Saving energy this winter

As temperatures drop and we head into the colder winter months, households will start using a lot more energy as homeowners turn up the heat to stay warm, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Unfortunately, keeping warm often means using more energy and paying the associated costs. “However,” says Goslett, “there are ways that homeowners can conserve the amount of energy they use, which in turn will reduce the costs. This can be done by lowering the amount of electricity that is used in the home during winter months by making a few energy-efficient changes around the home.”

Goslett gives the following energy-saving tips:

Regulate the geyser

The first place to start is the geyser, as it is the most energy-sapping appliance in the household. Goslett says that according to statistics, geysers account for as much as 40% of the total electricity bill on a monthly basis. “One solution is to simply turn off the geyser during the day when no-one is home and allocate certain hours of the day for it to be switched on when people are home,” he says, “Another solution would be to have the geyser automated, so that is can be digitally controlled.”

Goslett notes that there are a number of products that are currently available in South Africa, that allow the homeowner to remotely control the thermostat on the geyser. This gives the homeowner the option of automatically setting the times it will be on and at what temperature.

During winter the cold piping also cools water down as it travels through it. This essentially means that more hot water is needed to bath or shower and more energy is used. Goslett says that homeowners can reduce the energy used by insulating the pipes leading out of the geyser. Ideally the entire length of all hot water pipes should be insulated to reduce heat loss, however insulating at least 3 to 5 metres from the geyser will make a difference.

Additionally, a geyser blanket can also add further insulation keeping the water inside the geyser hotter for longer. This typically consists of a 50mm layer of glass fibre insulation with reflective foil sheeting on one side. A good geyser blanket will considerably reduce the rate at which the water cools inside the geyser.

Although costly at the outset, installing solar panels can reduce the amount of water that the geyser needs to heat up, which can dramatically reduce electricity costs over the long term.

Energy-efficient light bulbs

A large majority of South African homeowners have already seen the benefits of using compact florescent light bulbs (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) in their homes. Both of these types of light bulbs use at least 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb, and can last a lot longer. Goslett says that depending on the type of bulb, certain energy efficient bulbs can last between 10 and 35 times longer than a regular bulb, which means that costs will be saved on electricity as well as the replacement of bulbs.

The same amount of light is created by the energy efficient options, however far less wattage is used. A 3-watt LED, for example, would be equivalent to a 45-watt incandescent bulb. Using less energy means that they do not get hot when used over long periods of time, and this makes them especially effective in areas where lights are kept on for longer than three hours. Not only do energy efficient bulbs reduce costs, they also reduce the household pollutant output in the environment by creating less heat.

Frequently used household appliances

According to Goslett, energy output of appliances such as the refrigerator can be reduced by regulating the temperature gauge; ideally the temperature should range between three to five degrees Celsius.

He notes that other household appliances to check would include the washing machine, as around 40% of the energy used to wash clothing can be reduced by setting the machine at 30 degrees. Only using the washing machine or dishwasher when it has a full load will also reduce energy by keeping frequency to a minimum. While these items should be full, the kettle should only have the required amount of water in it, as this will reduce the time taken for the water to reach boiling point.

Opting to hang clothes on an outside line to dry rather than using a tumble-dryer will also use less electricity.

Unplug unnecessary appliances

Items such as laptops and other household appliances will drain energy if they are left on in standby mode, so rather turn them off completely or simply unplug them. A computer or laptop, for example, can use around 20% as much power as it would if it was in full use. Unless it is absolutely necessary to have an appliance plugged in at all times, it is far more energy efficient to have them unplugged and this will also serve as protection against lighting strikes and power surges.

Insulating the home

Goslett says that heat can escape through areas in the home that are poorly insulted, so it is important to ensure that there are no areas that require attention, such as a window that doesn’t close properly. He notes that between 50% and 80% of the home’s warmth escapes through the ceiling. This can be reduced to around 3% by installing proper ceiling insulation, which will also mean that far less energy is required to heat the home.

“With the rising cost of electricity and worldwide depletion of resources, it is imperative to find ways to not only curb costs, but reduce the carbon emissions and harm to our surroundings. Making energy efficient decisions and investments now will have a massive impact on our energy and resource consumption in the future,” Goslett concludes. 

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