Load shedding and how to make it bearable

Load shedding and how to make it bearable

load shedding

Tips to survive load shedding

Load shedding is back and it’s hard to look on the bright side (we just had to). Here are a few tips to try and make it a little bit more bearable…

What is load shedding?

Eskom describes load shedding in the following way:

Load shedding, or load reduction, is done countrywide as a controlled option to respond to unplanned events to protect the electricity power system from a total blackout. 

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

READ MORE: HOW TO: SLASH YOUR UTILITY BILLS

What are the load shedding stages?

So far we have seen four stages of load shedding in South Africa with different schedules developed around them. Each stage is based on a certain possibility of risk to the power system and the schedules are to try and ensure that load shedding is applied fairly. In short, it’s about how much electricity needs to be saved at the current time.

  • Stage 1 allows for up to 1000 MW of the national load to be shed.
  • Stage 2 allows for up to 2000 MW of the national load to be shed.
  • Stage 3 allows for up to 3000 MW of the national load to be shed.
  • Stage 4 allows for up to 4000 MW of the national load to be shed.

Where can I find the load shedding schedule for my area?

You can search for your area on the Eskom website here (this can be tricky if you aren’t sure exactly where you fall on the map). Note that when the country is in stage 4 load shedding you could literally be left in the dark at any time of the day.

Keeping in mind that the load shedding status can change in an instant, stay updated by following good information sources:

Twitter: @CityofCT or  @CityofJoburgZA or @CityTshwane or @Eskom_SA

Websites: City of Cape Town or City of Joburg or City of Tswane  or Eskom

Tips to make load shedding bearable

Preparing for load shedding isn’t always easy. But following these tips will help you minimise the disruption…

Plan

Everything will run a little smoother with some planning.

  • Switch off any appliances you are not using, to help reduce pressure on the grid.
  • Stock up on candles and invest in a torch or two for your home. Loss of visibility sure makes things frustrating and being able to navigate your way around the house safely will be important when it’s dark. Make sure you have a lighter or enough matches for the candles and be sure to have enough batteries or to charge your torch fully when there is electricity. However, you should avoid candles if you have children in the home. Use rechargeable LED lamps instead. Try Builders Warehouse for a variety of portable functional lights. 
  • Also, charge any rechargeable lamps or solar jars so that they have full capacity when needed.
  • Print your load shedding schedule out and stick it on the fridge where the whole family can see it and can prepare.
  • Fill a flask with hot water to have on hand for hot beverages or washing up.
  • Switch off your geyser during load shedding.
  • Fill plastic water bottles and place them in the meat compartment of your freezer. They’ll help keep meat frozen for longer and can also be used in your fridge during load shedding for extra cooling. Avoid opening the fridge and freezer during power cuts, so they’ll stay colder for longer.
  • Charge your cellphone, tablet and laptop batteries. Keep a spare charger in your car to keep your phone fully charged at all times. Having a fully charged power-bank as a backup is very useful in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure you have petrol. Many fuel pumps can’t operate without electricity.
  • Keeping some cash for emergencies is also important as you might not be able to draw money from your local ATM when the power is out.

Protect

Make protecting your appliances a priority – there are small things you can do that could end up saving you lots of money and effort in the long run!

  • Unplug the following devices and appliances when you leave home, or when not in use: computers, routers, TVs. Power surges when power is restored can damage fridges, freezers, TVs and power plugs. Check your household insurance policy to make sure you are insured against power surges.
  • Use multi-way adapters with built-in surge protection. You can buy these at your hardware store, and you’ll be able to recognise them by their distinctive red colour.
  • Check that your distribution board has been correctly installed with surge protection. This is usually your first line of defence against power surges and is standard on new installations, but with older properties, your wiring may not be up to standard.
  • Load shedding can affect your fibre router. Unplug it during load shedding, and if connectivity isn’t restored once power returns, rest the router by unplugging it again for a few minutes. Many ISPs will replace your router if it has been damaged. Check your contract to see whether your router is insured.

Maintain

Making sure you maintain certain items is crucial.

  • Make sure batteries for items like torches and night lights are in good working condition.
  • Check your plugs and inspect them regularly for any damage.
  • Regularly check the health of your back-up battery in your alarm system, electric fence, and gate motor.

Alternatives

Although expensive, alternatives to electricity are ultimately the way to go.

  • Buy a generator or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) so you have an emergency power supply when you need it most.
  • A two-plate gas stove or solar cooker will ensure you can still cook (or at least heat) food and liquids during load shedding.

A note on safety and insurance

“Besides the total inconvenience – when the power goes out, your alarm, electric fences and motorised gates go with it, leaving you and your home in a vulnerable position,” explains Maanda Tshifularo, head of Dialdirect Insurance.

“Most insurance policies stipulate in their contracts that the house alarm must be activated at all times when the home is unoccupied. So, if your house is burgled during a power cut, then, theoretically, your theft-related cover would be moot.”

“We believe that load shedding is beyond the control of our customers, and therefore, they should not be penalised for it. As such, each case will be considered based on its own merits.”

Here are some safety tips from Dialdirect:

  1.  Light can be a deterrent to burglars so it is an investment to get a few high-wattage solar powered lights for outside and some LED lights for inside.
  2. The Namola emergency app is free to all South Africans and can connect you with help – and share your location – instantly.
  3. If you need to open and close your gate when you get home, arrange for someone to meet you at your entrance.
  4. Wherever possible, make use of things that provide an extra level of home security but aren’t power-dependent.
  5. An alarm system, garage door or electric gate may rely on electricity – make sure these items have reliable back-up batteries.
  6. Be vigilant at traffic lights that are out, especially when driving late at night where the street lights are out.

Delicious meals you can prepare beforehand or warm up quickly

Having a list of meals you can prepare or warm up in a jiffy before the lights go out will really make a big difference to your load shedding experience. Here are a few of our favourites, plus some cold recipes you can make if you are totally caught off-guard!

Quick to make 

Quick to heat

Make ahead 

Or just have a braai 

READ MORE: WHAT TO FREEZE & WHAT NOT TO FREEZE

When all else fails

Watch this video of our lovely Suzelle DIY below as she prepares us for load shedding (and yes, it’s funny!). The crafty guru teaches us how to make a portable, non-electrical cellphone charger, and other very useful tips and tricks.

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