O-YES Properties | Lockdown and loadshedding | Living off the grid to increase

Lockdown and loadshedding | Living off the grid to increase

South Africa has been dealing with more than a 100 days of Lockdown, with the curfew now reinforced and the economic toll of a recession biting. Add to this Loadshedding is now back in play.

The far-reaching impact homeowners re-evaluating their lifestyle and long-term goals, but also the immediate surroundings of the home, whether owned or rented.   

Changing the focus of what adds value to a property

It will certainly change the criteria with which people evaluate a proposed rental or purchase, geared towards a simpler, more cost-effective lifestyle. 

Their key criteria will include affordability, convenient location, close to amenities, including schools and the workplace. It may include a larger living space to enjoy quality family time, or a more compact space for singles or young couples starting out and wishing to conserve capital.

"Some may even decide to relocate to more decentralised areas or secondary towns, away from congested cities, or areas on the periphery of cities, yet still easily accessible and more suited to their needs, including career and family. More people are likely to continue to work from home, which means their living requirements will need to accommodate this."

Golding adds that as Eskom further increases the costs of electricity, coupled with more load-shedding once lockdown ends, the impact on municipal tariffs that form a significant portion of living costs, will be significant. 

"It makes good sense to try to reduce these as much as possible and gear one’s lifestyle to suit the challenges of today and going forward.”

Says Anthony Stroebel, a director of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) says reducing monthly costs and implementing energy-saving solutions – as far as budgets permit - in order to live as much off the grid as possible will become much more commonplace.  

“With over 16.7 million households in South Africa, homes are a significant consumer of water and energy resources as well as generators of waste. Any contribution towards reducing this consumption and output not only has the potential to help reduce the collective environmental footprint, but it also adds value to a residential property, particularly in terms of desirability. According to the GBCSA, 27% of the energy produced in South Africa is consumed by the residential sector, which also accounts for 60% of municipal water and sanitation sales, and contributes 44% of municipal waste.

'Sustainable living indicators as a green home rating tool'

“Energy, water and waste have measurable baselines and benchmarks, which, along with other ‘sustainable living’ indicators, have been refined by the GBCSA into a green home rating tool (EDGE certification) which enables a householder to assess where their home sits on the sustainability scales.

The rating tool – which generates a score out of 100 - covers three distinct spheres of influence – behaviour; performance, namely measured water, energy and waste performance; and asset improvements, such as insulation. This will give South African householders the information and tools they need to transform their homes for healthier and more sustainable and environmentally prosperous living.”

“This simple tool offers rewards and incentives for achieving ‘green goals’, compares your performance to others and tracks performance, provides a clear measurement of sustainability and clear benchmarking framework for reducing operating costs and providing more appealing homes," adds Stroebel. 

So where to start? 

Grahame Cruickshanks, managing executive for a market engagement at GBCSA, explains some of the easily-available investment options, across three specific categories and the time it would take for these to break even. 


No Cost

Pool pumps use a lot of electricity. Reduce the time your pool pump runs to four to six hours in summer and two to three hours per day in winter.

  • “This is an interesting one that could also be called ‘no excuse’, and simply suggests that we change our behaviour in order to reduce our consumption,” says Cruickshanks. Here are a few of their favourites:

    • Lower the thermostat on your electric geyser to 55 or 60 degrees and remember to switch it off when you go away for longer periods.
    • Pool pumps use a lot of electricity. Reduce the time your pool pump runs to four to six hours in summer and two to three hours per day in winter.
    • Ironing also uses a lot of electricity. Separate laundry into essential ironing and items that can be folded and packed away.
    • Set the washing machine to use cold water (30 degrees) for all clothing colours.
    • Avoid using the tumble dryer and instead dry your clothes on the washing line.
    • Geysers are typically the biggest electricity guzzlers in a home. Take shorter showers - ideally no more than two minutes.


Low Cost


Install a low-flow showerhead, designed to reduce the water flow while still giving you a great shower


If you are ready to invest but not break the bank, the good news is that you have plenty of options:

  • Install a geyser timer that switches off during the middle of the day.
  • Target your heat. Use electric blankets and hot water bottles instead of heating an entire room.
  • Replace your incandescent light bulbs with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
  • Install a low-flow showerhead, designed to reduce the water flow while still giving you a great shower.
  • Install tap aerators - which again reduce the water flow - to reduce the quantity of water you use.
  • Opt for motion sensor lights for outdoor security, instead of lights running all night.




Invest to save

Geysers are typically the biggest electricity guzzlers in a home. so install a solar water heater to cut costs.

It goes without saying that some measures might cost more upfront but can pay for themselves off over time from the savings you’ll achieve. More than anything, these expenditures should be seen as investments that not only lower future utility costs but increase the value of your home and create a healthier environment, says Cruickshanks.

Some of the ways to be smart about investing to save include:

  • Install a solar water heater.
  • Consider a heat pump for hot water.
  • Buy a variable-speed pool pump.
  • Use a closed-combustion wood stove or fireplace.
  • Install ceiling insulation.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances.
  • Install a dual-flush toilet.

When will you break even?

Most people are not aware that the full cost of installing solar (and wind, and water recycling) can be written off 100% in the first year. It might sound expensive but understand the following: 

  • A loan for R2.5 million taken out by the body corporate over five years might cost around R48,000 per month.
  • That scheme had 50 units and at an average of R1000 pm income from the solar portion of the electricity, they would be collecting around R50,000 pm. So let’s say in the first year they break even.
  • Centlec rates are set to rise quickly say 10% per annum. So, in year 2 users save 10% on their electricity. And so each year.
  • At the end of year 5, the system is paid for. Now the body corporate receives the income of R50,000 pm or R600,000 pa. Remember, until they have had R2.5 million income from the electricity they don’t pay any tax.
  • Also, remember that the first R50,000 in any year is tax-free anyway.


So, in a full year, with no other non-levy income the R600,000 income less R50,000 mean that the body corporate gets an income of R550,000 from electricity taxable. Tax is at the rate of 28% ie R550,000 – R154,000 tax or a net income of R396,000 plus the R50,000 untaxed portion total R446,000 / 12 months / 50 units or R743.33 per unit per month income. See why I say it makes sense – remember we never increased the rate

The break-even period for different green interventions varies according to a range of factors, including consumption rates. Remember that two household showers a day, as opposed to six, using the same solar water heating system will have different outcomes.

Similarly, the cost of installing a solar PV system designed to supply full household needs will differ from a blended energy supply which includes municipal as well as on-site renewable energy.

It seems like the greatest change should still be a mindset change. “Ideally, water should be harvested from rainfall and recycled from the household showers and basins, rather than extracted from aquifers using boreholes as this is a finite resource.

What about DIY interventions?

In order to get the best performance and payback period, it is important to ensure that a solar system for energy or water, as an example, is correctly sized, specified and installed. Unless the homeowner is familiar with these criteria, it is best to seek out professional advice from an experienced professional or installer.  

Courtesy of Property24

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This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)