Winter is definitely here, and the sub-polar weather conditions of the last few days have brought freezing temperatures (and even snow) to Gauteng and other parts of the country. As is the case every winter, household electricity usage skyrockets with the use of indoor heating as families attempt to warm homes ultimately designed to keep them cool in the sweltering summers. Unfortunately, loadshedding due to a shortage of generation capacity is more of a reality in winter, as the demand for electricity outstrips the supply.
Power constraints cause massive inconvenience, especially when loadshedding is sudden and unexpected (as was the case with Stage 6 loadshedding implemented earlier this week). The power utility continues to urge consumers to “reduce the usage of electricity in order to help ease the pressure on the power system” and “to switch off heaters, geysers, pool pumps …” during loadshedding “to enable the load to settle first” and avoid overloading when power is restored. However, this is easier said than done when loadshedding coincides with a cold front.
Coping with Loadshedding in Winter
Make certain that you are in fact experiencing scheduled loadshedding by checking the City Power website or social media platforms like Twitter, where outages and maintenance are frequently communicated. Members of your neighbourhood or street WhatsApp group will also be able to provide insight into whether loadshedding is scheduled for your area or if the power failure is due to an unplanned outage (for example, as a result of damage to a substation or unexpected maintenance). Contact City Power to log issues in your area on 0860562874.
Eskom announces the loadshedding schedule hours and sometimes even days in advance. While high demand and urgent maintenance may effect changes to the schedule at the last minute, in order to replenish emergency reserves, insofar as possible consumers are given at least some forewarning to adequately prepare – this includes charging all electronic devices, ensuring torches and lanterns are fully charged and within reach, and making alternative arrangements for meal times (if cooking requires the use of electronic appliances). If loadshedding for your area falls over dinnertime and interferes with your cooking, prepare your meals in advance, plan your meal around the loadshedding schedule for that evening, have an impromptu braai, or order take-out. For up-to-date information on planned loadshedding by block and suburb visit the City Power website or download the loadshedding app EskomSePush.
Switch Off and Unplug:
Ensure all appliances and lights are switched off so that the circuits are not overloaded when the power is restored. Take the time to ready your home for a power cut several minutes before it is scheduled, particularly if it is scheduled in the evening and set to return during the night. The last thing anyone wants is to have to climb out of a warm bed at midnight to switch off all the lights that have come back on with the power. Make certain that large appliances such as stoves and electric heaters are switched off, as having these on unattended for prolonged periods are a danger to you and your family. As stated above, power to certain areas may fail to return during loadshedding restorations due to inrush current, caused by overloading when power is restored. There is nothing more frustrating than anticipating the return of power at the end of the allotted timeslot, only to remain in the dark for hours due to consumers overloading the network. Switch off all non-essential appliances.
If a planned outage is scheduled for the evening, ensure you are ready. Curtains act as insulators - keep them open during the day to make the most of the available winter sunlight but close them to retain the heat when the temperature begins to drop and the sun goes down. Warm up the main living area by switching on the heater or underfloor heating for 30 minutes prior to loadshedding and close exterior windows and the doors to unoccupied rooms to prevent the warm air from escaping. Have plenty of warm blankets on hand and boil the kettle before the power outage to fill hot water bottles for the little ones or to warm the family up with a hot drink. Being prepared for the cold and dark will also go a long way in reassuring young children who are afraid or unsettled by it. Gas and paraffin heaters are an effective way to efficiently heat a room during a power outage, but precautions should be taken. Heaters should be placed well away from any flammables or furniture and should never be left unattended.
Make the Most of it:
Loadshedding is a fact of life for South Africans, but the forced time away from screens and gadgets can be viewed in a positive light. Make the most of the fact that screentime is limited by spending quality time with your loved ones; enjoying a candlelit dinner together, playing board games, and engaging in family discussions.