Couch Cat: Power is too expensive, embrace the dark!

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

My electricity bill has long been climbing for unknown reasons and it is putting me into the poor house fast. In a few more months, we will be using candles for light at night, grilling our food and heating water outside on the braai.

With earning prospects dimmed, looking hard at every expenditure is no longer an option. For years now, I have reduced power drains severely. There is no more swimming pool pump, no more dishwasher, the geyser is off during the day and most of the night, and no more dryer. And yet, my bill for electricity is getting higher and not lower.

For four years I have asked the city to come to inspect the electricity box in my house. Twice they took my money and no one ever came. Repeated calls and visits to follow-up only lead to a parade of faces who cannot find our previous payments on the computer and no work order has been submitted to the private electricians to whom the city outsources the work. And so we languish, paying up to N$2,400 per month just for electricity alone! This is unsustainable.

Now, with the last huge bill during the lockdown month, we will have to sacrifice the washing machine too. We are experimenting this month with not using it at all. I suspect that the older machine is eating up more than its fair share of power. Buying a new machine is not an option right now, so it’s back to the bathtub and handwashing, then hanging clothes out to dry, the old fashioned way.

If you are having the same electricity price funding woes as I am, here is what I suggest. First, curse the City of Windhoek that is robbing all of us blind.

Then, take a look at what eats up the most power. If you cannot cut that item out of your life, at least make a plan to reduce usage. Never leave the stove or oven on when not in use. Don’t leave the fridge doors open. You could get rid of your extra deep freezer and just use the smaller one connected to your fridge. Use the clothing dryer only for heavy items; retire older machines. Give up on hair dryers or do not do your hair every day. If you can get a new, modern washer and dryer, do so. They are made to economize on water or electricity usage.

Throw away those old irons or anything that sparks when you plug it in. Forget about room heaters, buy heavier blankets and wear thick socks in the house, it’s cheaper. In the winter, I use a gas heater in the family room where I spend most of my time in the evenings. The gas now costs N$311 for 9kg canister. But, with careful usage, that lasts me about four weeks.

Of course, not leaving lights on in rooms is a must, but lights do not eat up that much power. I unplug any equipment not in use at the moment as they still draw power for internal clocks or small lights.

Take frozen meat out in the night and put it into the fridge. That way, you need not use the microwave defroster to thaw it out. I have no evidence, but I think that burns more power.

I have motion lights outside the house in the garden rather than lights that stay on all night. In the darker parts of the lower garden I used solar lights. They come on after sunset. In the winter, they run out of juice by 4 am or so. But, they are nifty as you can drive the stake into the dirt where you need to have some small light.

In the drought, I had to be the water police in my house. Now, with a grasping City of Windhoek that pays the mayor and police chief a combined N$550,000+ each month (this is absurd!!), I have to be the power police.

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