With a massive fuel price hike and warnings of possible load shedding, South Africans need to make every cent work as hard as it can. Through a few relatively simple and practical changes to the way they use electricity and fuel, South Africans can save around R17 000 a year.
“Price hikes and load shedding have had a massive impact on all of us. There are however ways to keep the lights on, the wheels turning, limit risk and save a substantial amount of money in the process,” says Susan Steward from Budget Insurance.
Here are some tips to save on electricity and fuel:
- Bright idea: switch to energy efficient light bulbs if you haven’t done so already. They may be more expensive, but last longer and use substantially less electricity.
- Out with the old: letting go of large appliances such as a fridge can seem counter-productive when trying to save money but newer fridges are far more energy efficient and will save you more in the long run. Appliances are graded from A to G on their efficiency, with A being the most efficient and G being the least.
- Low consumption alternatives: Taking a shower instead of a water- and electricity-consuming bath, using the microwave instead of the stove or oven to cook and warm food, opening windows instead of using the air conditioner or closing them to retain heat, instead of using heaters are all simple, smart examples of saving energy and money.
- The habit of saving: Get your entire household to turn off any lights and appliances that are not in use, and to use them only for as long as required.
- Smart plugs for smart people: Smart plugs can be set to switch off your appliances such as TVs and sound systems entirely as opposed to putting them onto stand-by mode which guzzles power. Smart plugs typically have a companion app allowing you to set preferences, schedules and names for the devices. Alternatively you can switch off these devices manually when not in use.
- Time for timers: Timers, or smart switches – whether for geysers, pool pumps or security lights – will help you only consume electricity at specific times. Especially useful with geysers – one of the most energy consuming items in the household.
- Long-term planning: there are some bigger ways to reduce a home’s electricity consumption and should be considered as part of a longer-term investment and cost saving exercise. This includes putting in solar panels, switching out electricity-run stoves and ovens for gas and replacing air conditioning with ceiling fans and fireplaces. A pre-paid electricity meter would also be an effective way to monitor your home’s power consumption and assist with budgeting for power on a monthly basis.
With a few minor adjustments to your driving habits and with regular car maintenance, you can boost the fuel efficiency of your car by as much as 40%. So, if you fill up 48 times a year at roughly R900 per tank, a 40% reduction in fuel consumption could save you over R17,000 a year.
- Service smart: A car can burn up to 30% more fuel if proper maintenance is not performed on a regular schedule, so make sure that your car is serviced regularly. Things like worn spark plugs, worn rings, faulty injectors, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, dirty oil, and dirty filters all lead to inefficiency and higher fuel consumption
- Wheel wise: Check your car’s wheel alignment. Bad wheel alignment causes more friction, which takes more power to overcome and results in higher fuel consumption.
- Pressure check: Check for underinflated tyres, as these, too, increase resistance.
- Air con costs a cool buck: Use the air conditioning only when necessary, as it places additional load on the engine.
- Dead weight: Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary items from it and, if you mostly do city driving, consider driving with only half a tank of fuel.
- Nice and slow: Don’t speed. The gas-guzzling effects of “stepping on it” are well-known.
- Don’t stop-start: Maintain momentum by looking and planning ahead, flowing with traffic and timing your approaches to hills, traffic lights and crossings better.
- Geared for efficiency: Drive at the lowest speed in the highest gear that the road and traffic conditions allow, without labouring the engine.
- Tech savvy: Many vehicles have economy settings to optimise performance, throttle response, ride height etc. for maximum fuel efficiency. Use them to your advantage.
- Plan ahead: Use your GPS to check for traffic and avoid problem areas. Do several tasks on one round trip, as opposed to many shorter ones. This eliminates unnecessary mileage and saves time.
- Wait out the rush: Battling through traffic not only increases fuel consumption, but also causes wear and tear, especially on your vehicle’s transmission and brakes.
COPING WITH LOAD SHEDDING:
Another important box to check is to make sure that you are adequately prepared to deal with load shedding. Budget offers these easy to implement tips for those looking to ensure their safety when the lights go out:
- Put the proposed load shedding times somewhere handy so that your family will have enough time to prepare for the power outage.
- Get a few high-wattage solar powered lights for your garden, and a few LED lights for inside. Light is a deterrent to would-be burglars.
- Keep your cell phone charged, or invest in a portable phone charger, so that you can still call for help if you need to.
- If you need to manually open and close your gates when you get home, try to have someone come and meet you at your entrance, or arrange for an escort from your security company.
- Use padlocks, burglar bars and deadbolts to provide an extra level of home security that isn’t power-dependent.
- Alarm systems, garage doors and electric gates generally rely on electricity so make sure that these items all have good back-up batteries.
- Keep a torch or a solar, battery powered light that is charged beforehand in multiple, easily accessible locations around your home. Be sure to also have plenty of spare batteries.
- Your fridge and freezer supplies should be okay without power over night if you do not open and close it repeatedly. If you’re worried about certain food items, prepare an ice-box for these.
- Make sure that all appliances – especially those that pose a fire risk if left unattended – are switched off when load shedding starts and gradually turned back on once power returns. This not only minimises the pressure on the grid when the power is turned back on, but also minimises the risk of damage to appliances due to power surges, or a fire risk causing a power outage to turn into a catastrophe.
There are also less direct, but equally dangerous consequences of load shedding such as street lights and traffic lights being down at night. This places a greater burden on motorists driving home through load-shedded areas in the dark. “Motorists are encouraged to drive cautiously at all times, but especially so in these poorly illuminated areas. Treat all inoperative traffic lights as a four-way stop, and when in doubt, yield to oncoming traffic from the right. Do not assume that all other drivers will stop so exercise extreme vigilance and drive defensively,” concludes Steward.