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Simple Steps to Energy Efficiency

Going Green Made Easy

  • It is 2018, and today more than ever there is never ending evidence of climate change all around us.
  • ‘Going green’ at home and business can be the major contributor towards reducing one’s carbon footprint, and the huge attraction is the financial benefits that it will bring.

The Steps

  1. Energy efficient lighting
  2. Solar water heating
  3. Cooking on gas rather than electric stoves
  4. Becoming water conservation minded
  5. Banishing plastic from our lives
  6. Progressively generating one’s own electricity through solar PV


  • The price is now so low that the payback on investment is less than 9 months on most LED lighting.
  • Incandescent bulbs have almost disappeared but CFL’s should also be banished.
  • A standard LED light bulb for a lamp is now as cheap as R19 and down lighters as low as R25 and R90 for a really good brand. With up to 25,000 hours life expectancy they are a fantastic investment, and colours such as warm white now provide excellent ambient lighting.
  • Being easy DIY, every home should (if they haven’t already) move to LED’s. Security lights (10W) cost as little as R100 and are an excellent investment and very cheap to run.
  • The only problem is that lighting (prior to moving to LED’s), represents a relatively small part of the electricity bill at 8-12%.
  • If you haven’t done it already, do it.

Solar Water Heating

  • The biggest contributor to the electricity bill and to a home’s carbon footprint is water heating.
  • One uses 1 kWh of electricity for every 36 litres of water heated to 40°C, being the temperature most people shower at. As the average shower uses 16 litres per minute, a 10-minute shower will use about 4,5kWh’s and Eskom will push 4,5 kgs of carbon into the atmosphere.
  • With a home of 4 people using around 130 litres of hot water per person per day, the carbon footprint from water heating per home is over 5 tons of carbon per year.
  • Legal obligations require under SANS 10400 XA2 that more than 50% of the electricity used in water heating by an electrical resistance element is replaced.
  • The great news is that solar water heating technology has (as with all areas of technology) progressed where up to 100% of the electricity normally used in heating water can be replaced, and the payback on the investment is as little as 2 years.
  • Although the investment is considerably more than lighting, costing from R7,000 to R30,000 (depending on the size of system), 35%-60% of the monthly electricity bill can be removed. With a life expectancy of 25 years, the investment return can be as high as 900% on the investment in only 10 years.
  • As well as the financial benefit, the environmental benefits cannot be understated. Eskom use about 1 litre of water in making every kWh generated, so the double benefit is both carbon saving and water saving.
  • Although there are alternatives to solar for heating water, such as heat pumps or gas boilers, when the financial analysis is done solar water heating (in most cases) comes out as the winning technology.
  • If you have not investigated the latest in solar water heating, do it now.

Cooking on Gas rather than Electricity

  • Gas stoves rather than electric are the way to go. Interestingly, electric ovens are still more efficient than gas and much more user friendly.
  • The financial equation is harder to prove, but the overwhelming evidence is that cooking on gas stoves does result in financial savings over using electric stoves and hot plates, taking into account the cost of buying gas bottles.
  • From an environmental perspective, gas is more carbon friendly than electricity, so carbons are saved as well as Eskom using water to generate those kWh’s.
  • On new builds, gas stoves with electric ovens should be the preferred option.

Becoming Water Conservation Minded

  • The hideous droughts affecting the Western and Eastern Cape have brought into sharp focus water conservation and sustainability. The rest of the country should remember what the water state was only a couple of years ago, and with the government lack of forward planning and climate change, water shortages will happen again in numerous areas of the country.
  • A relatively small investment for homes, is to convert existing drainage plumbing, where non-lavatory grey water can be diverted to water storage tanks. In turn, this water can be used for either flushing lavatories, or for gardens.
  • For new builds, a little forward planning with ‘grey’ water being taken to tanks, to be pumped to lavatories for flushing, or for use in the garden should be considered.
  • Rain water harvesting is also a sensible option.
  • More expensive but very suitable for clusters, or groups of houses, or schools are small bio water recycling plants, where all water both ‘grey’ and ‘black’, can be recycled for use in washing, lavatories and gardens. Payback on investment is as low as 3 to 5 years.
  • Water is our most special resource. It is not that we are running out of it, but we are running out of clean water.
  • Everyone can contribute to reducing Eskom’s water consumption through lighting and solar water heaters, and the next step is to do it at home.

Banishing Plastic from Our Lives

  • The miracle of plastic, around for 100 years, results in everyone using and disposing of staggering quantities of plastic.
  • With some 8,000,000 tons of plastic polluting our oceans every year, our ‘Blue Planet’ is under threat.
  • Although there is no easy remedy, at home we can remember to take non-plastic shopping bags, and use those in preference.
  • For new buildings, having waste bins for recycling should be mandatory, as in most countries in Europe.

Generating One’s Own Electricity

  • Solar PV is generating your own electricity using a solar PV panel inverter and controller.
  • The cheapest options are to use PV directly with 12Volt lighting systems. Move up the scale and incorporate batteries for lighting at night and some appliances such as cell phones.
  • Move up the scale again and include an inverter and controller converting the DC current from the panels into alternating current at 220V.
  • Lighting and low load items such as televisions, decoders, computers can all easily be run on small battery packs.
  • Looking to replace Eskom or your electricity supplier requires significantly larger investment. Larger PV panels, inverters and larger battery banks are required.
  • From an economic perspective, a home system that is looking to replace Eskom will have a financial payback at around 12-14 years.
  • The good news is that the prices of PV systems are continuously falling in real terms, and newer battery technologies (Lithium) are not only getting cheaper, but the number of cycles they will provide are increasing, with up to 15-20 years now possible before replacement.
  • For the consumer that has spare cash to invest, solar PV is a great investment today.
  • For everyone else solar PV will progressively become more economically viable, as it will be cheaper for you to generate your own electricity than to buy it from Eskom or your electricity supplier. This point is expected to arrive within 5 years.
  • For new home buildings, solar PV can be a sensible option from the outset, with the cost built into the home and advantageous bond financing terms.
  • For offices and commercial premises, where electricity is used mainly in daylight hours, and where the financial payback can be as little as 5 years, (excluding battery storage), PV must be considered.

A Cleaner and Improved Financial Future

  • 196 nations signed up to the Paris Climate Accord. 99% of the worlds scientists agree that man-made carbons are the major contributor to accelerating climate change.
  • For the homeowner or business ‘going green’ and saving money is easy with lighting and solar water heating. People who say that it is expensive just need to look at their electricity bills and realize the realities and the economics.
  • Certainly, a longer-term view is needed for most on own electricity generation, but that investment will also make sense.
  • Add into the equation environmental responsibility, when everyone can do something today to reduce carbons and contribute to water saving, and the arguments to do nothing are irresponsible.