By Jessie Taylor
South Africa is expected to experience a winter more cold and wet than usual, and many will be looking for options to keep their homes warm on chilly winter days. But with the electricity supply challenges faced by the country, you may find that high electricity costs and power outages make using most traditional heating methods more difficult.
Winter tends to be associated with an increase in loadshedding, as more people draw on the electricity grid to warm their homes. Not only does this disadvantage everyone – including businesses – but it can also have an impact on your personal finance as the electricity price rises.
Try these tips to keep your home warm, without breaking the bank:
Increase your insulation
Before investing in any heating system, it’s essential to ensure that your home is well insulated. An insulated room requires half the energy of an uninsulated room. If you are unable to afford to call in a professional to help you insulate your home, there are still some tricks you can try such as closing doors and windows. Increasing soft furnishings in your home will also improve insulation – consider thicker curtains, rugs and throws to keep your room feeling warmer.
Heat your space
Traditional heating options like underfloor heating and wall-mounted heaters are often ineffective ways to heat your home. However, there are numerous options for space heaters that are budget-friendly for your home, but your priority should be to find an energy-efficient solution. Fan heaters are a good option for smaller spaces as they tend to draw minimal electricity. If you have an air conditioning unit installed, you could use it to heat up your room in winter. However, this option might see your electricity usage increase. Alternatively, you could invest in a gas heater to reduce your electricity use.
Winter calls for warm, hearty meals like stews and soups. Not only do these offer a nutritious meal to keep your immune system healthy, they can also become energy savers if you make some changes to your cooking routine. Instead of slow-cooking a stew or soup, use a Wonderbag as a non-electric slow cooker and save your electricity units. Also make sure to cook enough for a few meals, and freeze your leftovers. They will then require reheating rather than see you cooking for hours.
Get the best from your geyser
While there’s nothing like a nice warm bath to beat the winter chills, that long soak could be costing you – in both water and electricity. One of the biggest electricity drains in a home is your geyser. Combined, the 5.4 million geysers in South African homes and public buildings use more than 12% of the electricity grid’s operational capacity at peak times. But there are ways to reduce your energy consumption. The simplest solution is switching your geyser off when you don’t need it, or installing a timer. But investing in a thermal cover for your geyser can also keep it warmer for longer, and reduce the amount of energy you use. Finally, switching to showers and only using hot water when really needed will also decrease how much electricity your geyser drains.
Instead of investing in space heaters that drain electricity to keep yourself warm at night, try a few targeted approaches to create a warmer bed. Start by loading your bed with warm, weighted blankets and make use of a hot water bottle to heat up your bed. Alternatively, you can invest in an electric blanket with a timer, to warm up your bed for a few minutes before you climb into it. This offers a low-energy way to keep yourself warm at night.
Fighting off the winter chills doesn’t need to place a burden on your budget, if you implement a few small changes in your home. To offset your heating costs in winter, you could also make changes around your home that will reduce your electricity consumption on the whole. This could range from installing low-energy light bulbs, updating to energy-efficient appliances, or installing a solar geyser.
Can cold temperatures make you sick?
Some research has suggested that cold weather can affect the immune system, which in turn affects our ability to fight off colds and infections. This could be because winter brings reduced exposure to the sun, which limits your ability to absorb Vitamin D.
It could also be because blood vessels tend to constrict in colder weather, and this can lead to your respiratory tract receiving fewer white blood cells – the cells that work to fight off infections like influenza and bacterial pneumonia.
In addition, more viruses tend to be more active in cold temperatures and there is research that suggests your immune system may be more sluggish in the cold, compared to higher temperatures.