As South Africa heads into the cold winter months, household energy consumption will start to increase as people turn up the heat to stay warm, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.
“Keeping warm during winter usually means using more energy and paying higher utility costs each month. Finding ways to reduce household energy usage will assist home owners to keep warm without electricity bills becoming excessive,” says Goslett.
He provides a few tips that will help save energy this winter:
Regulate the geyser
The most energy-hungry appliance in the home is the geyser, so start there. According to statistical data, geysers account for as much as 40% of the electricity bill on a monthly basis. Goslett says that 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 in the evening. He notes an alternative solution is to have the geyser automated so that it can be controlled remotely.
“There are several automation products available to home owners 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.
During winter the cold piping also cools the water down as it travels through it, essentially making it necessary to use more hot water to bath or shower which uses more energy. Insulating the pipes leading out of the geyser will reduce the amount of energy needed to maintain the water’s temperature. Ideally, the entire length of all hot water pipes should be insulated to reduce heat loss, however insulating at least three to five metres from the geyser will make a difference.
Also, 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.
Although costly at the outset, installing solar panels can reduce the amount of water that the geyser needs to heat up, which can dramatically reduce electricity costs over the long term.
Energy-efficient light bulbs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LED) use at least 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and can last a lot longer. “While it depends on the type of bulb, certain energy efficient bulbs can last between 10 and 35 times longer than a regular bulb, which means that costs are saved on electricity as well as the replacement of bulbs,” says Goslett.
Energy-efficient bulbs use less wattage but are still able to create the same amount of light as a conventional bulb. A 3-watt LED, for example, would be equivalent to a 45-watt incandescent bulb. Using less energy means that they do not get hot when used over long periods of time, and this makes them especially effective in areas where lights are kept on for longer than three hours. Not only do energy efficient bulbs reduce costs, but they also reduce the household pollutant output in the environment by creating less heat.
Frequently used household appliances
The energy output of appliances such as the refrigerator can be reduced by regulating the temperature gauge. Ideally, the temperature should range between three to five degrees Celsius.
“Check other appliances around the house as well, such as the washing machine. Around 40% of the energy used to wash clothing can be reduced by setting the machine to 30 degrees. Also, don’t use the washing machine or dishwasher when they are half full, rather wait for a full load. Keeping the frequency of use to a minimum will reduce energy usage. While these larger items should be full, the kettle should only have the required amount of water in it, as this will reduce the time taken for the water to reach boiling point,” advises Goslett.
Opting to hang clothes on an outside line to dry rather than using a tumble dryer will also use less electricity.
Unplug unnecessary appliances
If left plugged in on stand mode, items such as laptops and other household appliances will continue to use power, so rather turn them off completely or simply unplug them. A computer or laptop, for example, can use around 20% as much power as it would if it was in full use. Unless it is necessary to have an appliance plugged in at all times, it is far more energy efficient to unplug them – this also serves as protection against lightning strikes and power surges.
Insulating the home
Heat can escape through areas in the home that are poorly insulated, such as a window that doesn’t close properly. Around 50% and 80% of the home’s warmth escapes through the ceiling. Goslett says that home owners 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.
“The rising cost of electricity and worldwide depletion of resources has made it all the more vital to find ways kerb 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,” Goslett concludes.