South Africans have been left in the dark time and time again which is making more people look into the possibility of going off-grid. While load shedding may be one popular reason why South Africans are looking to generate their own electricity, the introduction of carbon taxes and the consistent price hikes on electricity has made investments in alternative renewable power sources an even more attractive option.
BY MARIZA HALLIDAY
There are so many ways you can start to reduce your reliance on the national grid for all
homes and budgets. We take a look at all the options:
IS TAKING YOUR HOME ‘OFF THE GRID’ EASY?
IT DEPENDS ON SEVERAL FACTORS SUCH AS:
• The number of people living in your home
• The amount of electricity the home uses
• How old the building is (newer buildings are more likely to be designed with energy efficiency in mind)
• If your goal is to be completely independent of the grid, or ‘less reliant’ on it
HOW TO DO IT:
1. Change your lighting
The first thing you would need to do is to reduce your consumption. Replace old incandescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs. This will significantly reduce your current electricity usage.
2. Convert your appliances
Converting your cooking and heating to alternative power is the next big change. Electric stoves, ovens, geysers, heat pumps, and heaters all use excessive amounts of power when considering alternative energy systems. Where possible, replace these with solar or gas alternatives.
3. Solar power
Solar is the go-to form of renewable energy and it’s a viable option in South Africa, which is ranked highly as a location for solar concentration. Solar panels are the key component of a
solar-powered system, consisting of photovoltaic (PV) cells that receive the sun’s rays and generate direct current, which is converted to alternate current by an inverter. Setting up your home to run off solar power is certainly not cheap, but energy efficiency is all about
the long-term benefits. A solar system can also be installed in segments, which means you cough up money as you save up to install. Aside from the cost, another concern regarding solar energy is reliability. Solar-powered systems should include a battery storage unit, which will provide power at night, and in poor weather conditions. The flip side is that battery systems usually need to be replaced every five years, thereby adding to the cost.
4. Gas power
Bottled gas is a more affordable option, and not as complicated to implement. There are gas generators available on the market, which are relatively cheap and cost-effective to run, as well as being far quieter than a diesel generator. A gas-powered geyser will go a long way toward freeing you from dependence on the grid. 60% of household electricity on average is consumed by geysers, and as such is the first port of call for homeowners
seeking to improve energy efficiency.
Gas-powered stoves are another helpful and affordable addition, making it possible for you to cook food and boil water without fear of load shedding.
5. Battery power
This is the go-to option for restaurants and shopping centres that intend to remain open during load-shedding, although homeowners may be put off by the high cost of implementation.
That said, a relatively low-end battery system can be implemented at an affordable cost. This is seen as a back-up for when the grid electricity fails you.
Implementing some of the technologies mentioned here would not only benefit your electricity bill but the value of your home as well. A home that is less dependent on the
grid makes for a sound investment opportunity.
4 WAYS TO TEACH YOUR KIDS HOW TO SAVE ENERGY
1. “Turn it Off” Time. Challenge your family to take a few hours a day to keep the electricity off. For young children, this can be an especially fun adventure and they have to use their imagination in a new way.
2. “I Spy” energy savings. Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned game of “I Spy?” Test your child’s knowledge of energy-savings around the house or while out on errands. Have them spot all of the energy-saving products around them and explain products that may be using more energy.
3. Conserve together. Create rules specifically for conserving energy. If you reduce your shower time, have your child do the same. Everyone should be expected to turn off the lights when they leave a room.
4. You save, they save. Besides helping the environment, saving energy can also save on bills. When you and your family save money, your child saves too! Reward their hard work by having them choose what the money they saved should be used for.