Call it load shedding, or rolling blackouts, the fact is it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future and South Africans are going to have to learn to live with it for a while yet.
The Citizen spoke to Lungile Mashele, an energy specialist at the Development Bank of South Africa, who also holds qualifications in economics, insolvency law, cost engineering and energy, about practical ways to minimise the effects.
“Have your work and home load shedding schedules handy. There’s no point in sitting in three-hour traffic to get to work to discover that there are no lights. Rather work from home until your office has lights,” advised Mashele.
“Keep your phone, power bank and torch charged and ready for a blackout. Invest in power-surge plugs. Continuous outages and related trips may damage your appliances.”
There is a growing conversation in the country over which is better: solar photo-voltaic power or fuel-driven generators.
“The preferred option is a complete retrofit of a home using gas to cook and for water heating, or solar water heating,” Mashele said.
“In addition to that, investing in solar PV with an inverter and battery storage will sustain you during periods of load shedding.”
Mashele explained an inverter converted the direct current produced by the panels to alternating current, and synchronised the power produced within the home with the Eskom grid.
“This option requires a rather large capital outlay. However, with the rising costs of electricity, it has a generally low payback period. A typical suburban household will require an investment of about R80,000. Depending on your consumption you can recover your costs within two to five years,” Mashele said.
“Generators present a cheaper alternative in terms of capital cost (about R10,000), but in the long run, the fuel cost renders this option far more expensive. Diesel generators can present a safety risk and are a noise nuisance not allowed by many body corporates.”
Load shedding survival tips
Plan your activities and travel around anticipated load shedding.
Be creative with dinners and activities to keep yourself and your family entertained.
Have braais and set up a tent for the kids with a campfire, especially during this holiday period.
Invest in rechargeable emergency LED lights. They are bright enough to light up the room for homework and household activities.
One can also buy an inexpensive two-burner gas stove at any major retailer and cook using gas.
Load shedding affects the ability of the water utility to pump water, so make sure you have water stored in the house.
It also means no fibre to the home, so make sure your phone has data or airtime.
Carry cash, as some retailers are unable to take card payments.