At Homebug we’re always trying to find new ways to reduce your electricity bill and save you money. But rather than keeping it to ourselves, we’re going to tell you how you can save too! This blog will help you to understand how you can reliably and intelligently cut your spending without huge investments or making your life miserable.

There are only two ways to reduce your electricity bill – use less electricity or pay less for each unit.

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How do I reduce my electricity usage?

How do you put your meter on a diet? How do you cut the number of units you use each month? How do you wean your home off it’s energy addiction? The answer is the Homebug Intervention Five step plan, or “HI-5” for short!

Lots of salesmen of solar water heaters and LED lights will try to tell you there’s an expensive short-cut to low electricity bills – just buy their product, spend money to save money… We disagree. Most of the ways to reduce your bill are free and easy, and done right, can save substantial amounts of energy with little impact on your comfort – saving you money, helping Eskom reduce red-alerts & load-shedding, even helping save the planet.

Cut Waste

The first thing you need to do is to cut out waste – the biggest wasters are always from heating and lighting. Heating rooms you aren’t using and lighting spaces when there’s day light or no-one’s there. People with Homebugs find this step very easy – they can see how much they are using every minute of every day, so can easily see when they are using energy they don’t expect to be. But even if you don’t have one, leaving a heater on for 8 hours (say overnight or whilst you’re at work) will cost as much as R20, each time you accidentally do it. Some free ways to remember are maybe to start a routine of checking your meter or Homebug before you leave the house or go to bed.

See all of our waste-cutting examples here, including our the story of the ‘bump in the night’.

Plug electric leaks

The second step is understanding your silent cash killers, or phantom loads. These are small, but continuous electricity users that suck away at your electricity bill. In some ways they are like water leaks or dripping taps. Examples include fridges and freezers, PVRs, wireless routers, computers. Most of these devices should be left on and most don’t use much electricity, but we often find that people have multiple rarely used devices left plugged in and fully-on continuously. How often do you actually use your DVD player? Is it worth paying R5/month to keep the clock flashing on your VCR? Or could you just plug it in when you want to use it… We find people have more than one fridge often leave them all on, just in case. Is it a price worth paying? Do you know what price you are paying for it? (handy hint, it depends on how old the fridge is, how full it is, and if it’s inside/in the garage…).

See all our posts on this subject here – including how much that spare chest freezer really costs!

Cheaper Substitutes

The third step is making use of more economical options – or substituting high energy applications with lower usage ones. Again, we’re not saying you should go back to the stone age – we’re not suggesting going to the river to wash your clothes with a rock; but do you know how much a cold cycle costs vs. a hot wash? Most of us know that tumble driers are expensive and uneconomical, but still they are very convenient… But do you know how much you really pay for that convenience? Again, it depends on what you use it for. We believe in giving everyone the power the choose.

See our posts on low energy alternatives and substitutes, including how much it costs to dry a load and dishwasher vs. sink here.

Control Big Loads

The forth step is controlling your big loads – in particular your geyser! Your geyser probably uses around 50% of your monthly energy – that’s a lot of money to be flushing down the drain. If your geyser is new, a lot of that energy will be usefully used in making your shower and baths nice and warm, but it uses a lot of that energy (around 10-30%) just keeping the water warm whether you use it or not. An inefficient 150L geyser will cost R2,000 per year just to stay hot, using no water at all (category F – 1,235kWh/yr @ R1.6/kWh). The same applies to your irrigation, pool pump or underfloor heating. Using more intelligent control can save you thousands of Rand every year with minimal investment. Homebug’s own control systems let you turn on your geyser, pool pump and even lights from anywhere via our website. You can switch off your geyser from the office, and turn it back on when you’re on your way home. Our irrigation system even checks the weather forecast before deciding whether to turn on.

See more of our posts on load-control here and read more about Homebug’s web intelligent geyser, pool and irrigation controllers.

Make Intelligent Energy Investments

The fifth and final step is investing in energy efficient technology – e.g. buying a solar water heater or LED light bulbs. The reason we put this last is that many of the touted savings from these devices depend on you being somewhat of an energy hog. You might end up ‘over-investing’ in very large systems, when actually by making savings in the other 4 steps you could have invested less – for example, by starting with low-flow shower-heads, the solar water heater you need will be smaller. Any investment like this needs careful consideration and a good understanding of how you and your family really use energy, not some salesman’s spreadsheet, but real actual energy usage data.

Read more about making the right energy investments for you.

How can I reduce my tariff?

It may seem impossible, but actually it’s not. By comparing your tariff with other’s available, timing your purchases and getting what’s rightfully yours you can reduce the amount you pay for each unit. Also, by making even small reductions your tariff will go down, sometimes dramatically – because of the inclining block tariff.

All our posts about how to reduce the tariff you pay, especially how you can save almost 20% by buying at the right time, can be found here.

Can I produce my own electricity?

This is an area which is slowly gaining ground in South Africa, but it will take some time. Opportunities range from self-powered devices – like solar lights or wind-powered pumps, to becoming your own Eskom and making your own mini-grid. Right now, regulation makes it very hard to make money selling electricity back to the grid, but this is likely to change over time. If you’re a farmer or factory owner there are big opportunities, but for the average household the economics are unlikely to stack up. Sometimes though, these investments can be about more than just money, so we make sure that people at least understand the financial implications.

Find all our posts about generating your own electricity here including whether a solar geyser or solar panel is right for you.

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