Updated 07 March 2014

Load shedding is your fault too

The knee-jerk response when the lights go out is to curse our friendly parastatal electricity provider, but we're all responsible for this mess.

Olivia Rose-Innes is Health24’s EnviroHealth Editor. Read more of her columns and articles or post a question to her expert forum.

It's OK to rage against Eskom’s incompetencies; it lets off steam and makes us feel marginally better. It’s an understandable human response, similar to our reaction every time there’s a petrol or utility price hike. It’s always more comfortable to decide the problem lies outside ourselves, isn't it?

But load-shedding is happening, and will continue to happen, not just because the powers that be are being willful, nasty and badly organized (although the latter can certainly be a factor).

The larger picture is that it's happening because of our unchecked appetite for energy, and because there simply isn’t going to be enough to feed our greed. Being plunged into darkness is an inconvenience, sure – but let's also treat it as a wake-up call and take some responsibility for our part in it.

There are multiple small ways to change that together save the megawatts:

Harness the sun
SA is blessed with sunshine – don’t let it go to waste. If you’ve got a solar water heater you’re earning your greenie points, but even if you’re not quite ready to take that step yet, there are other ways to use those free rays.

The hot box: an ancient art
A cheap, primitive marvel that works like a slow-cooker, but without the electricity.

Block the chill
Going green often involves thinking low-tech and retro: draught excluders, or "door snakes/sausages" really work. And they're fun too.

Hot, or scalding?
Do you add cold to your bath/shower water? Then your geyser's thermostat probably needs to be taken down a notch.

Keep your geyser cosy
A geyser blanket costs a couple of hundred rand, but you'll quickly make that back, and more, on energy savings.

Pool pumps are energy drains
In households with swimming pools, the pump guzzles 11-20% of total electricity.

Have a cool green laundry day
Hot water is the most energy-intensive aspect of your washing-machine.

Make space heating count
Space heating is second only to the geyser as the energy hog in most homes.

Computers don't mind being off
They're made to be switched on and off a lot, so don't leave them running unecessarily.

Fans are cooler than aircon
Cooler in terms of energy-use, that is.

Keep the sun in a jar
Glowing “sun jars” and other solar-powered lights don't just earn their keep as energy helpers, they're pretty too.

What's wrong with a wrinkle?
Ironing is an energy-hungry, tedious activity. Some people are opting to do it much less - or not at all.

Get your nightly dose of darkness
More motivation to switch off: too much artificial light at night may have negative health effects. The most recent research suggests a possible link with diabetes.

Green ceilings
Insulating the ceiling in your home is an efficient way to make it warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

Clean green dishwashing
Do dishwashers beat manual washing energy-wise? Yes, if they’re used optimally.


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