Energy-wise ways to get ready for winter

Tuesday, 26 April 2022: Rising electricity costs and a constrained power grid continue to dominate national conversations about electricity usage. Now that the outside temperature is getting lower than the inside temperature in your home, heat transfer takes place from the inside to the outside, resulting in the interior of your home becoming uncomfortably cold. If your solution is to keep your heater continuously on, this will result in high electricity bills during colder months and place more pressure on the grid.

Eskom endorses an array of simple solutions to reduce electricity usage, the one being a thorough assessment of your geyser; the one appliance in your home that can consume up to 50% of the household’s electricity. The easiest thing to check is that your geyser temperature is set no higher than 60°C and that older geysers are insulated with a geyser blanket. Equally important is to insulate the hot water pipes running from the geyser to the taps – at least where they are exposed, which can reduce electricity consumption by the geyser by up to 20%.

Space heating is another area of focus as it is typically the second highest user of household electricity. Whether you opt for wall-mounted, gas, oil, infrared or fan heaters, your home will lose heat as it radiates into the walls and through the roof. Insulating your ceilings can result reducing the costs of heating the space by up to 50%, keeping your home cosy throughout the winter months.

There are a number of products on the market that you can use for insulation, from synthetic polymers like polyester and expanded polystyrene, mineral woods like fibre-glass, natural plant materials such as cellulose insulation, animal fibres like wool or even shredded recycled paper which has been chemically treated. Whatever option you choose, here are essential factors to consider:

  • Look out for the SABS mark of approval.
  • Is the material appropriate for the building classification and intended use?
  • Does the product comply with fire safety requirements?
  • What is the R-value? In other words, how well does the insulation resist heat flow based on its density and thickness. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation material retains heat. 

As with all DIY projects, the issue of health and safety is critical to not only the selection of the products to be used but also the installation process. Specifically when insulating ceilings, it’s important to prevent electric shocks or burns caused by contact with defective electrical cables, exposed terminals or conductors or foil insulation that has become energised by contact with a source of electricity. Furthermore, insulation containing synthetic mineral fibres (such as rookwood or glasswood) can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

Sticking to the following safety tips will make your DIY project successful and safe:

  • Before you get started, identify any hazards and implement controls. If you are uncertain about anything, call in an expert.
  • Ensure you know how to safely access the roof cavity and have adequate battery operated lighting.
  • Mark and identify the position of all electrical cables and ensure you don’t damage anything while cutting or fixing insulation.
  • Before proceeding with the installation (particularly foil insulation) turn off all electricity.
  • Don’t place any insulation over recessed lights, fans or equipment such as transformers, like halogen downlights. Check manufacturers’ recommendations before installing insulation. As a guideline:
    • Do not install insulation within 90mm of hot flues or exhaust fans, or within 25mm of recessed light fittings
    • Retain a clearance of 90mm for low-voltage down lights.
    • Restrain loose-fill insulation with non-combustible barriers.
  • Wear safety clothing and shoes, gloves and a face mask.
  • Handle the insulation with care to minimise the release of fibres and dust.
  • Ensure you only step on the ceiling beams.
  • Once you’ve completed the insulation, check that all cables, light fittings, etc. have not been damaged.
  • Make sure to dispose of all waste appropriately.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands, face, neck and hair to get rid of any stray fibres and dust.

Says Eskom Spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha: “Eskom is currently faced with challenges at its power stations, which has led to the need for loadshedding over the past few months. If consumers can assist us by using electricity smartly, it would help to reduce the need for loadshedding, which is a measure used to balance the supply and demand of electricity.”


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