Heat water, not the sky!

Need a reason to save electricity? The National Electricity Regulator recently gave Eskom permission to raise its tariffs by 14.2 percent. This increase is the first of many drastic price adjustments necessary to finance the accelerated capital expenditure programme. The days of cheap power are gone. For good.

Need another reason? How about the survival of the human race? Maybe you do not know how polluting electricity use is? I can understand that. When you plug something into the wall it doesn’t start spewing exhaust fumes from the socket. But the pollution is there, at the filthy coal fuelled power plants where most of South Africa’s electricity is generated.

How can you save humanity and a Rand or two while you’re at it? Attack the biggest energy user first!

According to Eskom water heating accounts for about 40 percent of energy consumed in a home, making this the easiest place to start saving electricity. Here’s how you can heat the water, not the sky:

  • Turn the thermostat down to the lowest temperature you’re comfortable with. Why make the water blistering hot if you can’t use it like that? What a waste to mix in cold water in your shower to lower the temperature! For most people lowering the temperature from 70 to 60 degrees Celsius will be perfectly acceptable and will reduce the cost of supplying hot water by 4.8 percent.
  • Use less water. Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads. Take more showers than baths ? bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. Fix leaking taps ? 30 drops per minute from a hot water tap wastes around 18 kilowatts per month. At 35c per kilowatt (That’s the old price, by the way) you’ll save R6.30.
  • Insulate. Home improvement or hardware stores sell geyser blankets that that reduce energy use by up to 15 percent for a family of two. That’s about 21 kilowatts per month or R7.35 at the old price. Don’t stop there, though. Insulate the room where your geyser is and if it’s in the garage, keep the door shut. You can save even more by insulating the first couple of metres of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the geyser. With a standard, non insulated geyser and a four metre hot water pipe the losses are R40.12 (at 35 cents per kilowatt) per month. Also, keep in mind that a horizontal geyser loses more heat than a geyser with the same volume placed vertically.
  • Turn it off! Switch your geyser off when you get home from work and switch it back on when you go to bed. Shower or bath in the mornings. You’ll save a small fortune. Furthermore, remember to turn it off when you’re out of town.
  • Wash your clothes with cold water. Is it really necessary to wash your clothes with hot water? Maybe warm water will do the job just as well? Better yet, what about cold water? If your laundry is heavily soiled and greasy you might need the water to be hot, but normally cold water will be perfectly okay.
  • Buy a solar water heater. A 150-litre solar water heater will replace about 4.5 kilowatts of electricity per day, totalling two tons of carbon emissions per year!
  • Buy a new geyser. If yours is more than 10 years old, it uses much more electricity than the efficient new models on sale nowadays.
  • Buy dishwashers and washing machines that are ‘ENERGY STAR’ compliant.
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