"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday 11 March 2011

Electricity blackouts this winter

On the front page of this mornings' Cape Times was an article concerning the proposed enforced decrease in the power usage of all Capetonians, aka rolling blackouts (aka no power for 3 - 6 hours), unless we can voluntarily cut our electricity use by 25 - 40%!  With winter looming, I think that's a tall order.

Also, considering that we had an average increase of 25% in tariffs last year, (and similarly priced increases definitely on the cards for the next two years) to "help finance new power stations / production and thereby avert rolling blackouts" I, personally, am horrified!

Horrified at the cheek of Escom (the South African power provider) at reneging on their reasons for the price increase.  No rolling blackouts indeed!!

But, I also question why the homeowner should be penalised for industries demand for, and use of, power - even a 5-year-old could work out that manufacturing plants / factories consume far more power than the simple homeowner.

And, I am extremely grateful for the power saving methods I have introduced in our home in the past 36 months.  And for the resultant reduction in power consumption by at least 45% in the past 15 months.

This winter we will not put on heaters / electric blankets (which we don't possess) this winter - extra jerseys / thicker socks - even a beanie or a hoodie - they will all help to keep us warmer.  And, if whilst we watch TV in the evening, it is uncomfortably chilly - well, there's nothing like snuggling under a blanket on a comfy chair :-)  And what on earth is wrong with a microwaved bean bag or hot water bottle at the foot of the bed, if that is required?

My solar oven use may be limited due to the fact that we don't get much sun in our garden in winter - however, with that said, whenever I do have sun available, the solar oven will be employed to make soups - plain vegetable / bean / dried pea soups - the type of soups that can be cooked at a low heat and which will not promote the growth of salmonella or some other such dreaded bacteria, so nothing with milk, eggs, chicken or meat.  I WILL NOT use my electric oven under any circumstances - why should I - I haven't used it for the past 10 months anyway!

My hot box, made out of RSons' old toy box
and shredded paper from the office
which didn't land up on the compost heap.

My hot box worked well last year, and I will probably have to use our gas barbecue for baking bread.  But I don't mind that, as it's instant heat - I don't have to wait for it for 20 - 30 minutes in order for it to warm up to the required temperature, wasting who knows how much power / electricity whilst it does so!  A baking stone on the grill also retains the heat and improves this method for cooking bread.  I would obviously try and combine different foods whilst the barbecue is lit, and it is in "oven mode" - bread and roast chicken / bread and a casserole / bread and a quiche... the possibilities are endless.

Washing drying in our laundry room
I do not use a tumble dryer - either I line dry our clothing, or, if the weather is inclement for a number of days, I make a plan in our laundry room (you could even use your bathroom or a spare bedroom).  Ironing - you can't see un-ironed clothing under jerseys or jackets - so why bother? ;-)  Just ensure that you give the clothing a really good shake (a "snap-shake") when you take it out of the washing machine - and on a windy day, the wind will soon knock any creases out of the garment.

The vacuum cleaner - have you ever tried brushing your carpets with a hand brush or broom?  You seriously don't need to go to a gym to get a workout in your own home.

When we boil the kettle, we fill up a thermos flask with the balance of the hot water - it stays more than hot enough for the next cup or two.  And most of my kitchen implements for preparing food are manually operated.

Manual kitchen implements

ALL our light globes are CFL's - and, at night, we only ever have one on at a time.

Plus, we have our solar light - let the sunlight (what there is of it) charge the internal battery during the day, and use that power at night.

I turn the light to face the wall and the wall bounces back all the illumination we need :-)

My 'puter - can't really cut back on its' use, as I use it for personal pleasure and for our business - so apart from switching off the screen whenever I am not in front of it for a while, I do also have a screen saver function, which puts it "to sleep" after 5 minutes of non-activity.

Our only real problem is going to be our geyser, and, as our purchase of a solar geyser is unlikely this year, I am really tempted to install a Kexin (Dew Hot) LP gas powered geyser, similar to what we use on the farm.  It works brilliantly, and most importantly, only uses gas when you switch on the hot tap.  An added bonus is that it has adjustable settings, for winter / summer use, and a fire adjuster.  And a Kexin (plus installation) will be about 20% the cost of a solar geyser.  Our existing geyser is at least 25 years old, and CANNOT be efficient anymore - certainly not as efficient as the newer models.

Other than the changes we have made, I cannot see how we can reduce our electricity consumption further.

I don't fear rolling blackouts, as we do have the wherewith all to be really very comfortable during them.  And we have, very happily, experienced life without power on the farm.  I just object to their being enforced!

I feel for all the Capetonians who haven't taken steps to simplify their lives or who haven't become less dependent on Escom - the rolling blackouts will hit them pretty hard, I fear.

But, I have to confess, I do love any excuse for candlelight :-)   And I'll have a valid reason to just sit and knit some more dishcloths whilst the blackouts are in force.  Knitting I can do by candlelight.

I will miss blogging and catching up on blogs if the power is out first thing in the morning... But, Blogger (and the problems I am having with my reading list on my dashboard) permitting, I will catch up sooner or later! :-)

By the way, is no one else interested in a give away?  The offer end this evening.


  1. It sounds as though you are more than prepared for electrical issues...too bad about your electric company and that you can not each be judged on a personal level regarding how much you have cut back. This is just another of many reasons why I hope that this solar technology becomes more advanced and affordable...especially for people like me that do not have so much sunlight during a large part of the year. Also, I love that you cook bread in your barbecue, I have never heard of that before.

  2. Mr H - reckon solar is the only way to go - but, as you say, it HAS to become more affordable.

    A woman's gotta do, what a woman's gotta do, to feed her family...LOL I'll post a pic of the barbecue bread shortly.

  3. Dani, they sell solar chargers for laptops. I am not sure what type of computer you have. I also have a solar charger for my Iphone. They also make hand powered washing machines, which I will be getting this summer. You can also build a simple solar hot water system with black piping and a holding tank. A fraction of the cost of a commercial system. I am always looking for more ways to save also as I hope to be electric free(other than solar) very soon.

  4. Jane - a laptop has been on my wishlist for a couple of years LOL and yes, I WOULD use a solar charger, they are freely available here.

    We did use a simple solar hot water system on the farm in the early days, but that relies on sun - which is not that direct (nor always available) here in winter.

    Hand powered washing - big bucket and a pair of clean feet a la grape pressing - well, they will be clean by the time I'm finished LOL

  5. Dani, some time back the utility commission (or who ever it was) dictated a cut back in electrical use so I think all of Texas was getting rolling blackouts. Of course they didn't call it that though. I think they used some words less likely to piss people off. ;) Fortunately with the solar I wasn't effected at all, but the Internet seemed to go down more than usual.

    I'm now up to 8 of the LED lights I started buying at an auto parts house in Alpine. It took more than I figured it would to get the lighting level I want, but I'm now there. I have two in the living room for spot lighting (one on the computer keyboard to be able to use the computer at night. One in the front part reflecting off of the white floor.) Then there is one in the bath area over the laboratory. It can be swiveled down for direct light there or up to reflect off of the sealing to illuminate the bathroom area and bedroom in this trailer.The other 5 are aimed at the sealing and they help a lot to light the whole living room to a very comfortable amount of lighting. The three that are used for particular areas are run off of the trailer's battery which is charged by 4 - 20 watt panels. The other 5 shining on the sealing have been operating from about 7:30 PM until around 12:30 AM for well over two weeks off of an old car battery with no charging at all. I know eventually have to charge it, but am going to see just how long it will work without charging before I do recharge it.

    I need to get the shower working here again and with a black 15 gallon tank Frann gave me I should be good to go on that once I hook it back up.

    For washing here. When I've done that I use a round 30 gallon plastic tote filled with about 10 gallons of water. (a small amount of detergent added) I rinse in about 5 gallons of water after that.Instead of using the wine making technique I just shake the heck out of it with the clothes in it for a short time Then I let them soak and occasionally go shake it more through the day. By early afternoon I hang the clothes on the line and they come out pretty clean. Occasionally I take them south to the laundry to give them a really good cleaning. I do plan to make a wind powered washer though.

  6. David you are seriously sorted :-)

    Dunno if I am strong enough to shake a 30 gallon tote LOL - think I'm going to stick with the grape method until you make the wind powered one and share your invention.

  7. Dani your efforts are something we could all aspire to. Thanks for all your hints and tips and its nice to see all the other usefull tips that is generated by your blog.

  8. "why the homeowner should be penalised..." This is something that bothers me too. Whenever taxes are raised or expenses added (to anything, not just energy usage), the costs always get passed on to the bottom guys, the consumers, who just have to take the hits because they have no one else to pass it on to. Something similar bothers me about the eco-green movement. The target is always the general public, who is then expected to pay higher prices for some sort of sacrifice for the sake of the earth/environment. But really, we are limited by 1-the products offered to us and 2-their cost to us. If it's so important, why doesn't industry make the sacrifice for the same reason we're expect to? Don't mean to sound like a complainer, it just always seems like the wrong folks are expected to make the sacrifice.

  9. African Bliss - you're more than welcome :-)

    Leigh - I agree - totally frustrating. Reckon man has become too profit driven, and that is NOT good news for this planet. But, for each of us that isn't, we are making a small step towards improving everything, and teaching younger generations how to handle things differently. We just have to keep at it.


Thank you for taking the time to comment - it makes my day and removes the "loneliness' of sitting at my screen blogging supposedly to myself ;) I try and reply as quickly as possible so please forgive me if sometimes my response is delayed.