COVID-19 forced many of us around the world to start working from home. In fact, going out less and spending more time at home has become the new normal. But while this new normal saves us money on transport, petrol, parking fees and car services, it does cost us extra at home. Read on to find out how to reduce your home costs and make the new normal work for you.


Work smart, live smart

Because you are working and spending more time in your home, it needs to be a comfortable space. But by living smartly, it doesn’t have to be an expensive space. So, what are your extra costs in the new normal? It’s simple:

·  Water

·  Electricity

·  Data

Specifically, it’s all those cups of tea and coffee, online meetings and training sessions, live-streaming TV, being online, active laptops and cellphones, longer showers, heaters in the winter and more dirty dishes (don’t try to deny it, we all snack way too much!) and all of this contributes to a bigger utility bill. But there’s lots that you can do to keep those costs under control.
 

Take control of your energy

Knowledge is always power, so start by looking at the energy consumption infographic at the bottom of this article. This shows you how the average

South African home uses its electricity.


Smart and sustainable tips

We’ve put together a list of tips to help you save energy and money while spending more time in your home. It’s a smart way to live and an even smarter way to save!


1. Turn off all lights, appliances and electronics not in use

This is one of the simplest energy conservation techniques. You can make it even easier by installing a timer that turns off multiple items at once. Power strips also help to efficiently distribute energy to your appliances, wasting less electricity.


2. Fix electrical problems in the home

Fix electrical problems such as electrical surges, burnt-out bulbs or constant flickering. Such fixes ensure that your electrical equipment runs more efficiently, while optimising energy output.


3. A light-bulb moment

Use energy-saving LED bulbs to reduce your energy use by around 25 to 35%. If you can’t use energy-saving bulbs just yet, make sure that you turn off all incandescent bulbs around your home when not in use.


4. Avoid opening the refrigerator unnecessarily and turn the temperature setting down

Your refrigerator consumes an average of 9% of your total home energy usage.

·  Avoid unnecessary visits to the refrigerator (we know it’s hard ).

·  Set your fridge to 4°degrees Celsius and your freezer to -18 degrees Celsius.

·  Ensure that there is adequate space behind your refrigerator to allow heat to dissipate.

 

5. Don’t overfill the kettle

Only fill and boil the kettle with as much water as you need. Don't fill it to the brim if you are only making one cup of tea.


6. Let the sunlight in

Not only does natural light help improve your mood, but it also eliminates the need for a desk lamp. Make sure that you open your blinds and curtains fully every morning.


7. Dry it out

The tumble dryer is an electricity vampire, so air-dry your clothes where you can.


8. Put a lid on it

If you're cooking on the hob, a lid locks in the heat. It's a super simple tip, but will save energy.


9. Plug power

Remember to switch off television sets, electrical appliances and, especially, chargers when you're not using them – this is one of the easiest energy conservation techniques. Most chargers continue to draw power to maintain the charge of the device, so unplug your charger as soon as the batteries are fully charged.


10. Keep an eye on the kids

Check that your child's electrical devices aren't left on and teach them to be energy conscious. Minimise the number of electrical gadgets that are used at the same time. Everything does not need to be on at once.


11. Load it up

This is one of the easiest ways to conserve energy at home. Wait for a full load before running your dishwasher and washing machine. You don’t need to do laundry every day. It can be tempting to put small loads of washing into the machine, but waiting until you have a full load will be much more energy-efficient.


12. Wash clothes in cold water

This is one of the best energy saving tips to save you money. When washing your laundry, use the cold setting on your washing machine instead of using hot water. This way you’ll save.


13. Clean the dryer lint filter regularly to keep your dryer running efficiently

As a dirty filter uses more energy, clean it regularly and don’t forget to clean the tubing too. The long nozzle on your vacuum cleaner makes it easier to clean out particles that get beyond the filter.


14. Be eco-clever

Use the eco setting on your dishwasher to heat the water more efficiently at low temperatures. You can use the dry sensor feature on the dryer and remember to clean the lint trap between dry cycles.


15. Avoid using the rinse hold setting on your dishwasher

This feature uses 10-15 more litres of hot water per use. By turning off this setting, you will save water and electricity.


16. Air-dry dishes

Air-dry your dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying feature.


17. Cook using the right-sized burner

Use your stove’s small burners for small pots and large burners for large pots when cooking.


18. Use microwaves and toaster ovens to cook or warm leftovers

These use less energy than conventional ovens, resulting in less energy usage when you cook.


19. Keep cool in summer and stay warm in winter without heaters or air-conditioners

Wear lighter clothes in summer and a few extra layers in winter instead of changing thermostat settings. Close your blinds or curtains to keep the sun out during summer and keep them open during winter to bring in the sunshine.


20. Take shorter showers

Typically, you use about 20 litres of water per minute as you shower, so reducing your shower time will save water and energy. Replace your showerhead with one with a flow rate of less than eight litres per minute to save on water bills. Fit aerators to your faucets with a flow rate of about 3.5 litres per minute for maximum energy savings.


21. Set the water heater to the lowest comfortable setting

If your home has more than two people, your ideal water heater setting should be around 55°C. This setting will reduce the amount of energy necessary for heating water.

Covering your geyser with an insulating blanket will reduce standby heat loss by 25 to 45%. This will save you about 4 to 9% in water heating costs. A timer will automatically turn off your geyser when you are not at home or at night.


22. Invest in energy-efficient appliances for the home

Replace old appliances such as washers, dryers and fridges with new ones that are more energy-efficient. Look for appliances with an ENERGY STAR rating and logo – they use less energy.


23. Save money with solar energy

Solar energy is a safer alternative to electricity and gas. It is cheaper (actually almost free) and much kinder to the environment. And best of all, it can save you from load shedding and give you free electricity for years to come.

 

Sustainable living is the smart choice

There are many small things that you can do right now that will help you reduce your utility costs. But think hard about the future – in the new normal, you will be spending far more time in your home, so why not permanently cut those costs? Take a look at our finance options and see how you can easily make your home a big part of your life and a small part of your budget.
 

This article first appeared in the Lionesses of Africa online publication.

Fig.1 Household Energy Consumption (Source: DoE, South Africa)

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