Energy efficiency and conservation are important first steps towards becoming electrically self-sufficient with your own solar electric system. It is the first step towards beating Eskom at its own game!
It is simple, reducing your energy requirements by half will reduce your electrical bill by half. It will also cut the size and cost of your potential solar PV system in half.
Change your electrical habits.
It is possible to save as much as 40% of your electricity bill just by changing your energy habits! You don’t necessarily have to spend a single cent to do this. Like any habit, bad energy habits can be changed. Be energy conscious and modify your use patterns. Don’t automatically flip on overhead lights during the day, switch off lights that are not in use, turn off the radio and TV when you leave the room.
Heating and cooling your home.
Heating and cooling consumes a lot of energy. The first recommendation is not to use electricity for heating or cooling if possible. An electric space heater can consume 2kW of power. If it is on for 10 hours daily, the cost to operate it can be over R1000 per month at current prices. Consider a high efficiency gas heater or paraffin heater. Of course nothing equals a fireplace!
There are many different ways to decrease heating and cooling costs. Some of these include better insulation, correct shading of the house through planting trees, increasing the overhang of eaves and natural ventilation. These concepts are well worth exploring but they are beyond the scope of this website.
Water heating and the myths surrounding switching your geyser on and off.
Using electricity to heat water not only consumes a lot of energy, it is also a highly inefficient process. As much as 40 % of your electrical bill can go to water heating. Your first line of defence should be a timer switch and insulation on both the geyser and all hot water pipes. Contrary to many beliefs the most efficient way to manage your geyser is to switch it on 1 hour before use and to switch it off BEFORE opening the tap.
For a solar home, electrical geysers are not a good option, they simply consume too much energy. In sunny South Africa, solar water heating is a very viable option and highly efficient systems are available. Gas geysers are not expensive and they can be very efficient.
The cost of cooking.
The same rules apply, heating consumes a lot of energy. If the four hotplates on a typical stove are all on a high setting, the stove will be requiring. as much as 7 kW. This could mean over R 200 per month, just for cooking. Also consider the time you have to wait for the hotplate to heat up sufficiently, wasting energy during the process. There is good reason why professional chefs prefer to cook with gas; it is more direct and therefore more efficient. A gas stove costs less than half as much to operate as an electric one and modern gas stoves are very safe.
Keeping things cold – your fridge.
The fridge can be the largest single electricity consumer in an energy-efficient home, accounting for as much as half of the total consumption in some cases. When it comes to efficiency, your first line of defence is to shut the door! You might remember from school that warm air rises and cold air falls. The same thing happens with fridges and freezers. With vertical fridges, the cold air “falls out” as soon as you open the door and is replaced with warmer air. The warmer air needs to be cooled down to the temperature setting again and the appliance has to consume more energy. The more we open and close the door, the higher the energy consumption. With this in mind, a chest freezer is the most efficient. The cold air stays inside when you lift the lid.
Maintaining door gaskets will help to keep the cold inside. You can easily test the gasket by closing the door on a piece of paper. It should be held firmly in place.
Older fridges typically consume 3 kWh/day whilst new Class A models use less than 1 kWh/day. It is a 66% saving on electricity costs every month!
If you have the opportunity to go shopping for a new appliance, look for “Class A” on the information plate. The kWh/annum rating will also be visible. The lower this number, the less energy the fridge will use.
Let’s crunch some numbers to demonstrate how this will affect solar system costs. Assume that a solar system will cost R 12 000 for every kWh it needs to generate everyday.
Old existing fridge: Daily energy requirement 3 kWh
Cost of PV system required: 3 x R12 000 = R 36 000
New energy efficient fridge: Daily energy requirement 1kWh
Cost of PV system required: 1 x R 12 000 = R 12 000
Cost of new fridge = R 5 000
Total cost for PV system & new fridge = R 17 000
A SAVING of R 19 000 AND you have a new fridge as well!!
Let there be LED light.
As much as 25% of your energy needs can go towards inefficient lighting. By increasing the efficiency of your lighting, large savings can be realized. Let’s say you have 10 old fashioned bulbs each requiring 60 Watts and they burn 4 hours every night. Depending on where you live, it will cost you around R 145 per month at 2016 electricity prices. Replace them with 5 Watt LED bulbs and this will come down to around R 12 per month! A saving of R 133 each month, nearly R 1600 a year!!
The LED light bulb is the future of lighting and is extremely energy efficient with savings as high as 90% in comparison to incandescent bulbs. LED’s lasts 20 times longer than ordinary bulbs with an operational life of over 25 000 hours! They generate virtually no heat, contain no hazardous material and gives off no nasty ultra violet (UV) radiation.
Phantom loads – Ghosts in your appliances?
Many modern appliances constantly consume electricity when in standby mode or even when switched off. Those little black cubes (low voltage transformers) on the power cords of phones, answering machines and other small electronics consume around 5 Watts all the time whilst plugged in. TV’s, Stereos and DVD players can use up to 20 Watts continuously while in standby mode. This is known as “phantom loads”. Relatively small phantom loads add up quickly and can make a big difference in the bigger picture. Data for South Africa is not available but the average US home consumes enough phantom load energy in a year to power a fridge for the same period!
To avoid phantom loads simply unplug the device when not in use or switch off at the plug.
How many unnecessary appliances in your house?
I have been amazed by the number of households that have 2 or even 3 fridges, not to mention the row of chest freezers. A new fridge is bought and the old one is moved to the garage just to keep a few beers cold. Considering the high energy consumption of older freezers, it might actually cost you more to run them than what you saved on that bulk meat buy. Become aware of energy consumption and reconsider the number of appliances you have.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Once you have applied above mentioned steps, not only will you be more energy efficient, your electrical bill will also be drastically reduced. Best of all, you will be one large step closer to an affordable solar electric system, one step closer to being electrically independent.
When the day finally comes when you can beat Eskom at its own game, when you do not receive that bill anymore, when load shedding or blackouts no longer affect you, the satisfaction and feeling of independence will be GREAT! Ask us, we know!