that the cheapest way of warming your bed in winter would be to invest in an electric blanket and no, it is not suggested that you keep it on throughout the night, but rather for an hour two and switch off immediately once you’ve climbed into bed after a long day.
Alternatively, you can use a hot water bottle instead of an electric blanket. A hot water bottle filled by a 2 000W kettle running for five minutes uses 0.16 kWh and gives you two hours of warmth. A 200 W electric blanket running for two hours uses more than double the electricity (0,4 kWh), reveals the City Of Cape Town.
Oven door and stove
During this “hibernation” period, we tend to consume more and gravitate towards comfort food, such as warm stews and curries. As a result, we tend to use of our oven and stove more often. Make sure your oven door is kept closed until your food is cooked, as constantly opening and closing the oven will dissipate the heat.
When asked whether a gas stove is more economical than an electrical stove,Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, mayoral committee member for utility service,responded:“It is not necessarily more economical – depending on the price of gas, it costs about the same. However, it will reduce system load, which helps with the country’s shortage of generation.”
Washing machine and dishwasher
No matter what time of the year it is, nobody likes dirty plates or unwashed laundry lying around the house.
If you own a dishwasher, make sure that you only use your dishwasher once your machine is full, as this appilance will use the same amount of electricity whether you are washing a single item or a full load.
The same applies to your washing machine but keep in mind that you should never overload an automatic washing machine, as this will reduce the cleaning action. Ensure the garment sizes vary in a full load as this improves cleaning and free circulation.
There is nothing like a hot shower on an ice cold winter’s morning. Not only does it warm our bodies and wake us up; but it helps improve our circulation.
Sonnenberg advises: “Reduce usage of hot water by: installing a low-flow showerhead, showering for shorter periods, showering instead of bathing, and setting the geyser temperature down to 55 degrees Celsius. You could also install a solar water heater or heat pump.”
There are also simple things you can do at no-cost such as; don’t use hot water unnecessarily, when it comes to washing your hands or cleaning your vegetables; and when you are fixing leaking taps make sure they are completely turned off, as a dripping tap can lead to large amounts of water wastage.
Your geyser is likely to be the most energy-consuming appliance in your home.Sonnenberg confirmed: “Any item that produces heat (such as ovens, tumble dryers and heaters) is a high energy consumer. The biggest electricity consumer is the hot water cylinder (geyser).”
At no cost turn your geyser down to sixty or fifty-five degrees Celsius. You should notice a five percent decrease in your electricity bill. Ensure to switch your geyser off when going away, as well as switching it off during peak demand hours, which are during 6:00 until 8:00 in the morning, and 17:00 until 21:00.
For low costs consider wrapping your geyser in a geyser blanket. It will prevent heat loss and reduce electricity costs. You can save up to R500 a year and the cost of blanket is between R200 and R400.
The days are shorter and the nights are longer in winter, so we tend to switch on our lights earlier in evening and as result we tend to use more electricity.
At no cost ensure that you switch off the lights in rooms that you aren’t using. This increases your lightbulbs life span and reduces your electricity bill. In addition, avoid using lights unnecessarily during the day and make use of natural lighting. Not only will it reduce your electricity bill but it reduces stress and improves your health.
At a low cost both Eskom and the City Of Cape Town suggests replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
Heating and cooling
Food prices are continually rising, so it’s important to ensure appliances such as refrigerators and freezers are operating efficiently in order for our food we consume to stay fresh for as long as possible as this can also help reduce our food bills.
Eskom suggests you set your fridge to only three degrees Celsius; any lower will just use up more electricity unnecessarily. Also, when freezing food items it’s important not to fill your refrigerator or freezer to capacity.
The City of Cape Town further suggests not opening the fridge door unnecessarily or leaving the door open too long. Cold air sinks so it literally falls out of the fridge and has to start cooling from scratch. In addition it advises that you defrost your freezer regularly and empty your fridge and switch it off when you go on holiday.
Pool pump (Outdoors)
Unless you are a professional swimmer, it’s very unlikely you will be making use of your swimming pool during winter. Reduce the hours of your pool pump operates by only leaving it on for a maximum of three hours. Don’t operate it between 6:00 and 8:00 or 17:00 and 21:00, avoiding these peak hours will also help reduce load shedding.
“The best time to switch off or not use appliances in order to help alleviate overall electrical system demand is during the morning and evening peak periods between 07:00 and 10:00 and 18.00 and 20:00. It is better to switch off the appliance at the wall socket instead of leaving it in stand-by mode,” says Sonnenberg.
Tips to reduce consumption and lower electrical bills
Sonnenberg advises: “Calculate your monthly consumption and start recording it over time to see if you are making progress. Whether you use credit metering or a prepaid meter, it is important to know your consumption and keep track of how much electricity you use month to month. Remember that there are usually seasonal differences e.g. electricity use goes up in winter for heating.”
Sonnenberg adds that consumers should switch to prepaid electricity. “Prepaid metering allows you to more easily monitor how much electricity you are using at any time, thereby revealing which appliances use the most electricity. Studies have shown that greater 'real-time' awareness of electricity usage encourages people to drop their consumption by about 10 – 12%.”
The City of Cape Town states: “By developing smart energy use habits in your household, you can start saving 10% or more on your electricity bill at no cost.”
You can also save by investing in low-cost items or energy-efficient equipment.
For further information about how to reduce your electricity bill this winter, click here.