Homeowners and home seekers have more to worry about than the current state of the property market. The cost of running a household, in spite of cheaper mortgages due to anticipated interest rate cuts, will take off this year. The cost of services, most of which we take for granted, could add another 20 percent to the family budget as national government, provincial governments and municipalities all scramble for more revenue to meet demands on their purse strings.
The State?s infrastructural plans are a major burden for this emerging economy. Already the contractors for the new stadiums are way over budget ? and warning that further costs are ahead.
But World Cup projects are only one item on the massive infrastructural programme. Billions are being spent on upgrading road networks, on airports, on housing, on sewage and water treatment plants, on health facilities, on schools, on ports and transport. And then there is Eskom, which has dithered for a decade and is now trying to play catch-up.
Price increases for electricity and petrol
Consumers can expect price increases for electricity (those who actually pay for it) of between 14 and 20 percent in the near future, with more to come.
This leads me to fuel prices. We have happily benefited from fuel price cuts over the past six or seven months as the international oil price fell steadily. But I can?t see that trend lasting, even as we start to come out of the northern hemisphere winter. Already, at the beginning February and March petrol went up and the fuel levy is yet to increase.
Of course, there will be other utilities which will impose increased charges. Most noticeable are municipal rates, water and public transport.
So, what can the ordinary household do to reduce the bills?
- Fuel consumption
We can all use less water. What?s wrong with showering with your spouse? Seriously, use less bath water; install some simple plumbing to enable you to use grey water for irrigating the garden (and plant vegetables). The same with rainwater ? catch it off the roof in tanks. If affordable, dig a well point or a borehole.
A home?s single largest electricity expense is heating water ? probably accounting for 30 to 40 percent of the electricity account. So install a geyser blanket and time switch.
Shower rather than bathe; in a bath 12 centimetres of water represents half the content of a 3000 watt geyser.
To learn more about saving electricity when heating water, read 'Heat water, not the sky!' Another big consumer of electricity is the swimming pool (probably around 20 percent). Reduce filter operating time to that recommended by the manufacturer or your local pool maintenance company.
In terms of lighting, fluorescent lamps are more economical as are the new low energy light bulbs. Remember, the wattage of a bulb is not the measure of the amount of light it gives, but rather the energy it uses. For example, a 100 watt bulb gives 50 percent more light than four 25 watt bulbs.
For more information on saving electricity used for lighting, read 'Bright as a button'.
Kitchens and laundries are the key to saving electricity. Using small appliances instead of a stove can save energy. Use an electric kettle to boil water, not a saucepan or a microwave.
Dishwasher energy consumption can be reduced by turning off the dishwasher after the final rinse and before the drying cycle.
Some don?ts on the electric stove: do not use the grill to make toast ? it?s very expensive. Don?t use the oven to heat the kitchen. Do choose a stove with a convection oven. It uses less energy and cooking time is substantially reduced.
Microwave ovens are fine to cook small quantities of food. To cook large quantities of meat it?s better to use a conventional oven. Defrost your food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave ? it?s more economical.
Washing machines and tumble driers are big energy consumers. A front loading machine uses less water and costs less to operate even though the initial price may be higher than a top loader. The automatic washing machine uses the same amount of electricity for a full load as it consumes for a single item. And never overload the machine.
Tumble dryers equipped with an electronic humidity control are the most efficient. Never overload or under load a tumble dryer and always remove as much moisture from clothes as you can before placing them in the machine. Use correct temperature settings.
Also useful to know is that an iron uses as much energy as ten 100 watt light bulbs. Switch your iron off before you are finished and complete the ironing on stored energy.
In terms of heating, infrared heaters are more efficient than other systems. Interestingly, they will warm the people in the room rather than the space. Electric blankets consume little energy ? warm the bed before climbing in then switch off.
Your refrigerator uses more electricity than all other kitchen appliances and can account for 15 percent of a home?s electricity consumption. To keep it fresh for less, follow the tips in 'Keep it fresh for less'.
You'll save a not so small fortune by reading '$100 oil. What, me worry?' and following the advice.
If you like living on the edge, click here (at your own risk!) to learn about a new craze among US drivers to employ techniques to achieve mindboggling fuel consumption figures.