Stage 1 Energy Savings Principles

Our target at this stage is a 15% drop in your monthly electricity account from Eskom.

This is a very important stage because it is here that we do the planning for the remaining 3 stages. If we get our planning right, all the stages will fit together like a puzzle and we will be working towards a final goal. Everything we will do in Stage 1 will count towards our final goal, and we will just have to do the right thing once and keep moving forward.

Our first objective here is to give you the right information that you can understand how your local municipality measures and sells you electricity. Lets take the city where I live as our first example. George Municipality buys electricity from Eskom at a price of 60 cents per kilowatt, or R 0.6/Kw. In my house I see the kilowatts I purchase on my prepaid meter as units. So I go to my favourite supermarket and I buy Electricity over the counter – I pay R 1.06 per Kw, and then pay R0.14 VAT to total R 1.20 per unit(Kw). Every R10 I spend buys me 8.3Kw.

This price is set to increase after April 2012 as agreed between the South African Government and NERSA. The price of electricity will increase by 25% in 2012 and by a further 25% in 2013, and perhaps they will surprise us again in 2014. We have no guarantee that these increases will end. You will have noticed that the final consumer price of electricity is virtually double the wholesale price. OK, so who make the profit? George Municipality in this case, and every other municipality that sells electricity. It is our experience that municipalities are not too excited to participate in energy savings campaigns – why? Because they make a profit on the selling of electricity. Some municipalities make 90% of their monthly income by selling this commodity. It is important to know that not all municipalities have a set price per unit of electricity. Our neighbor Knysna charges a monthly availability charge – this is an admin fee or perhaps an infrastructure cost for making the power available to you as a client. In Knysna you will pay R364 per month availability fee and then 80 cents per unit of electricity. If you are using more that 1000Kw per month this structure will be cheaper, but once again for the bulk of the residential clients that want to save on electricity cost there is no real incentive to save. My recommendation is to influence your local government to accept a flat fee! We often speak to farmer or people that are zoned on agricultural properties where they are receiving 3Fase power. Here the availability fee is R1500 in our area, and often the consumption or units used are only R500 worth in value – so there are some unhappy farmers that feel they are being overcharged for electricity. Farmers are converting to alternative energy on a large scale and many of them are following the 4 Stages we are using here. I have sat in a farmer’s office where he showed me his file of Eskom accounts. During his peak season he has to pay R120 000 for electricity per month. If that figure were to double, which it will in the next 3 years, he will lose his profit. So for many people the motto is adapt or die – and here is how we do it:

We now all understand that a unit of electricity is measured as one kilowatt. That is 1000 watts. For us to lower your electrical consumption in your house we need you to understand how much each electrical appliance consumes and how soon all your appliances together will eat through 1Kw of energy. That will equal your consumption measured in Kw/hour. Obviously your hairdryer does not run all day long – but it is interesting to understand that a hairdryer that is rated at 3700watts will use 3700watts per hour which is very close to an average geyser that consumes 4000watts per hour (4Kw/h) to heat up 200l of water! Most people make this connection automatically but it is good for us to understand the logic and the mathematics behind what we are all paying for. In stage 3 we will focus very specifically on energy consumption, but for now our target is 15%, and here is how we do it:
Our plan here is to lower our electrical bill quickly without making major changes. Our greatest ally is the awareness that we need to reduce our expense at the end of the month and that we will save by reducing consumption. Here I can already hear you saying that you don’t want to end up like your mother that is painfully stingy and diligently switches of all the lights that are not absolutely necessary. No, that is not my plan – the blessing of alternative energy is that we plan to maintain our current lifestyle but making use of energy that will not keep escalating in cost.


1.Change your light bulbs.

Yes, I know Eskom has already given everybody the so-called energy saving bulbs, and that has helped a little. In my opinion that was the right idea with the wrong product. That bulb is called a CFL – compact fluorescent lights, and it is not a green product! These bulbs make use of Mercury vapour to function – that is a toxic substance and it is dangerous! If one of those bulbs were to fall down and shatter there is actually an evacuation procedure that needs to be followed. My wife has told me that she refuses to have those bulbs in her house especially because we still have small children that we do not any harm to come to. What did Eskom actually think they were doing by importing millions of toxic bulbs into our country? They have just compounded the problem! Who will pay for the correct disposal of these toxic bulbs that have a very limited operational time?
The lights I recommend are LED’s- light emitting diodes. They are highly efficient, use very little electricity and have an operational time of between 10 000-20 000 hours which translates to at least 10-15 years of household use! That is much better! The good news is that the prices of these lights have come down dramatically as the demand has increased. Three years ago they were selling for about R300 a bulb, I installed them in my house at R150 a bulb, almost two years ago, and the most cost effective LED bulbs are now selling for about R80 each.
Let me give you an example again using my own house in George:  I bought this little Hansel and Gretel house two years ago when it was looking very sad and decided to do some renovations. I condemned all the existing lights, including all the so called energy savers and decided to install LED lights right through the house. I chose to use LED down lighters that used only 3 watt each. I installed 6 in the lounge, 6 in the dining room, one every 2 meters in the passage, six in the main bedroom, 4 in each bathroom, and in the kitchen all along the counter tops. So I had 60 LED lights in total in my newly renovated 3 bed-roomed house. So lets do some maths again:
60 LED’s x 3watts = 180watts x 5hours of use per day x 30 days a month = 27000watt
Cost  is 27 Kw x R 1.20 = R 32.40

Wow! That means that even if I leave all my lights on in the entire house, which seldom happens, for a full 5 hours every night, they will only consume R32.40 per month! This revolutionized our lives and when I saw the mathematics I said, I have to have these lights! Now, I have relaxed any previous anxiety I had about the electrical consumption regarding lights because I know they only cost me R 32.40 per month! My kids can leave the lights on, no stress, its not a big deal, I have taken care of that department.

Not everybody will have to re-do their current lighting infrastructure to get the same result. The technology on LED lighting is making fabulous progress and newer and better models are launched continuously. The latest E27 or screw in LED 5 watt bulbs are just as powerful as the old 60w incandescent bulb. I have seen 6watt LED down lighters that are also just as bright as 50w halogen bulbs. These can easily be replaced and result in dramatic savings! The cost is worth it and this is a sure way to reduce your electrical bill by about 15%.  
The quality of lighting in my house has not diminished, but the consumption has declined dramatically! A well worth it investment!


2.Water saving shower heads and taps

An engineering friend of mine explained this savings method to me: He said first of all you have to understand that the greatest amount of energy in domestic water heating is spent by heating the water from cold(about 18 degrees) to about 30 degrees. Once you have it at 30 degrees the next level to 50 degrees is not that intensive. OK, so here comes the logic. If your consumption of water is 200l per day at 65 degrees, and you can somehow lower that to only 150l per day, do you think you will save on your energy requirement to heat up the water you normally use? Of course! So there is your somehow! This is a double whammy because you are saving water and saving on the electrical cost to heat up the water too.

Another setting change that a handyman told me about is the following: Your geyser thermostat is normally set by the installer at 65 degrees. If you do not need your water that hot – you might be happy at a 55 degrees setting, that will result in a good saving! Some people have a summer and winter setting – two trips to the geyser per year can produce a handsome saving! More on saving on water heating in Stage 2.  
In my own house I have installed water saving shower heads that claim a 50% saving. This is obviously subject to how clean I feel once I am in the shower, but I agree that this is a worthwhile saving that I will endorse and my engineering friend regards as a must have.

So there we have two replacement solutions that can easily be applied and can produce the 15% saving we are aiming for. My recommendation is put Stage 1 into practice as soon as possible! Take the plunge and get to the place where you can see a real change in your electrical expense! Make a start and commit yourself to putting Stage 1 to action!



Posted in: ENERGY SAVING Practical principles