Putting the breaks on power bills

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Power monitoring devices and energy efficiency measures enable users to both track consumption and control it - a necessity if SA is to keep the lights on, say industry players.

Where electricity supply is concerned, the reality is that there is little choice but to reduce consumption to avoid large-scale shutdowns, says Esm'e Bluff, director at energy services company Manoa.

“That's the bad news. The good news is that there is ample opportunity to achieve those reductions.”

Bluff notes that South Africans rate quite poorly in electricity efficiency when compared to world standards, especially in the industrial and commercial sector. She points to Eskom studies aimed at comparing SA's energy efficiency to that of other countries with a similar per-capita GDP.

The research established that SA is more electricity intensive by a factor of 35% to 65%.

Bluff says achieving reductions can start with something as simple as common sense - “if you don't need it, don't use it” - which can save up to 30%. Other methods include installing efficient equipment to reduce consumption by 15%, and changing technology, for an energy saving of up to 60%.

Mobile prepaid electricity merchant, Powertime, says power consumption sensors have become influential tools for reducing consumers' costs and carbon footprints.

“Affordable monitoring devices and professional power audits are the game-changers that allow SA consumers to save real money,” it says.

Powertime MD S'ebastien Lacour stresses that reducing power consumption starts with having a monitoring system - “You can't save power by guessing.”

The company adds that while power monitors have become increasingly available locally, some are better than others. It offers a few pointers to consider when choosing a system:

“Make sure your system allows you to easily identify the 'power hogs' - both the appliances you use, and your own habits. This means choosing a monitor with a real-time and average use display. You want to see exactly what turning things on or off does to your consumption as it happens,” says Powertime.

Other guidelines include looking for a system with a separate sensor and monitor unit, connected via a wireless link, so the monitor can be placed wherever is convenient.

“A system that connects to your personal computer allows you to keep long-term records and display consumption graphically to help you spot trends,” the company notes. It adds that a logging function showing use over the month allows users to confirm that their utility is billing them the right amount.

Powertime also advises looking for a system that provides cost information in rands, as many imported products can only handle dollars, pounds or euros.

“Higher costs affect every consumer, not just the business owner, providing ample encouragement to conserve,” says Bluff.

“Power outages also adversely affect everyone; so when individuals and individual companies all do their bit to reduce demand, the cumulative effect means sufficient electricity to go around.”

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