Generators are a quick – if pricey – fix when the lights go out. But is a generator really best for your needs?
Energy expert Roger Bulgin of Mr Power has installed a few backup systems in his time and is well versed in what’s needed. Based on his experience, he lists and debunks some loadshedding myths below – and the moral of the story seems to be that you need to get smart before you even think about getting a generator. Bulgin recommends a basic power-audit to prioritise needs and make an educated decision.
Here’s what he considers to be the most common loadshedding myths:
1. MYTH: My whole home needs power
THE TRUTH: not everything needs back up power during an average four-hour outage. Arrange the list below in order of importance and rank them regarding whether in regard to each one you must have power, would like power or don’t need power. In Mr Power’s experience, light, food, communication and entertainment are usually at the top of the list.
Item to be powered Wattage Required
Air conditioner 1 000 – 2 000
Cellphone 2 – 6
Desktop PC and monitor 200
Dishwasher 1 000
DVD player 30 – 50
Fridge/freezer (newer models) 100 – 200
Garage door 200
Geyser 3 000 – 4 000
Hairdryer 500 – 1 500
Hot plate 1 500 – 2 000
Kettle 2 000
Pool pump 1 000
Satellite decoder 100
Single CFL or filament lamp or globe 20 – 100
Single LED lamp or globe 5
Sound system 200
Stove 2 000
Toaster 800 – 1 500
Tumble dryer 300
TV 100 – 300
Washing machine 1 000
2. MYTH: Food in the fridge will perish during loadshedding.
THE TRUTH: As long as you limit opening and closing the door, the temperature will not suffer dramatically and the food will be safe for eating
3. MYTH: During a power failure I will have to shower or bath in cold water.
THE TRUTH: Provided that your geyser was heated prior to load shedding you will have between 150 and 200 litres of hot water available. An average shower uses 20-40 litres of hot water. With a more efficient showerhead you can reduce this by 40 %. A dedicated geyser controller will ensure that the water is heated during off-peak times and can save up to 60 % of your monthly hot water costs
4. MYTH: I can’t cook without electricity
THE TRUTH: explore a gas option – either a gas hob for your stove or a more simple portable plate connected to a gas cylinder. If all else fails, you could braai.
5. MYTH: If the power fails unexpectedly, I will return after work to a dark home
THE TRUTH: Create a list of which lighting, exactly, is a necessity, then research cost-effective alternatives such as solar lights, battery operated globes and, of course, the good old-fashioned candle. Plug-in emergency lights, strategically placed, are ideal for unanticipated power outages.
6. MYTH: I can’t read or watch TV without power and can’t entertain my family.
THE TRUTH: Based on Mr Power’s calculations above, it is easy to keep your entertainment centre going with a backup inverter (whether it be TV or internet based) as it draws around 500 watts
7. MYTH: I must have a generator.
THE TRUTH: Your power needs could probably be solved using an inverter solution whereby you simply plug the emergency power supply into the wall socket and the items you need to run are plugged into the back of the unit.
8. MYTH: installing and having a generator is easy.
THE TRUTH: A generator is expensive, requires regular maintenance and can be costly to run. A 30 kW generator uses up to 8 litres of fuel per hour – that’s around R100 per hour. They are noisy and need to be located in a well ventilated and easily accessible location. Also, it’s vital to remember to switch off (or unplug) all appliances immediately when the power goes off, either at the plug or electricity board. This will protect them from the surge of power when the electricity comes back on again. Preparation is vital; that includes family or business “loadshedding drills”.