‘Electricity is expensive. Saving is simple’
Residential electricity consumption accounts for 43% of total electricity consumption in Cape Town, while commercial consumption accounts for 40%. The City is therefore calling on businesses and mid- to high-income groups who use the most residential sector electricity to cut their consumption. It is possible for households to cut consumption by up to 40% if all of the savings tips are implemented.
Through its marketing campaign with the slogan ‘Electricity is expensive. Saving is simple’, the City has devised a practical checklist and developed an information-filled website for households to encourage residents to join the City in taking shared responsibility and saving electricity.
This easy-to-understand information can be found in print advertorials in daily and community newspapers, radio adverts and on the website www.SavingElectricity.org.za. Commercial building owners and operators can join the Energy Efficiency Forum, via www.capetown.gov.za/EnergyEfficiencyForum.
“Efficient use of electricity has become increasingly important in view of rising electricity tariffs and South Africa’s very real supply shortages. The need to reduce operating costs, the cost of inefficient energy use to the economy, the risk of power cuts and carbon emissions all add up to the urgent need for a concerted effort to improve our electricity efficiency in Cape Town,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Shehaam Sims.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Alderman Belinda Walker, cited a number of reasons why the City is calling on residents and businesses to save electricity: “Electricity tariffs will once again rise in July for City of Cape Town customers (Eskom customers are already paying new tariffs) and the country’s electricity supply constraints and possible load-shedding are a reality. Households can save significantly on their electricity bills by implementing the savings tips, and we can all help to prevent load shedding if we reduce Cape Town’s electricity demand. A 25 – 40% reduction by mid- to high-income households would make a considerable difference”.
“I also ask that consumers see the campaign as a real opportunity to save money. Saving electricity is about saving hard-earned Rands. The money that residents can save on electricity is money that can be spent on other things – like a solar water heater or school fees. Saving electricity is also good for the City’s carbon footprint and good for the globe,” said Alderman Walker.
The City has invested considerable resources in researching what can be done to save electricity. There are ‘no cost’ actions, like turning the geyser thermostat down to 60°C, which will enable residents to save at least 5% on their electricity bill. Investing less than R1 000,00 on an energy efficient showerhead and a geyser blanket will save more and investing in options like solar water heating and ceiling insulation will save the most. Doing all of these will save residents 50% or more on their electricity costs, while at the same time adding to the value of the home.
The biggest target of all when it comes to electricity is the water heated by the electric geyser, which consumes about 40% of the electricity in a household. The less hot water used, the less electricity consumed, and the more money saved. The City is encouraging residents and businesses to install solar water heaters or heat pumps for water heating as these will make a real impact on their electricity bill.
If you are using pre-paid electricity, it is important to buy only as much electricity as you will need in a month, otherwise you may pay more for electricity than you should. This is because, since July last year a ‘step tariff’ system has been introduced for household electricity. A step tariff means that the less electricity a household uses, the cheaper the per unit charge. For example, households using more than 600 units a month pay a higher rate per unit than those using less than 600 units a month. Electricity units are measured in kilowatt hours or kWh.
The City of Cape Town’s Ten Best Ways to save electricity at home are:
Turn your geyser temperature down to 60°C
Hot water accounts for almost 40% of your electricity bill. Turning down the thermostat by a degree or two will save you 5% on your electricity bill. 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 turn down the thermostat. Or hire a plumber/electrician to help you.
Use less hot water
Take a short shower instead of a bath. Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need. Wash a full load of dishes, rather than one dish at a time. Wash clothing in cold water.
Switch off equipment when not in use
Turn appliances off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby as this can still draw about 6% or more electricity.
Reduce pool pump operating hours
Drop pool pump operating hours to six hours in summer and four hours in winter. Clean filters regularly, and consider a pool cover and turning off the pump entirely in winter.
Reduce excessive heating or cooling
Space heating in winter is a big power ‘guzzler’, and the same for summer cooling. Use oil heaters with thermostats and avoid under-floor heating. Wear warmer clothing. In summer use a fan rather than air-conditioning.
Install an efficient showerhead
Cape Town water by-laws 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. If there is more than 2 litres in the bucket, then your showerhead is inefficient. A good, modern product will save both water and electricity without compromising your shower experience, and the saving pays back the investment within a few months.
Insulate the geyser with a geyser blanket and insulate hot water pipes leading from the geyser to maximise heat retention.
Install efficient lighting
Replace all of your incandescent bulbs with either Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), which use five times less power than incandescent bulbs and last much longer, or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which use nine times less power than incandescent bulbs and have a very long lifespan. The range of applications for LEDs has increased and they are good for home lighting, especially down-lighting. The extra cost is worth it.
Install a solar water heater.
It uses the sun to heat up your water, saving 25% or more on your electricity bill. With rising electricity tariffs and subsidies from Eskom, the payback period is no more than three-and-a-half to five years.
Insulate the ceiling
Ceiling insulation can keep the home 5°C warmer in winter, and 10°C cooler in summer. More comfortable indoor temperatures mean less need for electrical heating and cooling, with savings of up to 65%. Insulating other parts of the house also helps (e.g. stopping heat loss through windows, walls or under doors), but the highest savings are from ceiling insulation.