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Using the Elements To Your Advantage

On a recent trip to England to see family, I was astounded by the number of renewable resource power generators that abound. There are many wind farms, some even offshore in the English Channel, and solar farms are dotted all around the countryside. I mean, this is ENGLAND – not a country associated with much sun!!! My point is, that if a country like England, with its relatively few annual days of sunshine compared to South Africa, can generate enough power from the sun to assist its national power production, why can’t we, with our abundance of sunny days, harvest this free, renewable, non-carbon burning resource? It is really something that I do not understand. And just think of the people in the rural areas having their own local source of electricity without the cost of getting onto the national grid. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE!!!

What got me started on my tirade? The sun, of course, and how many of our advertisers use the sun and the other elements to generate business and to make life more comfortable for our readers. The heat from the sun not only can be harnessed - it also needs to be controlled at times, and that is what this month’s article is all about. Hopefully it will motivate you to think how your life could be improved by any of the products below.

Solar water heating has been around for a long time in Durban, and there are suppliers of the suitable equipment – a PV system - to go „off the grid“ (though you wiill always be connected to Eskom for those days that the sun doesn’t shine.) If that is out of your reach at the moment, a solar water geyser will use less electricity and at the same time, save you money. The geyser is the highest consumer of power on your electricity bill, so it makes economic sense to convert to solar heating. (Just remember, your solar panels should always face North, or as close to that as possible, for optimum sun ray gathering.) Thermal wrapping of the geyser and the hot water pipes is another highly effective and affordable energy-saving product.

A geyser timer will also reduce your power consumption and is a low cost item that can help you make substantial savings on electricity.

As opposed to using the heat of the sun, we also need products to control that heat to make life more pleasant. We in KZN are blessed with year-round great weather but there are times when we need a bit of relief from the sun.

Awnings come in many forms and materials. From shadecloth to aluminium, from carports to patio conversions, from adjustable to solid – there is something to suit your needs and your budget. They do not only protect you and your property from the sun, but also provide shelter from rain and hail. And don’t forget, a solid awning with gutters can also be incorporated into your rain-harvesting system, so you are winning on both counts.

Roof insulation is a way to control the temperature inside your home and can make a difference of between 4 and 8o. Insulation will not only cool your house down in summer it is also effective in keeping your house warmer in winter. Some types of insulation also have fire retarding ratings and can help in noise reduction.

Extractor fans are commonly used in the kitchen to remove cooking smells but are effective in drawing hot air out of the ceiling cavity, and humidity out of the bathroom. In Durban’s highly humid conditions, mould is an ever present problem and an extractor fan will keep the air circulating.

Airconditioning is the ultimate in temperature control, and in Durban’s high humidity months, an absolute blessing. Modern air conditioners are not the power guzzlers that they used to be and, in the cooler months, can be used as a much safer and cheaper alternative to warming your home than electric, gas or oil heaters.

Skylights. It is so much better to have natural light in a dark passage or hallway than electric light, (especially with the ghastly light that is produced by the new energy-saving light bulbs) and I personally would love to have a bathroom „open“ to the sky - it would be like having an outdoor shower but without the chill in the air! Skylights also vary in structure, from the tubular type (which can have an in-built light fitting for night time use), to the canopy type - domed or flat, to maximise the amount of light exposure.

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