Updated: Mar 24
Most people are mindful to review utility bills before purchasing a home. However, is there awareness around the fact that utility bills can be heavily discounted for pensioners?
Before purchasing my home, I inspected the current utility bills and budgeted accordingly. What I didn’t realise was that the existing invoices fell into a pensioner’s discount bracket which I was decades away from qualifying for. Thus, I needed to get creative and bring my utility costs back into budget. Here is how I did it:
1) LED’s reduced my electricity consumption by a third!
Converting to light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs reduced my electrical consumption by a third! I decreased from 60kWh of electricity a day to just 40kWh which is an average monthly saving of R1000. This was achieved by converting all interior and exterior lights (including incandescent, florescent and energy savers such as compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s)) to LED bulbs. It was a substantial time and monetary investment as I had as many as 40 internal downlights.
For comparison purposes in an hour a normal incandescent uses 60W and an average energy saver uses around 15W, whereas an LED uses only 3-5W per hour. In Rand terms using the City Power 2019/20 tariff rates (Block 3); that’s R1 per bulb per night for an incandescent bulb and only R0.05 for the same time with an LED alternative.
In addition to it drastically diminishing my energy consumption, LED’s have an extended lifespan, are generally environmentally safe and have a wide colour and design index. To date, 5 years later, I have not replaced any of them.
2) Optimal geyser utilisation:
My geyser averaged 8-10kWh daily. I tried timing the geyser as well as reducing the heat from 65 to 60 degrees which helped, but only marginally. A noticeable difference occurred when I installed a heat pump. Consumption dropped to 2-3kWh a day, saving me around R400 monthly. Additional useful tips are to install a geyser blanket (particularly aids during load shedding), use cold water where you can, ensure the geyser is installed close to where needed, invest in a water and energy saving shower head or a solar geyser.
An alternative option to a heat pump is a solar geyser, however these can cost as much as a heat pump (excluding any rebates) and is only effective when the sun is shining compared to the 24/7 365 days a year operation of a heat-pump. If you have more than 1 geyser, consider consolidating them. Having less geysers in your house can make a significant difference to your energy bill and monthly homeowner’s insurance premium; in many cases just geyser and geyser resultant damage cover can make up more than 50% of your monthly insurance premium.
3) Converting to prepaid electricity versus a monthly plan:
Under current domestic tariffs prepaid customers do pay a slightly higher kWh/unit rate (around 5% higher) in comparison to post-paid customers. However, prepaid meters ultimately save money by being exempt from the monthly service charge (R550 excluding VAT) that covers meter reading, billing and access to the network. Converting to a prepaid meter took just over 6 months and several visits to the local municipality customer service centre but has ultimately led to a controlled and reduced electricity bill and thus has been well worth the effort.
4) Water efficiency:
A running tap can use 17 litres of water a minute! However, using water saving tap nozzles can reduce this to less than 3 litres of water per minute and can be purchased for just about every type of tap. Prices range from about R40 to R100 per fitting. By inserting water saving faucets onto all my taps I saw a 20% (or R400) reduction in my monthly water bill. Additionally, dishwashers can further decrease water consumption considerably; a full wash cycle of a dishwasher only uses between 5 – 10 litres of water.
These were some of the techniques I implored to successfully reduce my electricity consumption by a massive 50% and water bill by around 20% monthly without having to change my normal routine. These methods require an initial upfront monetary investment but have ultimately amounted to huge financial savings that I will enjoy for decades to come. Over and above the monthly savings there is the extra benefit in knowing that I am doing my bit to conserve the environment. Today, my daily electricity consumption is close to zero as I installed a solar system to supplement my energy needs – it definitely came in handy during the peak of load shedding. However, this is a story for another blog.
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