What’s worse than being locked in your home because of a global pandemic?… being locked in your home when there’s no electricity during a global pandemic.
We know it sucks. Even though we’ve been on Level 3 lockdown with most of the economy not working at all, our electricity grid still can’t handle the load. But there are ways to keep the lights on, no matter what your financial situation is, and we’re here to shine the light on some options and solutions you can consider.
Essentially, you have three options: low-cost (this is the really obvious stuff like using a gas stove); medium cost options (slightly more expensive options like getting a generator), and high-cost options, like going off the grid completely.
(In this article, we spoke to someone who has been off the grid for nine years, and he says it is totally worth it.)
But first, let’s go back to basics.
- Low-cost options
These are some of the things you can do to keep the bare essentials going. In other words, ways to have a light on at night, cook dinner and keep your home warm in the winter months.
- Gas stove.
Price: These range from about R200 for a small, single plated gas cooker, to a proper gas stove which will set you back anything from R16 000 to R20 000. For the occasional evening fish and chips, the R200 option will do.
(Hot tip: these can be really dangerous, so make sure you don’t use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before turning on the heat, and keep kids far away.)
- Invest in a gas heater
Price: You can pick up a simple gas heater from around R900. More powerful ones, like those you’d find in a restaurant, average around R2000. But a simple one goes a long way to warming up your lounge, and you won’t need anything more advanced for home use. (Oh, and ditto on the hand sanitiser tip.)
Price: These range from R300 for small lights that you can use to find your way around the house when the lights go out, or for late night reading when load shedding interrupts your favourite novel. They’re heavy on battery power, though, so make sure you stock up on spare batteries. Bigger, more powerful lights that you can use for longer periods of time or to light up bigger spaces will cost you upwards of R1000.
- Medium-cost options
If you’re seeking options that will keep your television, internet and fridge running, then you’ll need to dig a bit deeper into your pockets and invest in a Uninterruptible Power Supply system (UPS) or generator.
These are not the same thing: a generator is a temporary power source, while a UPS is a battery backup power system that makes sure power to your system isn’t interrupted before the generator kicks in.
UPS systems automatically kick in and switch over to battery power as soon as the power to your home stops, ensuring that the power supply to your essential electronics, especially your computer, is not interrupted. This is really useful if you need to be plugged in to the internet all the time for work, or if you run a restaurant and can’t lose power to your fridge.
Battery life depends on the system you choose and on how much power you use, but most only last for a few minutes. Remember that the UPS is only there to keep your power running until your generator kicks in, so you can’t rely on it alone.
There are different types of UPSs, and you’ll need some advice from your electrician on which options will suit your home best.
Price: These can be pricey, and cost anything between R900 for a really small UPS to R5000 for something bigger. It all depends on your needs.
Generators can keep your home appliances going during load shedding, although they are powered by fuel like petrol or diesel, and aren’t very environmentally friendly.
Smaller ones can keep your main household appliances going for about eight hours. But they should not be run for long periods of time, as they’re likely to run out of fuel and could get damaged.
Price: Your average generator which will keep your home running for a few hours will set you back around R4000. Prices only go up from there, depending on your needs.
If you’re more environmentally-conscious, you can go for a solar power. It’s pricey, but is a good option if you want a more long-term solution to your energy problems.
Solar works just fine for powering your house for short periods of time, like during load shedding, although you’ll need a battery system installed if you want to use solar when the sun isn’t shining.
Solar systems are really low maintenance and don’t make a noise, unlike generators.
Price: For a small solar panel, you’d pay around R2000. But you’d need about two of these to power up your fridge, so it is a costly process. On the plus side, solar is an investment, so you won’t have to keep refuelling or doing heavy maintenance once it is installed.
- High-cost option
If you’re over the whole system and would rather live off the grid, then, guess what, you can!
No more load shedding? Forever? Sign us up!
Adriaan Kruger has been living off the grid for nine years. Installing solar power at his home cost him about R30 000 and R40 000. He told explain.co.za that it’s important to reduce your electricity consumption when living off the grid (but you’ve been doing that anyway thanks to Eskom, right?).
Kruger has a solar geyser, but also has a gas stove and a gas geyser just in case.
He has cosy fireplace instead of underfloor heating for the cold winter months and does not use a tumble dryer.
While he tries to save his electricity, Kruger is hardly slumming it. His system is enough to power up a small fridge, a TV with DStv, a big hifi and CD player as well as a water pump for his rainwater tank. He also has enough power for hand tools, lights, a computer and a low power splash pool filter.
Of course, solar has its own problems. For example, if you want to buy a UPS system for your home, you’ll need a much, much bigger one than you ordinarily would.
But Kruger told explain.co.za that he hasn’t experienced an unexpected power cut in nine years and that he has saved more money over time because he does not have to pay Eskom and the municipalities. He added that he saves about R40 000 a year in electricity costs.
Kruger says that even if you can’t fork out enough money to equip your whole home, even settling for smaller components can help you save money. This is because going forward, electricity prices are only going to go one way. And it’s not down.
On the whole, forgetting about load shedding forever with the added benefit of saving the environment sounds pretty sweet to us.