There are many ways to ensure energy efficiency in your home, and the small things you do will make a big difference to your bills.
Some money-savers are more expensive and might require you replacing appliances.
Walls, doors, windows, appliances and white goods, such as your television, CD player, washing machine and fridge, are the main culprits that waste energy and cost you money.
Energy-efficient lightbulbs and fluorescent lights use less power than ordinary bulbs, and fluorescent lights also provide more light.
Here are the areas that waste the most energy and inflate electricity bills:
If your home has cavity walls that are not insulated, you are literally throwing away money. More heat is lost through walls than any other way. The only real solution is to properly insulate the walls. First you have to find out if your house has cavity walls.
Cavity wall insulation is quick to install, clean and relatively inexpensive. It is injected into the cavity between the inner and outer leaves of the brickwork that makes up the external wall.
Cavity wall insulation is not too expensive and should pay for itself within three to five years.
Remember, it won't cost you a thing to close your curtains a little earlier than usual, yet it will definitely save you money on your heating bills.
These are among the worst offenders of energy waste in the home.
The life span of the average geyser is between 10 and 15 years and making the wrong decision about what geyser to buy could mean a lot of money being wasted.
A geyser that is between 10 and 15 years old is likely to be less efficient.
If your geyser is getting on a bit, replacing it with a new, high efficiency geyser with the right heat output will save you about a third on your heating bills immediately.
If your geyser is 15 years old or more, or needs a major repair, it would be best to replace it.
Similarly, if you're refitting the kitchen or bathroom, you can minimise cost and disruption by fitting a new high efficiency condensing geyser.
It is sometimes difficult to tell if your appliances are wasting energy because even a brand new appliance isn't necessarily energy efficient.
The best way to tell if an appliance is energy efficient is to look for a logo or marking that indicates an energy efficiency rating.
Appliances currently use international ratings, but a South African energy efficiency certification system is in the pipeline.
Energy efficient appliances that are between 10 and 15 years old are likely to be less efficient.
Energy efficient appliances really do make a big difference when it comes to saving money. For example, an energy efficient washing machine will use a third less electricity for each wash and could save you more money over its lifetime than the cost of the machine itself.
Tips on saving energy
lFluorescent lights use less power and provide more light than ordinary bulbs. One 80 watt fluorescent tube provides the same light as a 150 watt lightbulb.
l Do not wash dishes under a running tap.
l If you are going away for more than two days, switch off your geyser.
l Block gaps under your doors to stop drafts.
l Avoid leaving appliances such as television sets, video machines, stereos, computers, and cordless telephones on standby and remember not to leave them to charge unnecessarily. First check the operation manual to make sure that this won't reset the appliance's memory.
l Even your kettle can save you money if you only heat the amount of water you need.
l Effective temperature control will save you money if you maintain a comfortable temperature instead of blasting air-conditioning or heating on and off all the time.
l Shower more than you bath because an ordinary shower only uses one-fifth of the hot water used in a regular bath.
l Cooking with a microwave or an electric frying pan uses less energy than a conventional oven.
l Save energy when cooking by choosing a pan that is the right size for the ring and keep the lids on when cooking.
l Don't wait for it to get dark - close your curtains at dusk to keep heat in and save on heating costs.
l Stop draughts and heat escaping through floorboards and skirting boards by filling gaps with newspaper, beading or sealant.
l Make sure your windows are draught proofed. A low cost, short-term alternative to double- glazing is to tape polythene across window frames.
l Turn your thermostat down by one degree. It could cut your heating bills by up to 10 percent.
l Hot water does not have to be scalding. For most people, setting the cylinder thermostat at 60C is fine for bathing and washing.
l Always put the plug in your basin or sink.
l Always turn lights off when you leave a room and adjust your curtains or blinds to let in as much light as possible during the day.
l Don't leave the fridge door open for longer than necessary because cold air will escape.
l Avoid putting hot or warm food straight into the fridge - rather allow it to cool down first.
l Defrost your fridge regularly to keep it running efficiently and cheaply. If the fridge tends to frost up quickly, check the door seal. Avoid placing your fridge next to a cooker or geyser.
l Always wash a full load in your washing machine. If you can't, use a half-load or economy programme. Always use a low temperature programme.
l Don't put very wet clothes into a tumble dryer - wring out the clothes or spin-dry everything first.
l Try and use the low temperature programme on your dishwasher and ensure you wash a full load.
l An insulating blanket on your geyser will pay for itself in one year or less.
l If you have a water bed, make your bed as soon as you get out of it - the covers will insulate it and save up to one-third of the energy it uses.
l Use energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers. - www.citypower.co.za