Monthly Archives

June 2017

7 ways SMEs can beat the rising cost of electricity

By | Energy Partners Knowledge Base | No Comments
Electricity is a basic, but vital operational resource for any organisation. Unfortunately, it is an increasingly costly commodity that is putting a lot of financial strain on businesses, especially SMEs. Over the next eight years, South Africa is likely to experience above-inflation hikes in electricity tariffs of as much as 6% to 8%. This could even reach as high as 13%, if government introduces their planned carbon tax.

 

Electricity Prices

Figure 1: The graph shows the growing average cost of electricity (cents p/kWh) from 2006 until 2017/2018. Source: Numsa

If you are an SME owner you are most likely experiencing the impact of growing electricity prices on your profit margins and operating costs. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Because you run a smaller operation, it is much easier to manage your energy spend. Here are seven tips to help you beat the rising cost of electricity:

 

1.  Energy-efficient lighting

 

Lightbulb

Replacing your business’ regular light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs is a simple, cost-effective way to minimise your electricity usage.

 

A business that keeps regular office hours operates for at least 40 hours a week. Considering that most offices keep their lights on during that time, and even after hours, it is no wonder that lighting accounts for most of the electricity used in many businesses.

 

One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to minimise your business’ electricity usage, is replacing regular light bulbs with energy-efficient LED units. They use 90% less electricity than standard light bulbs and because they have a longer lifespan, your business’ lighting will require less frequent maintenance. But it is important to note that merely replacing the light bulbs will not guarantee the maximum savings due to the transformers used in the older fittings.

 

Using natural light to your advantage is another simple way to save on electricity: Open the blinds more often to lighten the workplace, consider installing a skylight or paint the office walls in lighter tones that automatically brighten indoor spaces.

 

2.  Switch off and unplug

 

Remind your employees to switch off all the lights and electrical equipment at the end of the day. Place small posters or stickers next to light switches to remind staff about this energy-saving rule, and even introduce a small fine for those who forget: For example, if the last person to leave the office neglects to switch off the air conditioner, he or she must buy a round of coffees for everyone in the office.

 

Many people do not realise that electronics still use power even when they are turned off. You might be surprised to hear that equipment that is still plugged into the wall socket can “leak” up to 0.05 kWh, which is the equivalent of about R0.05 to R0.10 worth of electricity every hour. While it does not seem like a lot, it will add up, especially if you have multiple appliances plugged in at the same time. To put this into perspective: 10 PCs plugged in overnight will “leak” around R10’s worth of electricity per week and as much as R50 during weekends, which add up to about R400 at the end of the month. It is therefore a good idea to unplug everything in your office before you leave for the day, or at least at the start of a weekend or holiday.

 

3.  Introduce work-from-home days

 

Work from home

Allowing your staff to work from home on certain days will save your business electricity.

Give your business an energy break and your employees a reason to smile by allowing staff to work from home on certain days. Thanks to technology such as Skype, email and safe network connections, this will not disrupt your business, but rather amount to significant electricity savings in the long run.

 

4.  Take charge of temperature control

 

A business’ productivity relies on the comfort and happiness of its employees, which is why air conditioners have become a workplace essential in our exceptionally warm summers. They are, however, very heavy electricity users. The cooler the setting, the more electricity they use. That is why it is a good idea to switch on the air conditioner early in the day, on a milder setting that gradually cools down the office as the day gets warmer. This is much more efficient than trying to quickly cool down an area during the hottest time of the day by blasting the air conditioner at its maximum setting.

 

If you are located on the ground floor, consider planting deciduous trees outside your windows, which will provide shade during summer. And, to avoid the excessive use of heaters or the air conditioner on a warm setting during winter, keep the heat inside by ensuring your office’s doors and windows seal properly.

 

5.  Rethink the office kitchen

 

The office kitchen is a great place for saving electricity. Because an SME has fewer staff members, a smaller fridge that uses less electricity might be sufficient, while a hot water urn is a good energy-efficient alternative to a regular kettle. Also, replace the microwave and toaster with newer, more energy-efficient models that might be more expensive to purchase, but will help your business save money on electricity over time.

 

6.  Get your staff on board

 

Energy Smart

Encourage your employees to become energy conscious.

 

7.  Go solar

 

Utilising the sun’s energy to power your business will help you significantly reduce its monthly electricity bill. According to Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners: “Depending on the nature of the business, one of our customised solar solutions could help cut an SME’s electricity bill by as much as 30%.”

 

On top of that, SARS also offers certain tax concession for businesses that go solar. A business can deduct the 14% VAT portion off the cost of the solar system, as well as deduct the full cost of the installation of a solar energy solution from their business income tax in the first year. This benefit effectively means that your system is discounted at another 28% through the saving in tax.

 

While many SME owners might be scared off by the initial cost of installing solar, it is true that a state-of-the-art system will pay for itself with what it saves on electricity over time. “The repayment term of a solar PV system for a commercial installation is close to around four years, depending on certain factors like self-consumption and the tariff structure. With solar panels that have a 25-year production warranty, it’s very much like buying 25 years’ prepaid electricity at five years’ cost,” says Van der Westhuizen.

 

Energy Partners Home Solutions also offer various financing options for SMEs that do not have the capex available to purchase the system outright. According to Van der Westhuizen: “As a registered financial services provider, many of our clients purchase a system that is financed by us and which they can easily pay off out of the operational budgets of their businesses. In certain cases, we can even offer a Performance Lease Agreement, which allows for the installation of the system at a fraction of the cost.”

Electricity Tariff Changes In 3 Major Municipalities

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Electricity tariffs for homeowners escalate on 1 July each year. To help you plan for tariff upturn, we had a look at the planned increases in the country’s biggest municipalities to see what we’re all in for.

Over the last two months, most municipalities throughout SA released their planned electricity tariff increases for 2017/2018. These are currently being reviewed by NERSA. If approved, new tariffs will take effect from 1 July 2017.

We reviewed the planned increases for the three largest municipalities where we operate so that you know what impact you’re likely to experience.

 

How tariff increases work

Municipalities use an inclining block tariff regulator for home users. This means that your electricity becomes more expensive the more you use. To make it easier to compare, we’ve calculated the cost for a typical family home using 800 kWh of electricity per month.

Monthly bill graph

Johannesburg

Johannesburg City Power will be increasing tariffs by 2.28%. The old and new tariffs for single and three phase domestic homes are shown below (all are excl. VAT).

Johannesburg graph

Example – Typical family home (800 kWh per month)

JHB Example

 

Tshwane

Tshwane tariff increases were different for each consumption bracket. The old and new tariffs for domestic homes are shown below (all are excl. VAT).

Tshwane graph

Example – Typical family home (800 kWh per month)

Tshwane Example graph

 

Cape Town

There has been much confusion around the new City of Cape Town tariffs. Until now, there have been two different residential tariffs. These were based on the value of your property. The old tariff structure is shown below (all are excl. VAT and in c/kWh).

The new tariffs introduce a 3rd residential tariff called Home User. The 3 residential tariffs are still defined by the value of your property; however, each tariff has changed slightly. The tariffs also see an increase of 2.8%. The new tariffs are shown below (all are ex. VAT and in c/kWh).

Cape Town Graph

How this impacts you

If your property is valued at more than R1 million, you will now pay a fixed fee regardless of how much electricity you use. This is because the city needs to maintain the infrastructure that delivers your electricity, irrespective of your consumption. If you use more than 600 kWh per month, your bill will remain unchanged as the rate for >600 kWh is the same for domestic and home user tariffs. If you use less than 600 kWh you will be paying more on the home user tariff due to the fixed fee structure.

Example – Typical family home (800 kWh per month)

Cape Town Example Graph

 

 

6 Ways To Slash Your Electricity Bill This Winter

By | Energy Partners in the Press | No Comments
Property24 has published these 6 tips, click here to read the original article.

 

Even in a relatively warm country like South Africa, electricity usage skyrockets when winter comes around each year. In addition to this, electricity costs are still on the rise.

Luckily, there are quick, long-term energy saving solutions that homeowners can implement as we go into winter.

Homeowners can use their own discretion as to how much they want to save and invest in energy efficiency, but most will find that even small changes could make a noticeable difference this season.

Cala van der Westhuizen, Head of Marketing and Sales at Energy Partners Home Solutions, shares tips on how homeowners can save electricity this winter.

 

1  Mind the lights

LED Lights

One of the first things you can do is to replace all your conventional bulbs with highly efficient LED lighting. These typically require a tenth of the energy needed to power conventional bulbs.

Learning to better manage lighting can have a measurable effect on a household’s electricity spend. This is especially evident during winter, when the sun rises later and sets earlier.

One of the first things you can do is to replace all your conventional bulbs with highly efficient LED lighting. These typically require a tenth of the energy needed to power conventional bulbs.

Secondly, it is important to remember to only keep the lights on in the rooms that you use.

For those who are so inclined, take efficient lighting even further with intelligent circuits that automatically switch off lights in unused rooms.

2  Insulation is key

Double Glazing Windows

For the homeowner with money to invest, double glazing for windows and sliding doors is the next step.

Insulation is a low-cost measure with the biggest impact on reducing energy consumption.

Make sure that the home’s ceilings are properly insulated, and seal cracks or gaps in windowsills and door frames. For the homeowner with money to invest, double glazing for windows and sliding doors is the next step.

 

3  Heating water

Water heating accounts for over half of the average home’s electricity spend.

During winter, the amount of energy needed to heat water increases since regular geysers are not efficient at keeping heat from escaping.

Insulate exposed hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and turn down the geyser’s maximum temperature to 60 degrees celsius (from 50 degrees celsius in summer). This still provides enough hot water for the home, while using less energy.

You can stretch your savings even further by investing in a heat pump and hot water storage system. The system uses about a third of the total energy that would be used with a conventional geyser, and loses less than 3 degrees celsius during a 24-hour cycle even if placed outside.

The system can cut the home’s electricity costs by an estimated 50%.

 

4  Heating the home

Heaters account for a substantial portion of the home’s electricity spend. One of the quickest remedies is to replace all conventional heaters with wall heaters.

In a properly insulated home, these use significantly less energy while maintaining a comfortable temperature.

Installing a modern fireplace is also one of the best ways to quickly and cheaply heat a home.

 

5  Don’t forget your laundry

Laundry

It is best to view a dryer as something you should only indulge in on occasion. Try to only do laundry on sunny days or lighten the load with an energy efficient dryer.

A tumble dryer is often a lifesaver during winter, especially in areas with winter rainfall. However, running a dryer for two hours a day, five days a week adds another R240 to the average Pretoria or Cape Town home’s monthly electricity bill.

It is best to view a dryer as something you should only indulge in on occasion. Try to only do laundry on sunny days or lighten the load with an energy efficient dryer.

 

 

 

6  Go all out

ICON

A homeowner can opt for a complete integrated solution, like Energy Partners Home Solutions’ ICON Home Energy Hub and photovoltaic (PV) system. This can reduce a home’s yearly electricity costs by as much as 80%.

Finally, a homeowner can opt for a complete integrated solution, like Energy Partners Home Solutions’ ICON Home Energy Hub and photovoltaic (PV) system. This can reduce a home’s yearly electricity costs by as much as 80%.

While a complete system could cost upwards of R80 000, there are financing options available to bring these systems within the reach of qualifying homeowners.

With each passing winter becoming more and more expensive, homeowners need to adopt an energy-saving mindset at every available opportunity.

World Environment Day: Innovations For Greener Homes

By | Energy Partners Knowledge Base | No Comments
World Environment Day on 5 June is about encouraging worldwide awareness for the need to preserve and enhance the environment. With carbon dioxide emissions continuing to be a major environmental concern, we decided to take a look at some of the most interesting advances in green building which might just change the construction industry for the better.

 

Recycled paper bricks

 

University of Pretoria student, Elijah Djan was only 11 years old when he invented Nubrix, a brick made from waste paper. With only about 5% of South African households recycling their waste paper, the other 95% are sending theirs to the already overflowing landfills, the environmental benefits of this product are clear.

Djan is now turning Nubrix into a business. While more durability tests need to be done, he has subjected his waste-paper bricks to rain and compression tests, and built a Nubrix wall that’s still standing a year later. The hope is that in the near future there will be a very real drive towards sustainable innovation from both government and the building sector.

 

Bird-friendly glass

 

GlasPro UV glass makes man-made structures safer for birds. About two-thirds of South Africa is urbanised, and a wide variety of bird species are attempting to survive in these unnatural and dangerous new habits. Reflective, transparent materials such as windows cause hazardous collisions that kill millions of birds every year.

GlasPro has come up with a simple, yet effective innovation to keep them: bird-friendly glass coated with UV liquid that makes it visible to birds, which will substantially reduce the number of injured birds in urban areas. Human eyes cannot detect the UV coating, so it also does not reduce visibility from our perspective.

 

Buildings made of wood

 

Constructing any conventional home or commercial building requires tons of aluminium, steel, clay bricks and cement. There are many ways to marginally reduce the carbon footprint of these components but their manufacture has always been less than sustainable.

Architects in the United States are now exploring a new kind of structure built entirely from timber. Wood is by no means a new building material, but new innovations have once again made it relevant to modern building.

Researchers are combining new super-strong plywood, with precision digital CNC manufacturing processes to build timber structures that will rival conventional brick-and-mortar buildings very soon. While the costs of buildings like this are still high, one example of this is already here. An 18-story dormitory in Vancouver called Brock Commons, which finished construction late in last year, is the tallest timber structure in the world.

 

Modern twist on old practices

 

Researchers in Sweden have devised a way to adapt the so-called Trombe wall, a solar building design from the 19th century. This new take on an old idea can help to not only passively heat but also cool buildings, without increasing carbon emissions.

A Trombe wall is a passive solar building design that is built on the winter sun side of a building with a glass external layer and a high heat capacity internal layer separated by a layer of air. This serves to heat the entire building in cold months.

The new design, unveiled by researchers earlier this year, uses renewable wind and solar energy to generate both cooling and heating in buildings. The adjustments have also eliminated the original Trombe wall problem with overheating, which in turn has drastically reduced the total energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Constructing these walls is also sustainable, with prototypes already having been built with stone, wood and even wool. Researchers have hailed the new design of Trombe wall, as one of the best ways to meet the increasing energy demands of modern homes and commercial buildings without increasing carbon emissions.

Beyond installing state-of-the-art photovoltaic, water heating and lighting solutions, sustainable building practices offer some of the best ways to bring new structures ever closer to being carbon neutral.

Property 24 has featured this article. Read it here.