Turn geyser temperature down to 60o Celsius
Maintaining the temperature at 60oC uses less electricity (energy) than maintaining a temperature of 70oC. Works best when geyser and pipes are insulated. Don’t drop it below 60oC for health reasons. In most cases, the thermostat is located in the little cover over the electrical element of the geyser. Switch off the electricity circuit at the mains, undo the cover, and then turn down the thermostat using a screw driver. Or hire a plumber to help you (for safety reasons, make sure you tell those in the house that you are switching off the electricity for this purpose).
Use less hot water
For example shower instead of bath, and take shorter showers. Only fill the kettle as much as you need it. Wash a full load of dishes, rather than one dish at a time. Use cold water where possible for laundry washing.
Switch off equipment when not in use
Turn appliances off at the wall plug, rather than leaving them on standby as this can still draw about 20% or more of normal electricity use. (Examples are TVs, music systems, computers, phone chargers etc.) Also turn the geyser off when you go on holiday.
Reduce pool pump operating hours
If you have a pool with a cleaning system pump, reduce its operating hours to the minimum e.g. 6 hours a day. Clean filters regularly, and consider a pool cover and turning off the pump at times in winter.
Reduce excessive heating or cooling
Space heating in winter is a big power ‘guzzler’, and the same for summer cooling for those homes with cooling systems. Use localised equipment rather than central air-conditioning or heating systems, and only heat or cool occupied rooms. The room temperature should not be more than 10 degrees (Celsius) more or less than the outside/ ambient temperature. Fan or oil heaters with thermostats are best, and avoid under-floor heating. In summer use a fan rather than air-conditioning. But rather than use equipment at all, the best ‘no cost’ saving options are things like wearing warmer clothing and using blankets in winter or opening the windows in summer.
Install an efficient shower head
Cape Town water bylaws limit shower flow rates to no more than 10 litres per minute. To test this at home, hold a bucket under the showerhead for 12 seconds. Measure the amount of water within the bucket with a measuring jug. If there is more than 2 litres then your showerhead is inefficient. A good, modern product will save both water and electricity without compromising your shower experience, and the saving usually pays back the investment within a few weeks or months.
Insulate the geyser
A geyser ‘blanket’ maximises heat retention. Check heat loss first using a basic ‘hand test’. If the geyser is warm then it’s losing heat and needs better insulation. Particularly necessary for older geysers. Appoint a good installer or do a thorough job yourself, and check the insulation is still in place after a few days/ weeks because installation isn’t always straightforward and can come undone. Also insulate the water pipes leading from the geyser for the first 3 metres.
Install efficient lighting
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) use 75% less power than old incandescent bulbs, and last much longer. Note that CFLs contain small amounts of harmful chemicals, so please dispose of them safely. Best is to take them to safe ‘drop off’ points e.g. at retailers like Woolworths or Pick n Pay. New ‘light-emitting diodes’, or LEDs, are even more efficient than CFLs, and last 130 times longer than CFL bulbs. They have limited applications in homes at this stage, but are ideal replacements for halogen down-lighting. They save the most, and although they may be currently expensive the cost is coming down as the technology develops. Of course, switching off lights in unoccupied rooms is also an obvious way to save.
Install a solar water heater
This can save the most electricity of all. It typically saves about two thirds of water heating cost, but this varies and it should be installed with a timer for the best possible saving. With rising electricity tariffs, along with an Eskom rebate, the payback period is now no more than 5 years. Install a heat pump as an alternative, if a solar water heater is not possible. Heat pumps can achieve similar savings but they are a new technology for homes, so they are not well tested yet and may require more maintenance than a solar water heater.
Insulate the ceiling/roof
A ceiling and good roof insulation can keep the home 5 degrees (Celsius) warmer in winter, and 10 degrees cooler in summer. More comfortable indoor temperatures mean less need for electrical heating and cooling, with savings of about 75% for adding both a ceiling and insulation, or 25% for just adding insulation (if there is already a ceiling). Insulating other parts of the house also helps (e.g. stopping heat loss through windows or under doors), but the highest savings are from roof insulation.
Other important advice
Measure and monitor your home electricity consumption and costs.
Educate everyone in the home, including children and domestic helpers.
Remember that saving requires both behaviour and equipment. E.g. it’s no use installing an efficient shower head if you then shower for twice as long.