Scope: South Africa; Energy and the Environment
A resource of the Energy and Development Group, Cape Town, South Africa.
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The Importance of Saving Energy

What does 'saving energy' mean ?

We use electrical energy in our homes for cooking, heating, TV. etc. We also use fuel energy in our cars, and we may also use energy by burning wood or coal in our homes. The main ways most of us can save energy are by:

using less electricity in the house, and by

using less fuel in cars.

Why should we save energy ?

1. Save money: Typical mid-income households spend R 150 to R 200 per month on electricity -- 500 to 800 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Most households could save 20 - 30 % of this easily.

2. Reduce 'Greenhouse Gas' emissions: In South Africa electricity is generated from the coal-burning industries in Gauteng, which produces carbon dioxide (CO2) when burnt. This is contributing to Global Warming, which is potentially catastrophic. Fuel combustion in cars is also responsible for substantial CO2 emissions.

3. Reduce air pollution caused by burning coal to generate electricity, and from car fumes.

4. Save water: Power stations use 2 litres of water for every unit of electricity (kWh) generated.

How does one use less electricity ?

There are several ways to use less electricity with little effort. Some of these are given below:

Priority 1: Your Geyser

Your household geyser uses about 40 % or more of the total electricity consumption, as is shown in the following pie chart:

Typical household electricity use

A pie chart showing the uses of electricity at home

Here's what you can do to reduce the amount of energy it consumes:

Insulate the geyser and hot water pipes by wrapping a blanket or other material around them.

Install a timer on the geyser to avoid heating up water when you don't need it. A timer unit may cost R 150, but the estimated saving can be up to 10 % of your electricity bill.

Install a solar water heater. This pays back in electricity saving over a few years, and utilizes a renewable source of energy. If you are building a new house, this will be a sound economic choice and can save up to 15-25 % of your total electricity bill.

Priority 2: Your Lighting

Light energy forms a major part of the total energy consumed in your home.   Use 'compact fluorenscent' lights rather than normal incandescent 'bulb' lights for any lights which stay on longer than about 4 hours per day. These are especially good for outside fittings which stay on all night.

Compact fluorescents are bigger than normal bulbs, so some of them don't fit into normal bulkhead-type fittings. Use the 11 or 12W compact fluorescents for this purpose.

A comparison between compact fluorescent and normal bulbs
A comparison between normal (left)
and compact fluorescent (right) lights.

Compact fluorescent lights are expensive (up to R 60 each), but they usually end up costing you half of what you would have paid if you used a normal light bulb, because they last much longer and use much less electricity for the same light output. Each compact fluorescent installed saves about 500 kg of CO
2 emissions over its lifetime by using less electricity.

Priority 3: Heating

Heating is generally the third major cause of high energy consumption in your household.

Insulate your ceiling. It is estimated that you can save half of your heating electricity bill by doing this.

Include 'passive solar' features if you are designing a new house.

Install roof hangings. These keep the summer sun out but let the winter sun in.  

Are South Africans taking solar energy seriously ?
Click here
to hear an extract of an interview held with the Energy and Development Group.
Real Audio Player)

Audio by
Enviro-Wise radio

What's the way forward for better energy conservation in SA ?
Click here to hear an extract of an interview held with the Energy and Development Group.
Real Audio Player)

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Energy use and Global Warming
Energy use and Global Warming