With energy prices set to rise by a further 25% over the next three years, now couldn't be a better time to take stock of your household energy usage for the health of both the planet and your wallet. And if going off-grid and starting a new life in the woods sounds neither appealing nor practical, check out our tips for cutting your carbon footprint without even leaving the house.
A bit of a no-brainer here, but turn appliances off when not using. This includes every Dad’s favourite nag of turning off the lights, but also check that appliances like TVs, computers and microwaves are not on standby mode and where possible unplug electrical devices that aren’t in use. Under South African law, all household appliances are required to display labels outlining their energy efficiency, helping you to make informed choices when buying new electrical goods. Products are ranked from A to G, with A being the most efficient. When buying light bulbs make sure they are energy-efficient, for example replacing 10 halogen lights for LEDs will save you around 5.94kWk/week. And if installing new lighting, avoid choosing downlights as they use up far more energy than regular lights and also penetrate insulation, making it less efficient.
Hot and cold
Key to becoming more energy efficient is optimising your house’s ability to keep cool when it’s hot and retain heat when it’s cold outside. If you own your own home, deciding to fully insulate your property will keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer. On a smaller scale, investing in good quality curtains will do the same thing. Making sure that you retain heat in the winter is particularly important and so if you can, make sure your doors and windows are well-sealed when you install them, or for a cheaper and more immediate option draught excluders can be brought fairly cheaply. Lastly, just take note of your habits around using air conditioning, saving it where possible for really hot and humid days. If you are using air con, timers and thermostat controls can keep your energy usage down. Making the switch from air-con to ceiling fans is a big energy saver, with the bonus that they also look pretty cool (no pun intended).
Assessing your water usage can help you cut down on both the amount that you use and energy you are using to heat it. Checking the water efficiency of any new devices that you buy- like washing machines and kettles- is a good place to start. When boiling the kettle, try not to automatically fill it to the top, but rather heat just the amount you need, cutting your kettle energy usage by up to 30%. Another key change to make is buying a water-efficient showerhead to reduce both the amount of water you are using and the energy used to heat it. A silver lining to the water crises that South Africa, and the Western Cape, in particular, have experienced over the past few years is that we're pretty creative when looking for ways to save water. Collecting rainwater is a cheap and easy way to water your garden or fill the swimming pool, and check out our article on how to start collecting and using greywater.
We hope you find these tips useful, and remember that with some trial and error to find out what works for your home, even seemingly small changes can over time drastically reduce your energy usage. Happy saving!