Load shedding is sweeping across South Africa, bringing darkness, frustration and major disruptions to all households.
When the lights dim and electrical appliances shudder to a halt, you know you’ve been struck by the scourge of rotational load shedding. Productivity stops for a few hours – costing the South African economy billions of rands – leaving citizens in a precarious position. This is all thanks to Eskom, the national power utility, which, through a number of calamitous miscalculations, has been unable to meet the country’s electricity demands.
The damage done by load shedding
The ominous reintroduction of Stage 4 load shedding has seriously debilitated the nation, with some unfortunate households being cut from the power grid for up to nine hours a day. The effects of these rolling blackouts are far reaching, encompassing financial loss, damage to appliances and a general frustration which is swiftly approaching a fever pitch.
Despite assurances from President Cyril Ramaphosa and his
numerous task teams employed to quell Eskom’s operational incompetence, it
seems likely that load shedding will, at the most inopportune moment, return to
disrupt the lives of South Africans. Until the situation at Eskom improves,
citizens are forced to live with the reality of load shedding, uncomfortable as
it may be.
Luckily, there are a few gadgets available on the market which have the propensity to make life a bit more bearable during the severe strain of rotational load shedding. While most citizens would love to get off the power grid altogether, the sheer costs involved in setting up a fully functioning renewable energy system are just too great for the majority of South Africans.
If you’ve got the money to invest in solar panels and diesel generators; go for it. If you’re just trying to see out the dark times on a budget, take a look at the following gadgets; they won’t break the bank, and they’ll be able to get you through a few hours of powerlessness.
Surge protector plug
The simplest and cheapest gadget on this list is a must have
during these dark times. Electrical appliances take a massive beating from rotational
load shedding; the constant on-off drastically diminishes the life expectancy
of many appliances.
While you’re advised to turn off all plugs prior to load shedding, for many people and appliances this simply isn’t feasible. Electrical surges, usually experienced when the power comes back online, has the propensity to fry electronics. To better protect your most valuable appliances, you’ll need to get a surge resistant plug.
These plugs ease the electrical load back into your
appliances, effectively mitigating the surge of electricity. These plugs are
available at most electronic and hardware stores and are unlikely to set you
back more than R250 for a single socket (recommended above the multiplug
Compact gas stove
Even in darkness, humans still need to eat, and we like our
cooked food. Unless you already have an independent gas stove, you’re going to
need a source of heat to get the job done. Luckily, compact gas burning stoves –
intended for camping trips – are perfect in times of load shedding.
These single burner canister stove can cook and heat up food
in minutes. They’re portable and require no electricity.
The cast aluminium burner is robust and includes a variable heat control system. It’s powered by an EN417 approved 220g butane canister, which can be purchased at most hardware stores and garages. This nifty little stove from Alva only costs R300, and will, at least, keep you fed during blackouts.
Simple solar lighting system
If you’re hit by load shedding at night, which, at Stage 4,
is a great possibility, you’ll need some light. While you could invest in
battery operated lights, or even rechargeable ones, it’s better to go with a
dual-charge solar option for two reasons. One, the dual system allows you to charge
the battery pack via the grid, if it’s a particularly cloudy day and, two, the
sun won’t charge you for the power you use.
The most common system uses a 9V 3-7W solar panel, which
comes with three LED lightbulbs and a torch built in the rechargeable battery
pack. Using the solar panel, it takes about 13 hours to charge the battery to
full capacity. According to the product suppliers, one full charge will be able
to keep things lit for at least eight hours – long enough to see you through a
serious bout of load shedding.
These simple solar lighting sets retail for about R700 – with sets containing stronger lights and batteries naturally costing a bit more. The battery pack can also charge cell phones and tablets.
Solar Power Bank
Despite darkness, we need to stay in contact with one
another and, as humans, we need to be entertained. That’s a hard task when
there’s no electricity – it’s even harder when, in darkness, our cell phone
batteries, under increased use, hover in the red zone. There’s only one way to
ensure consistent usage through recharging during load shedding and that’s by
using a heavy-duty power bank – preferably one that is powered by the sun.
As is the case with most solar systems, the power-bank can
be charged via the grid, but that’s not of much use when the grid is offline.
The 10000mAh solar power bank can charge two devices simultaneously. Naturally,
power banks have a limited lifespan and can only provide a certain amount of
charges. Still, for around R700, a solar power bank means you don’t have to
rely on Eskom and can likely see out periods of protracted load shedding.
Portable thermo cooler
Load shedding is ruining the food in fridges, infuriating homeowners
and driving up grocery bills. If you have a gas fridge-freezer, you’re in luck.
For most people, when the electric cuts, defrosting ensues. There is one
workaround to ensure that your most valued groceries stay cool.
A portable thermo cooler – originally intended for camping –
sips a small amount of electricity, which it can gather from a car input or
simple UPS system. Most of these coolers run off of 12V, perfect for plugging
into your car. For about R750 you can pick up a reliable 24 litre cooler, which
can keep your food out of the bin during extended electrical cuts.
UPS power supply
It’s the most expensive item on this list but, also, the
most versatile. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system charges off the
grid and as soon as the electricity goes off it switches on to power your most
valuable electrical appliances.
These battery systems come in various shapes and sizes, yet
they all do the same thing. Naturally, more powerful systems – which are able
to power more appliances – can be heavy on your pocket. But to keep your laptop
and Wi-Fi alive for a couple of hours, you don’t need to break the bank. Work
doesn’t need to stop when the lights go down.
A reliable 500VA 300W UPS system can be bought for under a thousand rand. It won’t be able to power your television, microwave or fridge, but you will be able to charge your mobile phone and laptop. It can also keep your wireless router going and as long as your line doesn’t go down with load shedding, you should still be able to access the internet.
Afraid of the dark? You can check to see how your area will be affected by viewing the load shedding schedule.
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