Stephen Hawking once said “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”. With regards to the availability of electricity in the last decade, residents of South Africa had no choice but to adapt. Many households are looking at alternative power sources like solar panels. Solar is arguably the most accessible independent source of energy. However, it isn’t only about replacing the electricity we need but also about how to optimise your dwelling’s electricity consumption.
In the following article we concentrate on how to best get your household ready for a Solar installation, or alternatively cutting down on your electricity consumption with some small adjustments. When it comes to calculating the size of your Solar installation, one of the first steps we take is to quantify your electrical usage. The lower it becomes, the more accessible the solar option is. So how do you reduce electricity consumption? First you must ask:
How do you consume your Electricity?
The following is a basic break down of your average electricity consumption in a normal South African household.
– Geysers: 24%
– Heaters/air conditioners: 18%
– Lighting: 17%
– Consumer electronics (TV’s etc.) which are on standby: 15%
– Cooking: 11%
– Freezers/Fridges: 8%
– Consumer electronics: 5%
– Other: 2%
Size of Household
It isn’t really about the physical space, although it does impact, but mostly about the number of people living in one house. The more people live in the dwelling, the higher the electricity consumption. One can look at maximising some activities but overall the bigger your family group the higher your consumption will be.
The type of lifestyle you lead will impact your electricity consumption. For example, if you work in a dirty environment where you need to shower 3 times per day and are a night owl requiring lights, your consumption will be higher than if you shower once a day and sleep at night.
Similarly, if your lifestyle requires a jacuzzi, a heated pool and the charging of electrical vehicles, your consumption will rise substantially.
Adaptability is again key! People living in the artic don’t have fridges and people living near the equator don’t require heaters. Your weather patterns will play a big role in your consumption. If you live in Sutherland (arguably one of the coldest places in South Africa), your consumption will be higher during the cold winters. On the other hand living on the Northeast Natal Coast, you are likely to want air conditioning during the summer months and have a higher electricity bill during those heat waves. If you live in an area that has cold winters and hot summers you will require both.
Furthermore, if you are looking into a solar installation, the amount of sunlight you get per day will impact how much electricity you will be able to produce. In South Africa we are lucky to have many sunshine hours per day in the whole country. However, your roof position could play a major role in how much sun power you can harvest.
Taking all these things into consideration, here are a few practical tips to decrease your electricity consumption in a typical South African house.
As you can see from the above breakdown, in a normal household, water heating is the heaviest part of the electricity bill.
- Reduce the temperature on the Geyser, it’s also safer for everyone preventing scalding.
- Use a timer on your Geyser and only heat the water when required.
- Insulate your Geyser and the pipes that go from your Geyser to the house especially if you live in a colder area.
- Change your old Geyser element for new more efficient ones. With time the element corrodes and takes longer to heat the water using more power.
- Use low flow shower heads and as a result use less water.
- Take shorter showers and in summer only use the cold water.
- Full laundry loads only.
- Do short washing machine cycles with cold water.
- Optimise your dishwashing. Only run the dishwasher full. Washing by hand may use less electricity (but be aware of your water consumption!).
- Switch lights off when not needed.
- Install dimmers, you can then run the lights at lower consumption levels.
- Replace bulbs with LED energy efficient bulbs. The price has dropped over the years.
- Use motion sensor lights outside ensuring that lights only switch on when required.
- Place solar powered lights in the garden instead of connecting them to your electricity grid.
- Use natural light as much as possible
- Replace appliances with Energy efficient ones. Newer technology has improved consumption of appliances.
- Unplug or switch off unused appliances. (TVs, Stove, Computers) Leaving them on standby means they are consuming energy.
- A fridge can use anywhere between 201 kWh to 500 kWh per year, depending on the type of fridge you have. The fuller a fridge the easier it is for it to remain cool and keep it closed as much as possible.
- Don’t put hot food in the fridge, let it cool down first.
- Keep your fridge coil clean.
- If you use a dryer, put a dry towel in with your load, it will significantly shorten the drying time.
Other ideas to reduce your electricity consumption
- Insulate your house according to your needs. Better sealed windows and doors without gaps means less hot or cool air getting out. That translates in your aircon or heater consumption.
- Use lids when cooking.
- Use the Microwave rather than the Stove as it is more efficient (unless you have a gas stove of course).
- The fuller a fridge the easier it is for it to remain cool.
- Braai more. It’s a great way to eat, most South Africans love it and your electricity consumption is pretty low (unless you use an electric barbecue, but then you’re not really a South African)