Dealing with load shedding has become a familiar challenge for South Africans, requiring us to continuously adjust our budgets and plans to cope with life without electricity, even for short durations. 2023 has witnessed the emergence of Stage 6 load shedding, characterized by rolling blackouts that sometimes extend beyond eight hours per day. As a result, the financial implications have been significant, with the average South African experiencing power outages for approximately 27% of the year, compared to only 9.5% in previous years.
While load shedding may reduce our electricity consumption and costs, the absence of power can lead to additional expenses, such as spoiled groceries and damaged appliances, putting a strain on our finances. If you find yourself feeling powerless in the face of load shedding, we have compiled some simple tips to help alleviate the financial burden and stretch your budget.
Buy plugs and sockets with surge protection
When load shedding finishes, electricity returns to your home where your appliances and other electronics will usually restart. However, at times the current flowing through your mains connection can be unpredictable and erratic - meaning that power can surge through sockets, into plugs, and can damage your household items. In worst cases, a fuse inside an appliance (such as a television) might blow or cause an electrical fire.
A simple and costless solution to prevent this is to simply disconnect appliances before load shedding starts, turn the socket switch connected to your mains installation on and off, and then reconnect your device. However, if you aren’t at home or are unprepared in the event of a sudden change of schedule – you may not be able to do this.
To prevent losing the appliances or devices you care most about, consider purchasing surge-protected plugs or sockets that will be capable of absorbing and dissipating a sudden surge of electricity. Typically, plugs can be bought and attached on most appliances. However, a more cost-effective option is to rather purchase an extension bank with surge protection, that will enable you to cover more than one appliance at a time.
Though the initial purchase of either of these items may be costly, they can ultimately prevent a far greater expense in future.
Always remember – the best way to save money is to disconnect any appliances or switch off any lights that you’re not using!
Make sure your sockets won’t surge
If you’re unable to afford surge-protected plugs or sockets, don’t fear! There’s a simple process you can follow to ensure your appliances don’t fuse:
- Turn off and disconnect all non-essential appliances when leaving home
- Before reconnecting, turn the switch on your wall socket on and off once
- Reconnect your appliance and power up
Buy smaller quantities or fewer perishables
One of the most common frustrations around load shedding is when appliances such as fridges and freezers turn off for extended periods. You are bound to find items defrosted and in the worst case, potentially spoiled or rotten food.
If that’s the case, you may be able to lessen how much you stand to lose by purchasing fewer perishables, or rather buying them in smaller quantities over periods of load shedding. For example, instead of purchasing two litres of milk, you could rather opt to purchase one litre and place it in the fridge and buy another one litre to place in the freezer. This way, you are more likely to consume any perishables before they spoil.
Perishable items you could potentially buy less of are:
- Carbonated drinks (sodas)
Buy packets of ice to prevent losing perishable items
If you need to purchase a certain amount of a particular perishable item, why not pack it in ice?
This is an especially useful trick that can come in handy if you have enough space in your freezer. By wrapping perishable items in ice or placing them in or near an ice pack, you can keep your frozen goods below room temperature until power is restored.
Avoid travelling during load shedding
If you commute during load shedding, you’re likely familiar with the frustration of sitting in endless traffic while traffic lights are out, and intersections are congested.
If you’re able to, negotiating your working hours with your employer can help you avoid sitting in peak hour traffic. However, if this isn’t an option, map out up to three different routes home and to the office (depending on your location) and choose the one that is least affected by load shedding at the time you depart by learning Eskom’s rotational zones and keeping a copy of a load shedding schedule handy.
Eskom’s load shedding schedule can be found here.
Budget your electricity usage according to your load shedding schedule
During periods of load shedding, you may find that you use less electricity over certain periods – especially if you lose power over breakfast or dinner time, where you’re more likely to use electricity.
If that is the case, logging your normal energy consumption (versus your consumption through load shedding) can help you determine whether you should adjust your budget. If you’re purchasing R50 more than you might normally use due to load shedding, consider adjusting your budget and using that R50 towards something else, such as non-perishable food or items such as surge-protected plugs or sockets. Our easy-to-use budget template can help!
Consider using energy-efficient appliances
To maximise on your energy savings, try to buy or switch to energy-efficient appliances. Though these naturally won’t work during load shedding, they will require less power to operate over time, and will use less electricity to restart when power resumes. If you’re ready to switch, energy-efficient appliances to prioritise are:
- Light bulbs
- Air-conditioners or fans
- Tumble dryers
- Washing machines
Set your geyser on a timer
As with most appliances or other devices, your geyser will switch off during load shedding – meaning that once power is restored, it will automatically turn on and bring water to the boil. This consumes a great deal of electricity and can be wasted, especially if you’re not at home to use it.
Setting your geyser to a timer is a useful tip to save money in general, but considering load shedding, managing your energy expenses can be especially prudent if you aren’t at home to use hot water. Manually disabling your geyser, and re-enabling it shortly before you need hot water, can also help you avoid the unnecessary expense of keeping water on the boil.
Useful times to set your geyser to boil are:
- One hour before waking
- One hour before lunch
- One hour before preparing dinner
- One hour before bed
Consider buying a solar lantern
Initially, solar lanterns might be more expensive than buying bundles of matchsticks and candles but consider that the sun provides unlimited energy on temperate days – and candles and matchsticks, by their nature, have a limited lifespan or number of uses.
Buying matchsticks and candles can quickly add up and take an unexpected toll on your budget. If you can, buying a reasonably priced and well-functioning solar lantern can help you avoid greater expense in the long run, and can also be used at night-time when there isn’t load shedding.
How to manage working remotely during load shedding
Working from home can mean that instead of relying on an office to provide internet access and electricity, you need to have access to these resources yourself. During load shedding, this can complicate your workday and affect your productivity.
While the best way to manage your productivity without incurring additional financial cost is to simply work offline or manage your day around load shedding schedules, there are several practical steps you can take to manage throughout different load shedding timetables.
If you are reliant on WiFi from a Fibre connection, you may wish to purchase a power supply which, if you have a laptop or another mobile device to work from, can at least power internet access throughout two and a half hours. Note, however, that services such as ADSL are reliant on electricity and won’t work even if your router has a suitable power supply.
If that’s the case, you may wish to purchase a pay-as-you-go data connection from a mobile network provider such as Telkom Mobile, Vodacom, MTN, or Cell C. Under load shedding Stage 1, most cellular network towers can run on battery supply and will maintain a consistent internet connection. However, your provider may experience service outages on higher load shedding stages.
To provide backup power, you could choose several options; smaller battery supplies can be used to power a handful of devices such as powering a WiFi router or charging your phone. Uninterrupted Power Supply systems, while designed to provide backup power, are typically best used to keep your computer on for ten minutes or more before shutting down and are intended to enable you to save your work. These systems, while useful, are ultimately not intended to power devices for a long period of time.
If you are prepared to invest in alternative power supplies, you could choose to rent a desk at a co-working space which has a generator or falls under a different load shedding timetable, purchase a petrol or diesel generator for your home, or install a solar-powered (photovoltaic) conversion kit which could take your home “off the grid”, and reduce your dependence on supplied electricity.
Read more from our blog: