How to: slash your utility bills

How to: slash your utility bills

Save money for the fun things in life – The family will be keen to help!

With the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) having approved a 5.23% increase in the price of electricity – implemented on 1 April – it’s a good idea to start planning on how to save on your utility bills. With the
winter season coming up, we’ve worked out some brilliant (and doable) tips to save on those bills you do have control over, such as electricity usage and water.

An energy audit

Consider an energy audit, as it’ll allow you to see how much power you’re using, which appliances around the house are power hungry and inefficient, as well as when power is being consumed. This information will help you identify the best alternative energy solutions, according to Solterra Group, a renewable energy consultancy firm. The audit can also inform you of any appliances that are incorrectly connected, and can help you identify cost-saving tips. John Silver, owner of JM Solar Solutions, says the process of an audit is quite simple. ‘The company does an inventory
of your home using specific equipment that is installed in your DB Board at your house. Then for about a week or more (if necessary) we measure your energy consumption and check what uses the most electricity in the house and when. Then we advise on the best solutions to reduce costs.

The average energy audit costs between R2 500 and R3 500 (which may be refundable should you implement the solutions), and companies that offer them guarantee savings of 30-75% on your energy bill, especially if you implement their recommendations.


Save energy with LED lighting

Although they may be more expensive to buy, light emitting diodes (LED lights) are more durable in the long run and are also energy efficient. According to, using LEDs could save you up to 90% on your electricity bill, compared to using incandescent lighting, and 50% when compared with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Compared to halogen lights, LEDs are 80% cheaper in the long run. They also have a longer life expectancy. The average LED lasts for about 50 000 hours, fluorescent lighting lasts about 10 000 hours, while incandescent lights last for about 1 000 hours. LEDs are environmentally friendly too, as they can be recycled, and they’re mercury-free.
According to, a house with 60 halogen lights running for one and a half hours per day for example, would spend R5 807 per year, compared to only R1 161 when using LED lights.


Keep an eye on your electricity and water consumption using the following products:

  1. Electricity: HomeBug allows you to monitor electricity and water usage and you’ll be alerted to
    the periods when these resources are being used the most. It costs R1 600 to install.
  2. Water: Aquatrip’s water monitoring system has an alarm that alerts you when you have a leak in the
    house. They have a leak detection and wetness sensing product range, as well as online monitoring
    platforms. As soon as a leak is detected, the water is automatically shut off. Products cost R1 500 to
    R4 500, and customers have recorded savings of up to 50% on their water bills.

Did you know?

A leaking tap wastes between 400 and 2 600 litres per month. Repair any leaking pipes, taps and toilets as soon as possible. You can test for a leaky toilet by pouring about 10 drops of food colouring into the tank, waiting 10-15 minutes and then looking inside the bowl. If you spot the colouring, then your toilet is leaking. A single leaking toilet can waste between 2 600 and 13 000 litres of water per month, so check your toilet for leaks at least once or twice a year.

Should the geyser be on or off?

Your geyser accounts for about 40% of your electricity bill, so it’s good to try and save a few rands here. The geyser debate is a tricky one though. On the one hand there are those who believe switching off your geyser when not in use will save you money, but others believe reheating cold water in the geyser uses even more energy. According to Eskom, switching off your geyser will not save you money, because the electricity that will be used to warm the geyser up again will cancel the small saving you had made initially. But turning off your geyser when you go away
for longer than a few days will definitely save you a significant amount of electricity.

Tips to keep your water hotter for longer:

  1. Geyser blanket and pipe insulation: This helps to prevent heat loss should you switch off your geyser and it doesn’t take as much power to heat up the water again. Generally, water cools down by about 10 degrees every 24 hours. For a family of four, a geyser blanket and pipe insulation can save you up to R250 annually, according to Eskom.
  2. Geyser thermostat: Reduce your geyser thermostat to between 55 and 65°C. At this temperature the water is warm enough for bathing and anything higher will consume more power. According to Eskom, lowering your settings from 70°C to 60°C can save you about 5% on your bill.
  3. If possible, set up your geyser close to the points where hot water is needed most, such as the bathrooms, to optimise efficiency.

Keep your home warmer in winter

An effective way of bringing down costs on heaters is through ceiling and window insulation. In an uninsulated home, 25% of heat escapes through the roof. Ceiling insulation, such as isotherm or aerolite, can reduce heat loss in your home during the winter season by as much as 95%, according to, meaning less hours spent with the heater on. Roof insulation will also help keep a home cooler in the summer by preventing hot air from entering the house. You should start seeing the financial benefits of insulation after two to three years. Companies such as Eco-Insulation offer a free assessment and no-obligation quotation for your home. With window insulation you can save as much as 50% on your costs. Double glazing saves you energy and keeps your home warmer
in winter and cooler in summer by filling the space between two panes of glass with dehydrated air or gas. The trapped air then forms an insulating barrier, preventing hot or cold temperatures from moving in and out of a room, according to


Gas vs electricity

A price comparison of electricity versus gas by Stiebel Eltron published on advises that bottled gas is slightly more expensive than electricity. Using a 100L electrical geyser and a 45kg propane gas cylinder geyser, they heated household water for a month. The costs to run the electric geyser amounted to R469.70 and the cost for the gas geyser was R502.21.

Quick hacks

  1. Install an energy and water-saving showerhead – this can save you up to 24% on your hot
    water consumption.
  2. Using small kitchen appliances instead of the stove can save energy. Toasters, electric grills and
    skillets, slow cookers, electric coffee pots and bottle warmers usually require less energy than the stove
    when used correctly. Pressure cookers prepare food 30% faster, saving you 50-70% energy.
  3. Thick frost on chilling panels reduces cooling ability. Defrost your freezer when ice is 0.6-1.3cm thick.
  4. Check that your fridge is closed properly at all times; if warm air gets in, more energy is used up to keep the fridge cool. Test this by closing the door on a piece of paper: if you can pull the paper out easily, the seal should be replaced.


Water-efficient washing machines

Washing machines use 15-40% of the water consumption in an average household of four. Liam Gawne of kitchen appliance manufacturer Miele, says upgrading to a water-efficient washing machine can save you up to 50% on your water consumption. ‘The water-efficiency of washing machines can vary greatly – the most efficient models currently on the market use around six litres of water per kilogram of laundry, while the least efficient can use up to 14 litres for the same amount of laundry.’


What about solar?

Although it’s still expensive to go off-grid, there are cheaper options you can consider to save electricity, such as installing a little solar energy system as a supplement. You can start with something small such as a solar geyser or solar lights and then work your way to living completely off-grid, although John Silver advises that it’s not always practical. Most options use a grid-tied system, which is a combination of solar and Eskom energy. Solar energy is regarded as a long-term investment and it could be many years before you start seeing a return. Some experts report that the amount it costs to convert your home to be fully operational on solar power is equivalent to about 20 years’ worth of an average household’s electricity bill. The average costs for a family of four or five to go off grid bit by bit:

  • Solar geysers start at about R15 000 for a 100L system, ranging up to R45 000.
  • A 200L thermosyphon solar geyser on a pitched roof costs R25 000-R28 000.
  • It’s possible to install a few PV panels for the home. A 1.5kW system with four to six panels costs about R40 000, depending on the system and monitoring equipment. This can be used for anything in the house and it would take about five years to see a return on investment.
  • Investing in a complete solar system ranges from R150 000 up to R500 000, depending on the size of the home.




About Nolwazi Dhlamini

Features Writer for Your Family magazine. She’s worked in print and digital media, and finds thrill in understanding human behaviour. Nolwazi believes everyone has a fascinating story to tell, and it just takes the right person, asking the right questions, to find it.


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