With Eskom’s electricity charges having increased by a staggering 82.1 percent over three years and with his two daughters, aged 14 and 15, wanting to join a school tour of Europe, Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties, set them a goal: whatever energy and other savings they could bring about in the Clarke home he would refund to them to help pay for their tour.
"It turned out to be a very worthwhile exercise," said Clarke. "They found ways of saving that had never even occurred to me. What we all learned from them could now be helpful in assisting others faced not only with hugely increased energy costs, but also with double or triple municipal rates."
The first thing the Clarke daughters investigated was the home insurance. With the help of their father they eventually managed to arrange a comprehensive policy, covering every aspect of the previous policy, for less than one-third the price. The original policy had, in fact, cost R3200 per month, but Clarke is now paying only R900 per month.
Then they examined the telephone account. Here it was decided that, as 80 percent of their calls are by cellphone, the landline could be kept for ADSL only, thereby saving on the monthly rental.
Seeking to cut electricity consumption, the two girls adopted a policy of disconnecting all electrical chargers (e.g. to the music centres and TVs) before going to bed at night.
They also began switching off the hot water geyser during the day, turning it on only in time to handle the washing of the supper dishes and to provide late evening and morning hot water. The thermostats on both the refrigerator and the deep freeze were also set lower and the filtering of their small fish tank was reduced to four hours per day.
They then decreed that no electric kettles or cooking pots should ever be filled with more water than was actually needed at that moment and that high energy consumption equipment like hairdryers should be used for shorter periods.
As winter is approaching, the swimming pool is now filtered only one hour per day and it is possible the Clarkes will buy a cover for it to reduce their pool costs further.
The washing machine and dishwasher now operate at 30˚C instead of 40˚C, but continue to work with complete efficiency.
"We next realised that we had to take note of what the 'greens' and insulating contractors have been saying for years: that a well sealed ceiling will reduce exponentially energy loss in winter and heat penetration in summer. We, therefore, set about covering the ceiling with black plastic bags. (If a home is over 20 years old, it probably has the then-obligatory air vents. These should also be sealed off except in the bathrooms, said Clarke.)
To complement the sealing work, said Clarke, it is essential also to re-line any old windows or doors where the rubbers have corroded.
TV costs were reduced, firstly by opting for a smaller DSTV package and then agreeing not to run two TVs simultaneously – this called for a compromise whereby no family member any longer insists on viewing their chosen programme at any specific time.
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