Geyser Timers and Saving Electricity

geyser timerHeating water is one of an average household’s biggest electricity spends.  In the UK water heating and central heating systems are usually integrated and managed with a time switch as standard, but here in South Africa our water geysers up till recently have often been left to run all day and night. The conventional wisdom was that it uses more power to heat water from cold than it does to maintain the heat throughout the day. This may be true if the hot water taps aren’t being switched on and off all day, and if you have a very efficient blanket retaining the heat in the geyser, but how many of us do? Continue reading

Green Winter Warmers – Draught Excluders

Draught excludersNow that autumn has hit Cape Town, with a breath of winter to come, it’s time to think of keeping warm and keeping down those electricity bills.

We all know that good insulation is key to reducing heat loss and beating the cold winter nights, but rather than starting a major project, let’s look at a small, very do-able DIY measure to keep warmer this winter – keeping out those sneaky draughts, which chill feet and ankles and persuade us to turn up the heater another notch.

Draught excluders are so easy to make that even a total non-sewer like me could make one, if only I’d get around to it. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered together to help me make mine. Continue reading

A Greener Home – 3 Small (or Big) Changes You Can Make Now

How many of us would like to make our homes greener, but are put off by the cost? There are lots of great things we could do if we only had an unlimited budget… we dream of going off-grid but never take a step towards it as we just can’t afford the investment.

While it would be great to take giant steps towards a greener lifestyle, there are plenty of small steps that we can take now, instead of waiting to win the lottery. Here are a few suggestions:

Showerheads-water-savingWater Saving
Small Step: The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of saving water is by switching your regular shower head to a low flow, water efficient shower head. Typically you can cut your shower water consumption by half. In an average household where three showers are taken a day, this would save 38,000 litres a year. The cost of a low flow showerhead can be anything from R100 to R1000, so do your research first to find the right one for you. Continue reading

LED Lighting Rebates From Eskom

LED-light-bulbs-eskomHave you been thinking of going greener at home but haven’t got around to it yet. Eskom’s latest residential rebate program might be just the incentive you need. They are offering to replace existing halogen downlighters with LED lighting alternatives for free! If it seems too good to be true check out the details as laid out by Eskom’s service provider on this project. Continue reading

Green Intentions for the New Year

New comfrey leaves growingNew Year’s resolutions are all too often made only to be broken. There’s something about a list of must and must nots that stirs up the rebel in all of us. So I’ve long since changed to setting intentions, and not just at new year. However the beginning of a new year is a great time to look at what you are doing with fresh eyes and see if there are any steps you can take to improve on things.

My green intentions are all about building on where we’ve started to go greener. Continue reading

LED Lighting – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

LED-Light-bulbs-rangeWe’ve all heard the claims by now – LED lighting uses far less electricity, saves costs, lasts much longer and is a far greener solution than either the old incandescent bulbs or the newer ‘energy-saving’ bulbs.

So as good green consumers we go out to buy some, only to be brought up short by the price. At R200 for a light bulb our green principles suffer a set-back. Maybe we find a cheaper version, try it out for a while and are disappointed in its performance: the colour is harsh, the light is too dim or it just doesn’t last as long as the claims. Continue reading

Beat the Heat – Cool Lighting from LED bulbs

LED-light-bulbSummer has arrived with blast in Cape Town and we’re all wilting. Any way of keeping the house a degree or two cooler would be a blessing. So we have another reason to look at switching to LED bulbs to light up our homes: they are much, much cooler than incandescent light bulbs.

The old incandescent light bulbs are very inefficient in the way they convert electricity to light, giving off quite a  bit of heat in the process. This means that several bulbs lit for an hour or two will contribute to the heat build-up in a room quite significantly. Statistics I’ve seen estimate that just one bulb lit in a small, closed, unventilated room would up the room temperature by 6C over one hour. Now normally the room would be ventilated so the heat rise would be less but even so, who wants even one more degree of heat when it’s already sweltering?

LED bulbs on the other hand remain cool when lit, using the electricity far more efficiently to produce light not heat. So they aren’t adding to the sultry summer temperatures; besides the fact that they use far less electricity to run. Find out more about switching to energy efficient LEDs by contacting a specialist in LED lighting, who will be able to give you more idea of the best options currently available.

The Pot Fridge Without Electricity

Pot fridge without electricityGround breaking ideas can be very simple and this energy free refrigerator is a great example. It is so simple that you can make it yourself!

The fridge consists of two terracotta pots. The smaller one sits inside the larger one and the gap between them is filled with sand. The sand is kept wet and the top is covered by a wet cloth or lid. The cooling effect works by the evaporation of the water through the porous sides of the larger pot, which cools the inner pot and its contents.

This idea was re-invented in 1995 by Mohammed Bah Abba, who recognised what a difference it could make to those living without electricity in his country. By preserving food for longer they could improve their lives, for example allowing children to spend more time in school instead of having to sell the family’s fresh produce in the market every single day.

How can we use this idea to improve our lives? After all most of us, if we are reading this on a computer will have a refrigerator already. There are several ways that this pot fridge could be used to help with green living:

  • Run a smaller fridge, just big enough for your everyday needs, and use the pot fridge to take the extra goods when you are having a party or otherwise need more fridge space. A smaller fridge needs less electricity to run than a large one.
  • Often fresh vegetables and fruits don’t actually need to be refrigerated, but do benefit from a cool storage space. The pot fridge can be used for fresh produce in hot weather, keeping it fresher for longer and allowing you to use a smaller fridge for the rest of your essential groceries.
  • If you keep a second fridge in an occasionally used area, perhaps in a guest room or garage, think of replacing it with a pot fridge. The pot can be used intermittently with no detrimental effects. When it’s not in use it just dries up. To start using it, simply wet the sand again and keep it damp.
  • If you regularly go camping to the same place, consider keeping a pot fridge there, instead of taking a gas camping fridge with you. Just start it up when you arrive by wetting the sand and leave it behind for next time to save space in your vehicle.
  • A pot fridge can be a great insurance against power outages. If you are affected by blackouts keep a pot fridge on the go to minimise the spoilage of your refrigerator contents.
  • The pot fridge is perfect for market stalls, where you are selling fresh produce. On hot days your goods can all be wilting within a couple of hours, but with this, you can keep your supplies fresh and just display one or two items at a time on top of the damp cloth lid.

Remember that a pot fridge does need regular maintenance to run effectively. It relies on the sand being wet to keep it cool. As soon as the sand dries out the cooling effect ceases. In hot weather you may need to re-wet the sand twice a day.

Important note: the pot refrigerator works best in a hot dry climate. The evaporation is what cools the inside. In a very humid climate far less evaporation takes place, so the cooling effect doesn’t work as well.

Eskom Offers Businesses Rebate for LED Lighting

replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDGreat news for South African businesses that want to go green: Eskom is offering rebates on the initial costs of changing over to a more energy efficient system, including purchases of LED bulbs and downlights. This great offer applies to businesses, retail outlets, guest houses, industrial and commercial properties and would be a great way to fund a total change over from conventional lighting to LED lighting. The rebate is of up 85% of the total cost.

There are many businesses that would like to become more environmentally friendly but haven’t yet been able to afford the total investment of changing over – this is the perfect opportunity for them.

There are various conditions to qualify for the scheme, one of them being that the changes must save a minimum of 2Mw per annum. This can be a tricky thing to work out for yourself so it is strongly recommended to get the advice of a specialist supplier of LED lighting. They can assess your energy usage and work out the savings that would accrue from a changeover to LED, as well as guiding you through the process of applying for the rebate.

While you are looking at LED lighting don’t forget about your display signs too. Switching over from fluorescent light boxes to LED lightboxes, from neon signs to LED signs can also add to your energy efficiency, cutting costs in the long run.

Photo copyright © Joshua Huber | Dreamstime.com

Earth Hour 2012 in South Africa

earth hourEarth Hour looks set to soar to new heights of enthusiasm and participation this year. Their ‘I Will if You Will’ campaign has attracted a huge amount of interest. South Africa has been particularly inspired with celebrities pledging all sorts of crazy or fun things for Earth Hour in return for various pledges of eco-friendly actions in return.

The focus for 2012 is on promoting long-term changes in behaviour to help the planet. Turning off your lights for one hour may not save much electricity in itself, but becoming aware of what you are using and committing to saving energy in the long term is the ultimate goal.

solar lanternAnd have fun while you’re doing it! Earth hour encourages people to switch off all unnecessary lighting, but not to compromise safety and security.

While it is tempting to celebrate with a candle-fest, remember that ordinary candles are made from petroleum products, so have their own effect on the environment. Either use natural beeswax or soy candles which are less polluting, or go for the clean energy of solar lanterns if you want to create a romantic low-light atmosphere for the occasion.

So start getting ready for Earth Hour by equipping yourself with natural candles or solar lighting and then as a bonus you’ll also be ready and prepared for any involuntary power outages that come our way this winter!