Smart Tips To Help You Reduce Your Household Utility Bills
With the announcement that South Africa has been hit by a recession, I started to look for ways in which we could reduce many of our household expenses, as my budget has become a little tight. As I was looking at what expenses to cut down on, I realized that it starts with making small changes to the running of our home, which will help us cut down on our monthly household bills.
According to the 2017 Sanlam Benchmark Survey, close to 73% of professional South Africans experience a high level of stress while trying to meet their financial obligations as individuals or households. With this statistic in your mind, here are a couple of tips we've implemented in our household to reduce expenses.
Water is a precious commodity in South Africa, and along with electricity, it's one of our biggest expenses.
Being water wise means thinking about every millilitre we use – every leak, every running tap, every bowl or bucket of water that we throw away. You need to understand that if you can change your habits in every area of your home that uses water, you can save on your bill.
Kitchen: we use a plugged sink to wash dishes instead of washing them under a running tap. I put clean water in a container instead of a hosepipe to water pot plants around the house.
Bathroom: Wherever possible, I take a shower instead of taking a bath and place a bucket in the shower to collect water for my plants. I don’t let the tap run while brushing my teeth and I wash my hands with the plug in the basin.
Laundry: There is a rule at home that you only do laundry when there is a full load as that saves on water. If you are currently shopping for a new washing machine, choose a water-efficient model – e.g. front loaders are more water-wise than top loaders.
Car: This won’t save you money but a reputable professional car wash uses far less water than your DIY version. If you must wash your own car (which I’ve done only once and will not attempt to do again) use a bucket and sponge only – not a running hose.
A Water-wise garden
Now let's move on to the garden. Attach a water tank to your house drainpipe to collect rainwater.
I’ve been trying not to overwater the garden. I read somewhere that you need to look out for dark mushy roots, brown spots on flowers and fungal growth – all these are signs of too much water.
Also, use a sprinkler system with a large droplet size and low spray angle.
In South Africa, our poor energy infrastructure has cost us big-time and continues to do so. According to an article found at www.savingenergy.co.za, the price hike last year July was even higher than originally intended, “so that Eskom could recover more of the money they lost due to poor operational management – for that ineptitude, we have to pay - and continue to pay.”
Appliances: If you didn't know larger appliances like washing machines use more electricity than smaller appliances like kettles and toasters, but certainly older models of the same appliance also use more electricity. Nowadays, appliances are made with the goal of being energy efficient and eco-friendly. These products are rated on a scale from A (indicating most efficient) to G (least efficient) which you can see on the coloured sticker usually found on appliances in store.
Geyser: If like us you only need hot water at certain times throughout the day, then there is no need to keep it on all day. Rather turn it on a few hours before you need hot water. At home, we prefer to use an electronic timer switch installed. You can find it at stores like Makro and Game, costing between R150 - R300 and can be programmed for daily or weekly schedules so the geyser only heats up when you need it to.
Light Bulbs: Another great way to reduce your electricity usage is to use energy-efficient lighting. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to save money as these light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Gas Stoves: Gas ovens may be expensive to install, but overall gas is cheaper to use and creates heat in an instant, unlike electric stoves which take some time to heat up. But I know that this investment might seem a little out of your price range, then consider getting a small gas cylinder with a cooker top attachment which you can use instead of the stove plates.
Solar: Water heating can account for 30 - 50% of your electricity bill, but in sunny South Africa we have a readily available alternative. Solar heat pumps don’t need sunlight and indirectly use solar power by extracting energy from the surrounding air, meaning that they can provide you with hot water no matter the season or time of day. These cost about R2 000 - R3 000. You could also do as my grandmother does by putting buckets of water outside during the day and then using the water later on in the afternoon to bathe or wash dishes.
There are many ways to save if you only know where and how to. Let us know if any of these tips have helped you.