Starting from 1 April 2024, prepaid electricity prices have increased by 12,74%, resulting in an average electricity tariff rise from around R1.84 per kWh to approximately R2.07.

With households averaging 350kWh per month, South Africans are now expected to pay in the region of R724.50 monthly- up from R644.

This adjustment does not take into account municipal increases which typically come into effect from 1 July and range from 14% in eThekwini to 18% in Johannesburg. Worse still, the amount could be even higher depending not only on how much electricity is used, but when.

This is according to Dr Andrew Dickson, engineering executive at CBI-electric: low voltage, who warns that this increase, compounded by rising inflation and potential fuel price hikes, will strain consumer budgets even further.

“With households already allocating around 14% of their income to electricity, proactive measures are essential to not only save money, but electricity too.”

He shares 10 ways that people can do this by using smart home technologies to monitor, control and automate electrical appliances:

* Knowledge is power: If you don’t know how much electricity your appliances are using, you won’t be able to reduce your consumption. For example, a pool pump uses approximately 0.75 kWh of electricity per hour. Leaving it on for 24 hours could cost homeowners R37.26 per day when the new rate per kWh is applied. Over the space of a year, pool pumps could exceed R13 500 in electricity costs. With smart home tech however, users can monitor how much connected appliances are consuming to identify areas for improvement.

* Keep loads low: The load management capabilities of some home automation systems can help users ensure that only one heavy load-consuming appliance is switched on at any given moment, thereby ensuring optimal energy distribution.

* Set limits: Users can specify the operating duration of appliances, like running the geyser for two hours to save electricity while ensuring a hot bath.

* Schedule appliance switch-on: With consumers paying up to 703.73c/kWh during peak periods, smart home technologies give users the ability to schedule when appliances turn on or off. This can be done at specific times and on particular days. For example, electricity users would only pay 101.37c/kWh if they programmed their washing machine to switch on during off-peak times such as between 10pm and 5am on weekdays.

* Curb consumption in colder months: South Africans also pay more during the high demand season between June and August. Unsurprisingly, this coincides with winter when we consume more electricity by using heaters, electric blankets and underfloor heating. Smart home devices could be used to determine when they switch on as well as for how long. And while it can be hard to get out of bed on those icy winter mornings, a timer could be set to switch on a heater, so that your bedroom is warm even before you wake up.

* Environmental intelligence: Many of these technologies can react to environmental conditions such as weather or the setting and rising of the sun, enabling them to automatically switch specific loads on or off under these conditions. So, if a rainy day is detected for instance, one’s irrigation system can be preprogrammed to not switch on. This not only saves electricity, but water too, which can lower the total municipal bill.

* Remote control: Worried you left a device switched on? Smart home technologies allow users to turn connected appliances off from their smartphone and/or tablet from anywhere in the world. They can also use this capability to switch items on. To illustrate, they could turn their lights on before they get home from work in the evening.

* Don’t just standby: When in standby mode, electronic goods like microwaves, computers, televisions, coffee machines, gaming consoles and even garage door openers can consume even more electricity than when they are in use as they are only active for relatively short periods. While the obvious solution would be to unplug all non-essential appliances when inactive, smart home tech lets users switch off any items that are pulling power unnecessarily.

* Incorporate renewable energy sources: With some South Africans turning to rooftop solar to mitigate the impacts of load shedding (and possibly the electricity price increases too), smart home technology enables the effortless integration of these alternative power sources. For instance, the tech could be used to connect and disconnect from the grid as well as to ensure that the power produced by solar PV systems is used effectively and efficiently.

* Avoid additional expenses: TrendER/infoQuest research reveals that three out of four South Africans experienced damage or destruction to at least one home appliance due to load shedding last year. To protect their appliances from voltage fluctuations that result from power outages, users can set a minimum and maximum ‘safe operating voltage range’. If the voltage is unstable, the technology will monitor voltage levels and only allow power to the appliance once this is within a safe operating range.

“Contrary to popular belief, homeowners won’t need to rewire their homes to enjoy the benefits of smart home technologies. Devices like smart plugs, isolators and controllers can easily be installed by an electrician without the need for additional wiring or hubs,” points out Dr Dickson.

“With the cost of living set to increase over 2024, now is the time for South Africans to put the power in their hands and save in areas that they can control.”