Winter is a time when you snuggle under thick blankets and perhaps turn down some dinner invitations on the other side of town, particularly when it’s wet and cold outside. While you may reduce the number of times you venture out – preferring instead to cosy up on the couch – what you don’t tend to do is reduce your consumption, both in terms of energy usage to keep the home warm and even when it comes to cooking food.
But even when you are in the middle of the coldest, wettest season, there are ways you can still slash your consumption of resources such electricity, water and food. Reducing the energy and water usage is vital, not only to save on costs but to preserve these resources. Ultimately, the more we consume, the more we pay. Here’s how you can cut the costs:
REDUCE YOUR FOOD BILL
Discovery certified financial adviser Claire van Wyk recommends creating a meal plan and sticking to it. “We eat more in winter and snacking will cost more money if not planned. Cut the empty calorie snacks – they generally cost more and do very little for energy,” she says. She adds that you can cut costs by buying in bulk and cooking in bulk with meals like soup. “Search for seasonal fresh veg, usually roots etc. They are cheaper than out-of-season vegetables.”
LOOK AFTER YOUR HEALTH
Medical costs tend to rise in winter too, as this is the season in which we typically get sick. Van Wyk reminds us to get our flu vaccinations and take extra vitamin C and citrus daily. This can help combat the flu or ensure that we get a less extreme version of this illness – one from which you tend to recover quicker and need less care as a result.
INSULATE YOUR HOME
Approximately 50% to 80% of the home’s warmth escapes through the ceiling. Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that homeowners can reduce this to around 3% by installing proper ceiling insulation, which will also mean that far less energy is required to heat the home.
Meanwhile, Derek Wilson, head of online insurance and financial comparison website Hippo.co.za, recommends simpler methods too, such as hanging thick curtains on all the windows and placing carpets on tiled or wooden floors to insulate your home.
REGULATE THE GEYSER
One of the most energy-hungry appliances in the home is the geyser because it accounts for as much as 40% of the electricity bill on a monthly basis. According to Goslett, one solution is to switch off the geyser during the day when no one is home and then turn it on for a set number of hours when it’s needed.
Or you can install a timer. “There are several automation products available to homeowners in this country that allow them to control the geyser’s thermostat remotely. The homeowner has the option of setting the times the geyser will be on and at what temperature – automatically,” says Goslett.
A geyser blanket can also add further insulation, keeping the water inside the geyser hotter for longer. A geyser blanket 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, meaning you will consume less energy getting the geyser to heat the water again.
REDUCE YOUR USE OF OTHER APPLIANCES
Everyday appliances that you use can account for more than half of the wasted energy every month, according to Cala van der Westhuizen, spokesperson for Energy Partners Home Solutions. Besides your geyser, appliances such as your tumble dryer, oven, swimming pool pump, air conditioning and portable heaters can be a huge drain on the grid.
For example, the typical tumble dryer costs about R6 per hour in electricity. “Running a dryer for two hours a day, five days a week adds another R240 to the home’s monthly electricity bill. To save on electricity, it is best to view your tumble dryer as something you should only indulge in on occasion. Only use it when you really have to and turn to the sun to curb its energy appetite,” says Van der Westhuizen.
CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE POWER SOURCES
There is a growing trend of households introducing energy-efficient elements to curb energy usage, thereby reducing the overall cost of running the home. “A study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders revealed that apart from a safe neighbourhood, the factor that influenced home-buying decisions the most was a home’s energy efficiency,” says Goslett.
Installing solar panels is one way to reduce your reliance on electricity and reduce your costs. Installing them is not cheap and experts say it takes about seven years to recoup the money invested in the panels. However, if you intend to stay in the home you currently reside in, doing this will save you money in the long run. “In most cases, solar panel systems save between 50% and 75% of an electricity bill. The money saved can go towards paying the solar panels off or other household expenses,” says Goslett.
Ultimately, by reducing your energy consumption and finding alternative sources of energy you are not only saving costs but helping preserve the environment too.
“The rising cost of electricity and worldwide depletion of resources has made it all the more vital to find ways to curb costs and reduce carbon emissions.
“Choosing energy-efficient options and investments now will have a massive impact on our energy and resource consumption in the future,” says Goslett.