Eskom has recently applied to administer a tariff increase of 16% annually for the next five years, an increase that will overtake most South Africans’ wage increases. The increased electricity cost will also send the prices of food and other living expenses soaring – making it increasingly important for those buying orrenting property to reprioritize the features they require in a home.

No longer is it viable to only consider whether the property has features like a pool or a spa bath, it is now more important to consider whether the home has energy-saving efficiencies in place like a gas-stove, a solar water heater or heat pumps in order to stem the tide of ever-increasing electricity bills. Buyers now need to start considering – other than the usual: location, location, location! -  the energy-saving capabilities of their new home as a priority when making their decision.

Rescuing the average South African’s household budget now means employing some financial sense when it comes to household functionalities like the installation of back-up generators, energy-efficient showerheads as well as other energy-saving appliances. Each and every measure that is taken in the home to reduce energy consumption will start making a significant difference to a household’s monthly electricity bill.

The other measure potential buyers can take is to allocate a portion of the budget they have for their new home to installing energy-saving appliances, which will translate into immediate cost savings and add re-sale value to your home. The bonus here is that in order to reduce your home’s energy consumption, fairly simple and cheap changes can be made. For around a thousand rand, for instance, you will be able to install an energy-efficient showerhead as well as a geyser blanket and compact fluorescent lamps which use six times less power than normal incandescent bulbs.

More costly options that will increase your home’s energy proficiency include the installation of high quality ceiling insulation that will keep your home up to 5 degrees warmer in winter and 10 degrees cooler in summer, which contributes to a substantial power saving when it comes to the use of heaters, fans and air-conditioning. Another ‘invest to save’ option is the installation of solar water heating systems which in conjunction with suitable insulation can reduce electricity usage by as much as 50%.

Cape Town is pioneering the ‘green’ residential programme by slowly replacing all existing electric geysers with the solar-powered water heaters – an agenda which may be extended to the rest of South Africa’s provinces. One of the ways that this project will make the switch easier for people is by the use of Cape Town’s billing system – allowing people to pay for the solar water heaters through their consolidated rates bill. The idea here is that recipients will not have to fork out an initial outlay for the Heater, and the monthly payments on the account will most likely cost no more than the amount the Heater will spare in savings as a result of power not being used to heat the electric geyser. This may be an incredibly attractive solution when electricity tariffs continue to increase – as the solar water heaters will then result in increasingly evident savings.

Thus, while consumers may not be able to do anything about the increasing electricity prices, they are able to utilize alternative energy in order to reduce household running costs as well as add value and re-sale credibility to their biggest asset – their home.

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