Living Guide

Living Guide

Living Guide



This document was researched and compiled by Natalie Mayer and Blake Robinson of the Sustainability Institute (SI) on behalf of Nedbank Limited.

The SI was established in 1999 to promote learning about sustainable living in

South Africa. Located in the Lynedoch EcoVillage near Stellenbosch, the SI focuses on combining practice with theory in a way that integrates ecology and equity in support of a sustainable South Africa, with special reference to reducing and eradicating poverty.

The SI has built a name for itself through its Master’s Programme in Sustainable

Development, which comprises a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Development and a Master of Philosophy degree in Sustainable Development, in partnership with the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University. For more information visit

Photographs of South African homes were featured in Earthworks Magazine

(, and were supplied by Cristoph Hoffmann (House Highveld,

Johannesburg), Danie Nel (House Bezuidenhout, Stellenbosch), Dennis Guichard (House

Indhul, Durban), Donna Lewis (Pringle Bay House, designed by Justin Cooke), Johan van

Loggerenberg (House Muller, East London) and Rob Duker (House Rhino, Port Elizabeth).

Photographs of natural pools were supplied by Eco Pools (

Additional photography by Lionel Henshaw and Luke Metelerkamp.

Results of the My Green Home project were supplied by the Green Building

Council South Africa (

Neither Nedbank Limited nor any of its employees, consultants, contractors or subcontractors (‘Nedbank’) make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the content of this guide, or any third party’s use of, or the results of any use of, any information, apparatus, product or process disclosed in this guide. Reference in this guide to any specific view or opinion, commercial product, process or service by trade name, manufacturer or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favouring of such by Nedbank.

Nedbank 135 Rivonia Campus, 135 Rivonia Road, Sandown, Sandton, 2196;

PO Box 1144, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa,

Nedbank Ltd Reg No 1951/000009/06. Authorised financial services and registered credit provider (NCRCP16).



1 Smart decisions for a better future

1.1 Energy

1.2 Water

1.3 Waste

1.4 Ecosystem health

2 Where to start: understanding

your household consumption

2.1 Monitoring



Adapt your behaviour, improve your home

Water heating

3.2 Space heating and cooling

3.3 Cooking

3.4 Lighting

3.5 Refrigeration

3.6 Laundry

3.7 Dish washing

3.8 Renewable energy

3.9 Toilet

3.10 Showering and bathing

3.11 Waste disposal

3.12 Cleaning products

3.13 Pest control

3.14 Garden and landscaping

3.15 Swimming pool

3.16 Home renovations

3.17 The importance of buying local

New green rating for South African residential developments

Invest in the future value of your home with Nedbank



Glossary 70




























Building materials




to 5 x


64 and 66


Ceiling insulation

Cleaning products

Clothes drying


Dish washing by hand

Dish-washing machines




Food gardening

Fridge and freezer maintenance

Gas stoves

Geyser insulation

Geyser thermostat settings

Green building rating

Grey water toilets

Heat pumps

Hot boxes

Indigenous plants

Induction cookers




Monitoring electricity consumption

Monitoring water consumption

Natural light


1 x 49



3 x 35

1 x 56


1 x 18



5 42

1 x

2 x

to 3 x

to 3 x

to 5 x







28 and 64

Estimated price range*

Costs next to nothing

(but may require a bit of effort)

1 X Lowest-cost option costs less than R500

2 X Lowest-cost option costs between R500 and R1  000

3 X Lowest-cost option

costs between R1  000 and R5 000

4 X Lowest-cost option costs between R5 000 and R 10 000

5 X Costs more than

R10 000

* Disclaimer: Prices are per unit or average size, are estimates only and are correct at the time of publishing.

Natural pools

Occupancy sensors


Outdoor hard surfaces


Pests: garden

Pests: household


Sit tubs

Solar photovoltaics (PV)

Solar water heaters

Space cooling tips

Space heating tips

Swimming pool backwash water

Swimming pool covers

Swimming pool pumps

Task lighting

Toilet flush capacity

Toilet flush mechanisms


Waste: electronic

Waste: food

Waste: garden

Waste: hazardous

Waste: household

Washing machines

Water- and energy-saving bathing tips

Water-saving fittings


5 x

3 x




1 x 56

1 x 65

1 x 54

1 x 53

3 x






5 x 60



2 x 41


2 x 45



1 x 45

3 x 33


1 x 44

While some investments might seem expensive upfront (eg converting a cheap electric geyser to a solar water heater), they can also result in reduced household running costs that generate even greater financial returns over a slightly longer period.


Environmental benefit



Waste ecosystem health


Smart decisions for a better


Our home is our sanctuary, the place in which we spend more than half of our day.

When we go about daily routines such as cooking, cleaning, entertaining and relaxing, it is easy to forget that our behaviour has an impact on the outside world. South

Africa is facing numerous environmental, social and economic challenges – from poverty, inequality and unemployment to climate change, water scarcity, pollution and resource depletion. These issues are deeply interconnected, but many are not aware that the decisions we make at home every day can contribute positively to resolving them with minimal effort.

While some issues may seem more pressing than others, we cannot escape the fact that the health of the environment is inseparable from the health of society and the economy. Fresh water, healthy food, clean air and quality of life are dependent on well-functioning ecosystems, yet our high-consumption lifestyles demand more and more from our natural surroundings.

The Good news is ThaT a combinaTion of simpLe behaviour chanGe and adopTion of new

TechnoLoGies aLLows us

To mainTain or improve our quaLiTy of Life wiThouT addinG To The demands we pLace on

The environmenT.

Also, choosing local materials, products and artisans over imported alternatives helps to stimulate our economy and support local jobs.

This guide is aimed at all income groups, and provides a range of smart interventions from simple ‘no cost’ changes in behaviour to more costly investments that help reduce utility bills and environmental impact over time.

When one considers small investments, it is best to start with those that improve water and energy efficiency

(eg switching to water-efficient shower heads or LED lighting), as they result in savings in monthly utility bills that can quickly outweigh the costs. While some investments might seem expensive upfront (eg converting a cheap electric geyser to a solar water heater), they can also result in reduced household running costs that generate even greater financial returns over a slightly longer period. We hope that this guide will help everyday

South Africans make simple yet smart changes to their home lives to contribute towards a better future.

In this section we will start by introducing four key challenges that can be addressed directly through the decisions we make at home: energy, water, waste and ecosystem health.








1.1 | ENERGY



most homes in south africa use electricity to provide a range of useful services, including cooking, refrigerating, heating, drying, cleaning and entertainment. in south africa the residential sector consumes over a third of the country’s electricity, and in the average medium-to-high income home 29% of electricity is used for water heating, 23% for space heating, 21% for cooking and 10% for lighting.


However, the way electricity is generated can have significant social and environmental impacts. This is particularly true in a country like South Africa, whose electricity grid is heavily reliant on coal and nuclear energy to generate electricity.

Coal accounts for most of the country’s primary energy usage (65%) to generate electricity releases CO and one of the highest in the world.



, but burning coal

as well as other pollutants. Coal-fired power stations have made South Africa the highest greenhouse gas emitter per person on the continent,

The country’s energy sector is responsible for 85,1% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.


These emissions contribute to climate change, which causes an increase in extreme weather events, drought and food shortages, a rise in sea levels and a decline in the health of ecosystems (plant and animal species). In addition to its contribution to climate change, the generation of electricity from coal requires the mining of a non-renewable resource, with the accompanying degradation of the environment. It also uses vast amounts of water, with approximately 1,41 of water required to produce 1 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity


(which excludes the water needed to extract the coal in the first place).





Green Building Council of South Africa. 2011. Technical Manual Green Star SA – Multi-unit Residential Design & As Built Version 1. p112.

South Africa Yearbook 2014/15. Available at

Department of Environmental Affairs. 2014. GHG Inventory Report South Africa, 2000–2010. Pretoria: South African Government.

Eskom. 2015. Eskom Fact Sheets. Available at















Radioactive material threatens the longterm sustainability of environments that surround mines, nuclear power plants and waste disposal sites, and the short-term gains of nuclear power come with uncertain future costs, which are typically not properly planned for.

in oTher words, new power from soLar pv and wind is abouT 40% cheaper Than from new coaL pLanTs Today.



Between 2008 and 2015 the price of

South Africa’s grid electricity increased at an average rate of over 20% a year.

In 2016 Eskom was allowed to increase

7 electricity prices by a further 9,4%.

If electricity costs continue to escalate at a conservative 9% a year, South Africans will be paying double for electricity by 2024.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial

Research (CSIR) has indicated that, to generate electricity at a utility scale in

South Africa, the levelised cost from nuclear

(R1,20 to R1,30 per kWh) is significantly higher than the cost of new coal plants

(R1,10 to R1,20 per kWh), which in turn is higher than the cost of solar photovoltaic

(PV) and wind energy (R0,61 per kWh).


The ultimate goal is to have all energy services delivered through safe, clean, efficient, affordable and accessible pathways.

Making South Africa’s energy system more sustainable will require a combination of improving efficiencies in the generation, transmission and usage of electricity, and shifting away from coal and nuclear energy towards clean, renewable alternatives.

Nuclear energy contributes 6% of South

Africa’s electricity supply.


Although it produces lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal, its low-level nuclear waste remains dangerously toxic to humans and ecosystems for thousands of years, while high-level nuclear waste is radioactive for over 100 000 years. South Africa’s low-level waste is buried underground in Namaqualand, and high-level waste remains stored within the Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town.


As yet there are no safe, affordable methods of disposing of nuclear waste.

Electricity costs are likely to continue to rise steeply for many more years unless there is a significant shift toward renewable energy and away from coal and nuclear energy.

Households have an important role to play in reducing their demand for grid electricity

(particularly during peak electricity demand periods), firstly through conservation, then by being more efficient, and lastly through substitution with sunlight, biogas or other renewable energy sources where appropriate.

As the price of grid electricity rises, it will become more affordable and popular for households to generate their own electricity through renewable-energy systems.

In addition, South Africa may in future follow other parts of the world that allow homeowners to earn additional income from selling clean electricity back to the grid.





South Africa Yearbook 2014/15. Available at

Eskom. 2013. Eskom Fact Sheet: Nuclear Waste. Available at

Pretorius, W & Le Cordeur, M. 2016. Nersa approves 9.4% electricity price hike. Available at

Yelland, Chris. 2016. Comparative Analysis: The cost of new power generation in South Africa. Available at




if water consumption continues to increase at current rates, we can expect global water demand to outstrip supply by 40% by



south africa’s freshwater supply is particularly vulnerable due to its location in a region with low and unreliable rainfall. annual rains are often not enough to replenish the dams and other sources of fresh water that supply our taps between rainy seasons.

1.2 | WATER

Climate change is projected to bring a combination of rising temperatures and reduced or more erratic rainfall, placing further pressure on already constrained water supplies – particularly to the west of the country.

mosT of The souTh africa’s avaiLabLe waTer sources are aLready beinG fuLLy uTiLised, and There are LimiTed opTions avaiLabLe for increasinG waTer suppLy.

While water supply limits are being reached, South Africa’s demand for fresh water is increasing. Previously unserved communities are gaining access to piped water for the first time, which enables greater levels of comfort, health and sanitation. Meanwhile, rising income levels increase demand for swimming pools, green lawns and other water-reliant luxuries. It is estimated that, by 2025,

11 out of the country’s 19 water catchment areas will not be able to supply enough water to meet demand.


Alternative sources of water such as desalination are highly energy-intensive and expensive, so shifting behaviour to minimise water wastage and achieve more from the country’s remaining water resources is crucially important.



WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme). 2015. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2015: Water for a Sustainable World. Paris, UNESCO.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. 2004. National Water Resources Strategy. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Pretoria.

bY 2025, 11 OuT Of THE






Another threat to South Africa’s limited freshwater

supplies is contamination by human activities and wastes.

Most homeowners do not think about what happens to their sewage once it is flushed away. However, in many parts of the country improper management of waste water results in these wastes leaking from pipes or overflowing from treatment facilities and polluting


freshwater sources. The 2015 Green Drop report on the country’s wastewater treatment works found that 26 out of 58 sewage water systems did not comply with quality standards.


Water bodies are further polluted by the runoff of oil and other pollutants from roads and driveways, chemical fertilisers and pesticides from gardens, and salts and chlorine from pool backwash water. For the latest information on

South Africa’s water crisis visit







The ultimate goal for fresh water is to make the best use of every drop. This means that wastage is minimised, pollution is eradicated and ecosystems are allowed to continue to provide water-filtering services.

Every household should save water – but particularly those in higher income brackets that habitually use more. We can do this by reducing water leaks and wastage, improving water use efficiency, harvesting rain water, planting waterwise indigenous gardens and reusing lower grades of water, such as grey water and pool backwash water for non-potable uses like toilet flushing.


AfriForum. 2015. AfriForum positive about its blue and green-drop reports. Available at



1.3 | WASTE

To make any product requires natural resources. for example, wood and paper products are derived from trees, plastics from crude oil, and fabric from crops like cotton. The problem is that we already need ‘1,5 earths’ to provide the natural resources and services we currently use.


in other words, we are using far more resources than the earth can replenish.

Extracting these natural resources and processing, packaging and transporting them require energy, which is where the second problem arises. Electricity and transport are still based mainly on the burning of fossil fuels, a process that emits carbon dioxide at a rate faster than the atmosphere, sea, soil and vegetation can absorb it. This excess



is contributing to global warming.


A third problem is that most extraction and manufacturing processes also discharge pollutants into our water, soil and air, threatening human and ecosystem health. Finally, waste from every stage of the production process is usually sent to landfills, with only about 10% of South Africa’s waste being recycled.


Landfills pollute groundwater and the air, and are hazardous to human and ecosystem

health. As it decomposes, organic waste from landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than CO

2 global warming.

in its contribution to

Though a few areas in South Africa have their recycling collected by the municipality, most citizens put their




WWF. 2014. Living Planet Report 2014. Available at

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Climate Change 2007. Geneva: United Nations Environment Programme.

GreenCape. 2016. Waste Economy: 2016 Market Intelligence Report. Available at






The ultimate goal is to have no waste at all, where every output is an input for another production process. Nature cycles outputs like this daily and leaves no waste, as the byproducts of one system feed another.

We too can achieve zero waste through good design and innovative systems. Materials and products can be designed to be 100% recyclable with no loss of quality, or 100%  compostable and nourishing for the soil.

15 rubbish bin on the kerb each week for the refuse to be taken to a dumpsite or landfill, where it is buried.

dumpinG our wasTe insTead of reusinG or recycLinG iT means

ThaT we are noT usinG our naTuraL resources effecTiveLy.

Instead we are putting extra pressure on ecosystems to deliver new natural resources, at a rate beyond their ability to rejuvenate or absorb harmful emissions. However, we can reduce our waste through eliminating, reusing, recycling or composting it.

Reducing our waste sent to landfills helps us to:

save dwindling natural resources;

reduce degradation of ecosystems;

reduce energy use and resulting CO



reduce pollution;







save landfill space and reduce methane emissions;

free up organic waste for compost and return valuable nutrients to the soil; and save money.


Braungart, M & McDonough, W. 2008. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things. London: Vintage Books.





we rely on ecosystems for our survival. besides providing us with natural resources such as clean air and water, food, timber, plant fibres, metals and minerals, ecosystems perform other vital functions. These include moderating air temperatures, regulating disease and climate, supporting nutrient formation and pollination of crops, purifying water and providing for recreation and spiritual wellbeing.


Scientists and natural-resource economists have tried to calculate the economic value of some of these services if we had to provide them ourselves, and the costs run into billions of rands. Yet we are able to enjoy these ecosystem services for free, as long as the ecosystems providing the service are maintained in a healthy state.

However, due to various factors, global ecosystem health is deteriorating rapidly.

The United Nations (UN) Millennium

Ecosystem Assessment confirms that 60% of the ecosystems on which human systems depend for survival are now degraded.



South Africa overexploitation of resources and species, urban sprawl, climate change, invasive alien species and pollution of land, water and air are the main culprits.

For example, nearly a fifth of the country’s coastline has some form of development within 100 m of the shoreline.


This reduces natural protection against storm surges and rising seas, placing people and property at greater risk, and threatens coastal and inshore ecosystems.

While the outlook for our ecosystems appears bleak, the issues they face are a consequence of human behaviour.

This means that, by changing our behaviour, we can change their future

(and ours) for the better.



United Nations. 2005. Millenium Ecosystem Assessment. New York: United Nations.

South Africa Yearbook 2014/15. Available at




To reduce our negative impact on ecosystems we can:

find out which natural resources and species are threatened or in decline and try to conserve them;

avoid using non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels and their byproducts;

support high-density urban development (eg multistorey city apartments) rather than urban sprawl (eg golf estates);

save energy, be more energy-efficient and transition to renewable energy;

remove alien invasive species and replace them with indigenous varieties;

stop littering and pouring toxic chemicals down our drains; and

use our purchasing power as consumers to encourage companies to produce and/or manufacture more responsibly.


Our vision should be healthy ecosystems that are easily able to support biodiversity and provide their vital services to humans and all other living things.

We must therefore prioritise the restoration of degraded ecosystems, switch to using renewable resources, and reuse them as many times as possible before returning them to ecosystems in a form that will nourish rather than pollute.

















Where to start:


your household


For a reminder of what the icons used throughout the guide represent please refer to the index on page 1.




Just being aware of your energy use can help you slash your consumption by up to 20%. you can track your home’s electricity use through your bills or through an electronic monitoring device. if you have a municipal electricity account

(ie no prepaid meter), then you can find your monthly consumption on the bill in kwh.

Bear in mind that the amount may be an estimate, so rather use your actual readings when calculating a monthly average. For prepaid electricity meters ‘units’ are mentioned rather than kWh, with one unit equal to

1  kWh. By keeping a record of the number of units you purchase each month, you’ll be able to calculate a monthly average. Alternatively, you could call your electricity supplier to ask how many units you purchased over the past 12 months.

You could also install an electronic monitoring device to provide you with real-time data on electricity usage and tell you specifically what is using electricity, eg lights, geyser or irrigation. The information is presented in easy-to-understand charts on a dashboard that you can view online, allowing you better to understand your consumption over time. You can purchase an electricity monitor online or at your local electrical supply store or hardware store for between R600 and R2 500, depending on the monitoring system.



you can find ouT your monThLy waTer consumpTion on your uTiLiTy biLL, measured in KiLoLiTres (k ).

1  KiLoLiTre = 1 000 LiTres ( ) = 1 cubic meTre (m



When calculating a monthly average, remember that your water use may vary considerably depending on the season, especially if you have a garden to irrigate. To find out which household activities use the most water and where you can save conduct a simple household water audit at > family and home> Greener Living > water wise in the home > save water in the home.

Alternatively, you could install an electronic device that keeps track of water consumption. These devices are installed on the water mains (usually by a plumber) and send consumption data wirelessly to an indoor display. An added advantage is that they can also detect leaks and shut off the water automatically, preventing water losses, damage to property and all associated costs. Water consumption monitors cost between R1 000 to R2 000 and can be purchased online or from a plumbing supply store.

does knowing your consumption levels change your behaviour?

Yes. Various studies (mainly energy-focused) have estimated electricity savings of between

10% and 20% just from the behaviour change that follows knowing consumption levels.

Energy companies internationally have begun to give customers much more detailed information about their electricity usage on their bills and through cellphone apps, helping people to target energy-saving actions even more. In addition, knowing your neighbours’ consumption levels and being able to make a comparison with your usage is another, even more effective (and perhaps surprising), motivator for reducing consumption. Indeed, from a psychological perspective, behavioural and social motivators have shown to be more powerful than data.

Adapt your behaviour,

improve your home

For a reminder of what the icons used throughout the guide represent please refer to the index on page 1.



Many households have their geysers operating at very high temperatures, and waste a lot of water and electricity trying to reach a suitable temperature when using a tap or the shower.

This can easily be avoided by resetting the geyser temperature on the thermostat. This should not be set higher than 60  o

C, but some homes have them set to a scalding 65


C or more all year round.

iT is esTimaTed ThaT for every 1 


c ThaT your ThermosTaT TemperaTure is reduced, you couLd save rouGhLy 10% of your waTer-heaTinG cosTs.

The geyser thermostat is located on the geyser itself, inside a protective covering. To turn down the temperature you first have to turn off the electricity supply to the geyser. Then you need to get to the geyser and open the protective covering. Then, with a small flat screwdriver, you can turn the thermostat setting screw to a lower temperature. Be sure not to set it lower than 55 else bacteria may grow that can cause legionnaires’ disease.


C or


If you have an electric geyser in your home, insulation can help to keep the geyser water warm for longer. This reduces the amount of water and electricity wasted when waiting for water to reach an ideal temperature. A geyser can be insulated by wrapping it tightly in a geyser blanket and installing pipe lagging on the hot-water pipe for at least the first 2 m from where it leaves your geyser. Geyser blankets and lagging should be available at your local hardware store and are relatively simple to install. If you are unsure, a plumber will be able to assist you. For exposed hot-water pipes SANS 10400-XA building regulations specify insulation with a minimum R-value of 1,0 for pipes with an internal diameter of less than 80 mm, and insulation with a minimum R-value of 1,5 on larger pipes.



Approximately 29% of the average energy consumed by middle-to-upper-income households is used to heat water in an electric geyser. Using an alternative to an electric geyser is therefore one of the most significant ways in which homes can save on electricity.

Solar water heaters (SWHs) have been used in South Africa since the 1970s, but they are gaining increasing popularity as an alternative to electric geysers, as electricity prices and new building regulations have encouraged homeowners to invest in energy-saving measures.

Case study:

Saving electricity by adjusting the geyser thermostat

Lutho Ngewana climbed into the roof space and found the geyser had been set to 70 oC. He turned it down by

10 degrees, which had an instant impact on the family’s energy consumption. The lower thermostat setting, combined with short showers, helped the Ngewanas reduce the electricity used by the geyser by 40%.

With South Africa’s abundant sunshine, using devices that harness the sun’s heat can save 25% to 40% of the electricity used by conventional geysers, which means that a SWH can pay itself off in under five years. SWHs are available in a variety of shapes and forms that are affected by their cost, aesthetics and energy efficiency.

The main choices that will need to be made are:

Passive or active? Passive systems take advantage of the tendency of hot water to rise above cold water, allowing natural circulation of water without an electric pump. These systems require that the tank be placed above the collector plate, typically on the roof.

Active systems use a bit more electricity to circulate the water by pump, but allow for the tank to be concealed below the roof. Both systems can have an electrical element as a backup for times when the sun’s heat is not strong enough to achieve the required water temperature.

flat plate or evacuated tube? A flat-plate system collects the

sun’s heat through a weatherproof box with a glass cover, whereas an evacuated tube system does so through a series of parallel glass tubes. Evacuated-tube systems are designed for colder climates, and typically achieve higher water temperatures than flat-plate systems. Flat-plate systems are suitable for most areas in South Africa.

Not all buildings are suited to solar water-heating due to shading, orientation and other factors, so it is worth consulting an expert to determine your home’s suitability before investing in a SWH.

If you can’t afford a SWH upfront, some suppliers do offer finance options. Alternatively, you could obtain a loan through your access bond or another type of flexible bond facility. For more information on how Nedbank can assist you with purchasing a SWH please see

page 69.

does turning the geyser off and then on again later save electricity?

This is only true if you plan to be away from your home for a few days or longer. But on a day-to-day basis switching off your geyser during the day and then on again at night does not save electricity, because of the energy needed to reheat the cold water in the geyser. In general you will achieve greater savings by turning your thermostat down to between 55  oC and 60 oC, insulating your geyser and pipes with a geyser blanket and lagging, and reducing your hot-water use.

3.1.4 | HEAT PuMPS

Water can be heated by extracting warmth from the air through a heat pump, which uses 50% to 70% less electricity than a traditional electric geyser. A heat pump resembles a small air-conditioning unit attached to the exterior of a building, and is typically connected to a geyser inside. As heat pumps do not require roof space or direct sunlight, they are easier to incorporate into the design of buildings than solar water heaters are. However, their overall lifecycle costs can make them more expensive than solar water heaters for household applications.

A heat pump’s ability to heat water is limited by the temperature of the surrounding air, so it typically uses a small amount of electricity each day to raise water temperatures to the desired levels.



One of the most important ways to improve the management of the internal temperatures in your home is to insulate your ceilings to protect internal spaces better from extreme external temperatures.

Ceilings and good roof insulation can keep a home 5 oC warmer in winter and 10 oC cooler in summer when compared with homes without such insulation.

Since 2011 it has been compulsory for all new buildings in South

Africa to install insulation of a certain standard depending on its location, but insulation can be added relatively easily to existing homes too. Insulation comes in many forms, including blanketstyle strips that are rolled out between the rafters, silver foil or polystyrene boards that act as ceiling and insulation combined.

While some insulation options are hazardous to human health and the environment, there are a number of affordable and sustainable options available, including a cellulose fibre composed of recycled newspapers that is pumped into the ceiling cavity and forms a thick layer when it settles on top of the ceiling boards.

If you are not sure whether your home has insulation, try to find a way to access the area between the roof and the ceiling, and check if there is any insulation in the form of silver foil, blanket-style strips or a layer of cellulose fibre on top of the ceiling boards. If there does not appear to be any insulation or the existing insulation does not seem to be


This is based on the cost for the self-installation of the cheapest blanket-style insulation in a 75 m² dwelling.

working adequately (some types can move or deteriorate over time), take a few photos of the area and ask your local hardware store for advice on what to install. Depending on the structure of your roof, installing insulation yourself can be difficult and even dangerous, so it may be worth your while to approach local insulation installers for advice and quotations.

The effectiveness of insulation material is indicated by its R-value, and the performance of existing insulation can be improved by adding further layers on top of it to increase the thickness. The new R-value would be the sum of the R-values of the layers. If you are insulating on a budget, you should ensure that what you install at least meets the minimum R-value requirements for your climate zone, as specified in SANS 10400-XA energy efficiency legislation.


Up to 35 m of sealing tape can currently be purchased for R200.

3.2.2 | dRAuGHT-PROOfING 19

Many homes are difficult to heat or cool due to draughts entering from outside through gaps in windows and doors. Adhesive foam-sealing tape in various widths is available at most hardware stores, and can be adhered to the edges of doors and windows to close these gaps and make your home more airtight. Specially designed draught excluder strips are available to block gaps at the bottom of doors while still allowing them to open and close easily. Alternatively, a long thin beanbag called a draught ‘snake’ or

‘sausage’ can be positioned to prevent draughts from entering underneath your door.


One of the most environmentally friendly ways of heating internal spaces is to burn a sustainable fuel in a fuel-efficient closed fireplace. Open fireplaces lose a great deal of heat up the chimney, and the release of smoke and fumes into the house can be hazardous to one’s health. Closed fireplaces have a door, and modern designs maximise the release of heat from the fuel into the room while minimising the loss of heat up the chimney.

Depending on the design, these fireplaces can be set into the wall, hung on the wall or stand alone. They can use a range of sustainable fuels, including sustainably harvested wood, untreated waste wood or pellets made from waste wood or sawdust. Some of the more advanced units can also be used to heat household water.


There are a number of options available for heating indoor spaces, but many of them require a great deal of electricity. Underfloor heating is one of the most energy-wasteful ways of heating a space, and should not be used when trying to save energy.

The following tips can be used to keep your home warmer for more days of the year, reducing the amount of time you need to use extra heating:

Keep curtains, blinds and shutters open during the day – especially in rooms where direct sunlight enters your home. Close all curtains when the sun goes down to retain as much heat as possible.

Thicker curtains are more effective at retaining heat than thinner curtains.

When heating or cooling a space, it is advisable to make the space as airtight as comfortably possible by closing

windows and both internal and external doors.

Instead of heating a room, rather wear

warmer clothes and use a hot-water

bottle or blanket to keep warm when

sitting or sleeping.


Air conditioning requires a great deal of electricity, and should be considered only as a last resort for cooling an interior space where passive or less energy-intensive measures have failed.

For example, a window unit air conditioner uses about 500 W to 1 500 W, compared with a floor fan, which uses only about 100 W on the highest speed, and ceiling fans, which use only about

15 W to 95 W depending on speed and size.

Here are some alternative tips to keep your house cool in warm weather:

Block the entry of direct sunlight into your home by closing curtains, blinds and shutters as required. Light-coloured curtains and blinds are best for preventing heat from entering the home as they reflect light and heat instead of absorbing it.

During hot weather open windows or doors at night to flush out the hot air and remember to open windows or doors on more than one side of a space to allow for cross-ventilation. Open the highest windows in the house (eg upstairs windows and roof windows) to allow the rising heat to escape swiftly.

If you need to cool only a few people and they are not moving around too much (eg when watching television), use a fan to create a breeze rather than an air conditioner.

If you have an air conditioner and you absolutely need to use it, ensure that the thermostat temperature is set no more than 10 oC below the outside temperature.

Also remember to minimise the area to be cooled by closing doors and windows.

do South African homes really need insulation?

While temperatures in South Africa may not be as extreme as in North America or Europe, or reach the high temperatures found along the equator, it is still worth insulating your home to reduce the energy needed to power heaters, fans or air conditioners by up to 50%.

The thickness of the insulation should be appropriate for your climate, ceiling design and structure of your home (number of storeys and whether it is built on a concrete slab or not). In general, the higher the R-value of the insulation, which measures its thermal resistance, the greater the insulation and energy savings.

Insulation is now required by law: the building regulator for South Africa has published energy efficiency legislation (SANS 10400-XA) that requires all new buildings to install insulation, with different R-value requirements depending on which of the six climatic zones of

South Africa the property is located in. For example, a new house in Cape Town, which falls in the temperate coastal zone, must have insulation with a minimum R-value of 3,70 for the entire roof.



The following behavioural changes can help you to save electricity without having to invest in new appliances:

When cooking on the stove, try to match the pot or pan size to the size of the plate to ensure that the plate is not wasting energy by heating up the air around the pot. Avoid using a pot or pan that is larger than what is required.

When using the stove or oven, turn the heat off slightly before the food is ready to allow the heat remaining in the pot, stove plate or oven to finish off the cooking.

When boiling water, use a kettle instead of heating cold water on the stove. This requires only half of the electricity needed to boil water on the stove. Ensure that you don’t boil more water than is needed, that the element is always covered, and that the kettle is turned off when it starts to boil.

When cooking legumes like beans and lentils, let them soak overnight to soften up before cooking to save on cooking time.

Regularly check that the rubber seal on your oven is intact.

Perished seals can allow heat to escape, resulting in increased electricity usage.

As a general rule, use the smallest-sized appliance that you can for your cooking needs to save on energy, and always check the energy efficiency ratings.

Defrost frozen food overnight by leaving it in the fridge rather than using a microwave to defrost it.

3.3.2 | HOT bOxES

Hot boxes are a great way to save energy when cooking foods such as stews, soups or rice, which need constant low heat over a long period. A hot box consists of a box and lid made out of cushions filled with polystyrene pieces, within which a cooking pot can be placed. The contents of the pot need to be brought to the boil on the stove, and once the pot is placed inside the hot box and the box is closed, the heat is retained within the box and the food continues to cook without needing any more energy. The food cooks in roughly the same time as cooking on the stove, yet can save up to 60% of cooking costs. Note: Hot boxes are not suited to all types of cooking, so please read the instructions carefully.

The Wonderbag is a locally produced hot box in the shape of a bag. for every

Wonderbag bought, a donation is made to The Wonderbag foundation, which gives Wonderbags to families in need in Africa. There are a number of other variations on the hot-box design, some of which can be made at home from designs available online.

3.3.3 | GAS STOvES


The use of electricity for cooking is highly inefficient as energy is lost when heat is converted to electricity and back to heat again. Using a direct fuel such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or biogas is thermally much more efficient and helps to reduce peak demand for electricity.

Gas is well known to be the preferred cooking fuel for top chefs due to the precision with which the heat can be controlled, and this further helps to save energy by reducing the wasteful preheating and cooling down associated with conventional electric stoves. In

South Africa cooking with LPG is slightly more expensive than cooking with electricity: a study by DFR Engineers showed that the monthly cost of running a gas stove for 1,5 hours a day in 2015 was R53,01, compared with R45,38 for an electric stove.


Portable LPG tanks are widely available, and piped natural gas can be accessed in certain parts of the country (eg from Egoli Gas in Johannesburg). Built-in gas stovetops or freestanding ring burners can be retrofitted to kitchens relatively easily where there is a piped gas connection or a suitable and safe location for gas tanks nearby.



This is based on the cost for the cheapest two-plate countertop gas cooker.

Cilliers, H. 2015. Electricity or gas: how to choose. Available at

Biogas is another fuel source, but due to the amount of waste required to generate the gas, it is better suited to a multi-unit development or small holding rather than an individual suburban home.

In areas where biogas digesters can be installed to capture gas from wastewater, low-pressure gas ring burners can be connected to allow one to cook with a free and renewable source of energy that is not derived from fossil fuels. For more information visit the Southern

African Alternative Energy Association (SAAEA) website at, or the Biogas SA website at

Is cooking with gas better than cooking with electricity?

This depends on your electricity source. On the face of it, gas seems better. Burning natural gas emits less than half the CO


that burning coal does, so it contributes less to climate change and pollution. Gas stoves are also more energy-efficient as they reach cooking temperatures almost instantly. However, even with an exhaust system, gas stove emissions are harmful to your health.

A well-maintained, correctly placed extractor hood helps to reduce these emissions, but doesn’t completely eliminate them.


If the electricity is from renewable sources, eg solar or wind power, cooking with electricity is a clear winner over gas.

For those who don’t have access to renewable energy sources, there is another option: induction cooking. Induction cooking uses less electricity than conventional stoves, and doesn’t affect the quality of indoor air negatively.


Conventional electric stoves waste a lot of energy in heating up a stove plate to heat a cooking vessel from the outside.

Induction cookers use electricity to power an electromagnet, which transfers energy directly to the vessel in order for it to heat the contents, using less electricity than a conventional electric stove.

As the outside of the vessel does not heat up, induction cookers are safer to use than conventional electric stoves.

They also heat up quicker and are more precise as the amount of heat being generated can be instantaneously adjusted – similar to cooking with gas.

One possible drawback is that pots and pans need to be made of ferrous metals, such as iron or steel (and not aluminium or copper), for the electromagnet to work. Therefore, consumers will need to ensure that they have appropriate cookware. An increasing range of portable and built-in induction cookers is now available at major appliance retailers in South Africa.


Nicole, W. 2014. Cooking Up Indoor Air Pollution: Emissions from Natural Gas Stoves. Available at



Use natural light in your home as far as possible. Not only does this reduce electricity usage, but health, wellbeing and productivity are promoted when we are able to see the natural passing of time. During the day ensure curtains and blinds are open before you resort to switching on artificial lights, and position desks and other work areas to take advantage of natural light.

Consider installing a skylight or sun pipe to allow daylight into dark passages or rooms (see page 64). A sun

pipe is a type of solar tube installed between your ceiling and the roof to let in daylight. Some versions are made of flexible reflective material to allow for light to be reflected around corners. They are highly effective and relatively inexpensive to install.


3.4.2 | ENERGY-EffICIENT buLbS

Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs or more expensive light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Compared with an incandescent bulb:

CFLs use 80% less electricity and last up to

10 times longer; and

LEDs use 90% less electricity and last up to

25 times longer.

Both CFLs and LEDs are available in a variety of whites, including a soft warm white, so you don’t have to settle for that clinical look. CFLs come in a wide range of fittings, so make a note of the size and type of your old bulb or take it along with you to the store to ensure that you purchase the correct replacement. as a GeneraL GuideLine, a 60 w incandescenT buLb emiTs rouGhLy The same amounT of LiGhT as a 13 w To

15 w cfL buLb or a 6 w To 8 w Led buLb.

LEDs can replace most halogen bulbs used in recessed spotlights; again it may be best to take your old bulb to the store to ensure you buy the right fitting.

When disposing of CFLs make sure that you don’t add them to your kerbside garbage as they contain small quantities of toxic mercury that can be released when the bulbs are shattered. Rather take them to specialised dropoff points, some of which are conveniently located at major supermarkets. LEDs do not contain mercury or toxic chemicals, but should be recycled at e-waste dropoff points.

Case study:

Saving money with LEds

Say Mr B and Mr G each has R1  000 to save or invest, and each has

10 incandescent lights of 50 W in his home that could be replaced by more energy-efficient LED globes. Mr B leaves his old bulbs in place, putting his

R1 000 in a five-year fixed-deposit bank account that pays 8% annual interest. Mr G chooses to invest his R1  000 in 7 W LEDs to replace those

10 older globes. Five years later the R1  000 that Mr B deposited has grown to R1  490. But Mr G has saved R5 525 on electricity and another R316 on replacement bulbs, since LEDs last much longer. The new globes were such a good investment, it’s as if Mr G had earned nearly 32% annual interest.

does turning lights on and off frequently use more energy than it saves?

No. Although there is a small power surge when you switch on a light, the amount of energy consumed is much smaller than the amount saved by switching lights off. Another related myth is that switching lights on and off again too often can shorten the life of the bulb. In truth, the wear and tear on the bulb is so small as to be insignificant. Incandescent and halogen lights should be turned off whenever they’re not needed, as they’re the least efficient bulbs. LEDs can also be turned off and on without affecting their operating life. CFLs are more affected by the frequency of switching on and off than the other bulb types, so some sources recommend leaving CFL bulbs on if you aren’t leaving the room for long.


Avoid lighting up a whole room if you are using only part of it. Make use of functional or task lighting such as a desk lamp or side lamp.

These lamps can

be fitted with CfLs

or LEds to help

you reduce your

electricity use

even further.

3.4.4 | OCCuPANCY


If you or your family frequently forget to turn off non-essential lights, installing occupancy sensors might be the perfect solution. Working on the same principle as outdoor security lights, occupancy sensors detect movement in the room and switch on the lights automatically. If no movement has been detected for a preselected amount of time, the lights are switched off.



The following tips will help you to ensure that your existing fridge and freezer are not wasting energy unnecessarily:

Ensure that there is at least a hand’s width between the back of the fridge and the wall so that air can circulate around the condenser.

Clean behind the fridge regularly to keep the condenser free of dust and other material.

Check that the rubber seals around your fridge doors are in good condition and that the doors close properly to prevent the loss of cold air. If the seal is worn or does not seal properly, contact the manufacturer or an appliance retailer for a replacement seal.


Fridges typically operate 24 hours a day, even when you go on holiday, so it is important that you choose an energy-efficient model when buying a new fridge. New fridges should have highly efficient compressors and fan motors to save energy, and this can be seen in the amount of energy consumed in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW) as indicated in the instruction manual or on the appliance itself.

South Africa does not currently have its own rating scheme for the energy efficiency of appliances, so we rely on foreign labelling systems. The European system ranks energy efficiency from A to G, with an A-rating being the most energy-efficient.

The American Energy Star mark is also a suitable indicator of energy efficiency.

As a general rule deep freezers with a lid on the top require less energy than those with a door on the side as they lose less cold air each time they are opened.

does keeping the fridge or freezer full save energy?

The jury is still out on this one. Some science forums suggest that energy consumption is the same for an empty or full fridge or freezer – as long as the door is kept closed.

The logic goes like this: If you open your fridge or freezer often, a full appliance is better as the food and drinks inside act as a thermal mass, keeping the temperature the same for longer. A full appliance could also mean that the flow of air that cycles around to cool the fridge or freezer is reduced, which could help to prevent the loss of cold air when the door is opened. Other researchers shelve the ‘full fridge’ idea, stating that the savings are negligible and not worth the effort of filling it with things you don’t need. Either way, there is virtually no data available to support either position. Instead, make sure your fridge and freezer are as energy-efficient as possible and that the rubber seals are working effectively.

3.6 | Laundry

3.6.1 | Washing machines

Most of us will be relieved to know that using a washing machine is far more water- and energy-efficient than washing our clothes by hand. When buying a new machine, choose the correct size for your needs and the most efficient one you can afford, bearing in mind the electricity and water costs you will save years into the future.

The average top-loader uses around 180 of water per load, whereas a front-loader uses half of that or less. The most efficient washing machines are therefore front-loaders

23 a


, have an energy rating of

under the European labelling system or an Energy Star mark of approval, and use a maximum of 90 of water or less per load. a label of aa means that three different functions of the machine

(such as energy consumption, wash quality, spin drying) are each rated a.

run your washing machine only when it is full (not overloaded), set it to a cold wash and spin-dry on your lowest setting (if at all). use only the minimum amount of washing powder and softener necessary.

To protect human and ecosystem health ensure that these products are non-toxic and biodegradable, and do not contain phosphates

(see the ‘Cleaning products’ section on page 49). Please be careful

not to drain dirty washing water into the stormwater system.


City of Cape Town. 2011. Smart Living Handbook. available at


3.6.2 | clothes drying

as far as possible, use the free energy of the sun and wind to dry your clothes outside. This means you will need to plan your washing according to the weather report. you could also benefit from the trapped heat in your home by setting up a drying rack inside. If you absolutely have to use a tumble-dryer, choose the most energy-efficient one you can afford.

Before using the dryer remove as much of the water from the clothes as possible by wringing them out by hand or using a short spin cycle on the washing machine. To conserve energy always make sure that the lint filter is clean. Small, portable clothes dryers that use less space and electricity to help you dry essential items are also available.

does hot water clean clothes better than cold water?

No, hot water doesn’t wash better. In fact, cold water protects the fabric dye, which helps colours last longer. Cold water prevents clothes shrinking and helps them maintain their shape. It also stops some stains, such as blood, from setting into the fabric. The key to clean clothes is rather to use the right amount of washing powder for your size wash and to treat stains quickly before they go into the machine. Besides not being more effective, washing clothes in hot water also uses a lot of electricity – 90% of the energy used in a hot wash goes to just heating the water. This results in significantly higher electricity costs and more carbon emissions than for a simple cold wash.


3.7.1 | dISH WASHING bY HANd

For small loads of dishes, washing by hand can be the most water- and energy-efficient if you keep the basin water to only a few centimetres deep. Fill the second basin or a tub to a shallow level with water for rinsing – don’t leave the tap running. Washing items in the order from least dirty

(glasses) to most dirty (pots and pans) helps to keep your water cleaner for longer. Remember to use non-toxic, biodegradable and phosphate-free dishwashing liquid to protect our water resources and the ecosystems that depend on them.


If you regularly need to wash large loads, using a dishwasher can be more water- and energy-efficient than washing dishes by hand.

choose a dishwasher wiTh an enerGy raTinG of a or a


ThaT uses 20 of waTer or Less per cycLe (oLder modeLs use an averaGe of 30

To 53 ). maKe sure iT is properLy Loaded and compLeTeLy fuLL before swiTchinG iT on, and use economy wash seTTinGs or shorT cycLes.

Skip the drying cycle and let the dishes dry naturally by leaving the dishwasher door open once the rinse cycle has ended. Once again, remember to use ecologically friendly dishwasher powder, and skip the rinse aid altogether – most dishwasher powder is sufficient on its own.

does a dishwasher need rinse aid to clean glasses properly?

Rinse aid is a surfactant that stops water droplets from forming on the surface of a plate or glass, helping to reduce water spots that sometimes occur during drying. Rinse aid speeds up the drying process and gives our glassware that desirable shine. The problem is that the chemicals that most rinse aids are made of are highly toxic to both humans and ecosystems, particularly aquatic. Sodium tripolyphosphate, methylchloroisothiazolinone, oxybenzone and troclosene sodium are just some of the ingredients with links to cancer, respiratory problems, organ damage, skin irritation and other dangers to health. The good news is that there are a number of brands of rinse aid that use plant-based formulas, helping you and your family avoid contact with these chemicals (or even ingesting them).

Alternatively, you can use white vinegar in place of rinse aid, but be careful not to put it in the rinse aid drawer as it can damage the rubber components. Instead, put it in a small cup on one of the trays inside the dishwasher. Even better news is that you might not need rinse aid at all – try a few washes without it, and assess the results for yourself.


3.8.1 | SOLAR Pv

solar photovoltaic (pv) technology refers to technologies that convert sunlight directly into electricity. south africa is considered to be among the richest countries in the world in terms of solar resources, with most areas in the country experiencing more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year, compared with an average of only 1 000 hours per year in some european countries.


In recent years solar PV has experienced significant growth in

South Africa, with privately owned installed capacity estimated at 35 MW in 2014, 159 MW in 2015 and 164 MW in 2016.

25 the order of 27 000 households per year, depending on factors like sunshine, energy consumption patterns, temperatures and wind conditions.

For comparison, 164 MW of installed capacity could power in

The main components that make up a solar PV system include panels, mounting structures, inverters and battery storage.

A solar PV panel (or module) for residential applications is typically a flat plate containing a chain of connected silicon cells.

Mounting structures are used to support the panels and keep them tilted at the correct angle to collect as much sunlight as possible.

In South Africa panels should ideally be positioned to face north.



Department of Energy (DoE) Renewable Energy. Available at

PQRS. 2016. Solar PV– Aug 2016 PQRS Industry Report. Available at

An inverter converts the direct current (DC) from the solar PV module to alternating current (AC), which is required for most home appliances. If electricity consumption is higher at night than during the day, batteries can be used to store excess energy generated during sunlight hours for later use.

a number of municipaLiTies have smaLL-scaLe embedded GeneraTion

(sseG) schemes in pLace To aLLow you To connecT To The Grid, and oThers are piLoTinG or drafTinG such schemes.

There are three main solar PV system types: grid-tied, off-grid and hybrid. With a grid-tied system the homeowner consumes some electricity from the solar PV system and the rest from the national electricity grid when the sun is not shining, thereby reducing the need for batteries. An off-grid system is a standalone system and is typically implemented in remote locations without electricity grid access (eg in rural areas). A hybrid system is a combination of a grid-tied and off-grid system. Unless you can afford an off-grid solar PV system that fully meets your household’s electricity needs throughout the year, you will need to consider connecting it to the grid.

One of the challenges for homeowners wishing to tie their systems to the grid is that South African legislation requires such systems to be registered and licensed with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), in line with the Electricity Regulation Act,

4 of 2006. This process is currently complicated, and NERSA has suggested that an SSEG register be implemented to simplify the process. At the time of printing this was still under consultation.



for more informaTion on how nedbanK can assisT you wiTh purchasinG a soLar pv sysTem pLease see paGe 69

an invesTmenT in a soLar pv sysTem in souTh africa can be recouped ThrouGh reduced eLecTriciTy biLLs wiThin five To 15 years, dependinG on The desiGn of

The sysTem, iTs exposure To

The sun, and The Tariff

ThaT esKom or The municipaLiTy charGes for eLecTriciTy.

The batteries are the most costly components of a solar PV system, so grid-tied or hybrid systems that require less battery storage are more cost-effective than offgrid systems. Some municipalities in South Africa allow for grid-tied systems, but the regulations are different for each municipality. It is therefore important to check with the energy office at your municipality whether a grid-tied system is legal before installing one. In general a solar PV panel will last for at least 20 years, an inverter will need to be replaced after 10 years and a battery can be used for two to 10 years, depending on the design of the system and user consumption patterns.

Is solar Pv too expensive for residential use in

South Africa?

Solar PV appears expensive due to the initial outlay for the system components and installation, but the cost-saving benefits are enjoyed long after the system has been paid off. Some governments around the world offer a rebate or tax incentive for residents installing these systems, and certain electricity suppliers offer residents a feed-in tariff for selling electricity from home PV systems back to the grid. Several solar PV companies overseas offer a lease option, where residents rent the PV system and pay only for the electricity they use. Unfortunately, these options are not yet available to South African homeowners. However, the CSIR reported in 2015 that residential-sized PV systems were already competitive in terms of cost compared

with other new-build options, even including financing costs (see the ‘Energy’ section on page 5).


Understanding your consumption patterns is key to the design or sizing of your solar energy system. Knowing the times of day that you need electricity will determine whether you require

battery storage. For more information on monitoring household electricity consumption, see page 14.

Ensure you have reduced your home’s energy consumption as much as possible through behaviour change and efficiency interventions (for tips on how to do this, look for the icon in the index

on page 1). This will mean that the PV

system you install does not exceed your household requirements.

Get a needs assessment and quote from two or three credible suppliers.

As yet, there is no third-party accreditation scheme in place locally for renewable-energy suppliers, although several industry bodies

and industry best practices can

provide valuable guidance in making an informed selection. Contacting industry bodies such as the South

African Photovoltaic Industry

Association (SAPVIA), the Sustainable

Energy Society of Southern Africa

(SESSA) and the South African

Alternative Energy Association

(SAAEA) is a good starting place to find some guidance.

As a general guide for a standard household, a 3 kW hybrid system will cost between R108 000 and R150 000 to install (at R36 to R50 per W), including batteries. A 3 kW-system

could cover 80% of the average consumption of a household in South

Africa (4 600 kWh/year). The same system without battery storage will cost between R54 000 and R75 000 to install (at R18 to R25 per W).


Check whether you are legally allowed to connect your system to the grid (and what the requirements of doing so would be) by consulting the energy office at your municipality.


CRSES. 2015. Do you want to install a PV system? Available at

3.9 | TOILET



Toilet flushing is one of the biggest wastes of fresh water, yet the flushing toilet has become a norm to which most of the world aspires and which is unlikely to be replaced any time soon. Standard South African toilets use nine or more litres of fresh drinking water to remove human waste, yet in many cases the same result could be achieved with much less water. A simple way to reduce the amount of water required for each flush is to adjust the height of the ‘float’ in the cistern so that the water in the cistern refills to a lower level after each flush. Alternatively, some of the volume of the water in the cistern can be displaced by installing a brick or closed two-litre bottle filled with water in a corner that does not affect the toilet mechanisms. Some new toilets have cisterns as small as 6 , and it is worth considering a smaller cistern size when you are purchasing a new toilet as a means of conserving water.

3.9.2 | duAL-fLuSH



Many modern toilets have a two-button or dual-flush mechanism that allows one to choose between a full flush for solids and a half flush for liquids.

Multiflush systems have a handle flushing mechanism, but only release water for as long as you hold down the handle, ensuring that you do not use all the water in the cistern for each flush.

Some hardware stores sell a small weight that can easily be added to a

conventional toilet mechanism to serve

the same purpose as a multiflush.

When installing a new toilet, it is advisable to consider one with a dual-flush or multiflush mechanism. If your toilet already has one of these installed, it is important to educate its users as to how to use


For a more substantial investment in water saving there are systems available in South Africa that allow for the reuse of grey water. This means that water from the shower, washing machine, basins and bath can be collected, partially treated, and supplied to the toilet cistern for flushing. Considering that 20% to 70% of household water use is for toilet flushing


, reusing grey water to flush toilets is one of the best ways to reduce household freshwater demand. Although the plumbing requirements can be challenging and it is not always possible to convert an existing toilet system to a grey-water system, flushing with grey water allows for money to be saved throughout the year by reducing water and sewage bills.

Is flushing things down the toilet a good way to dispose of them?

it to save water when flushing. Alternatively, if you already have a conventional handleflushing mechanism installed, remember to lift the handle after enough water has been released into the bowl. This means that the whole cistern does not need to be refilled after every flush.

There is a widespread belief that items disposed of in a toilet simply dissolve away. When a toilet is flushed, the water (and whatever else is in it) is piped to sewerage treatment plants, where the water is ‘cleaned’ – a process that is energy- and carbon-intensive, as well as costly. Unfortunately, many of South Africa’s wastewater treatment plants cannot cope with the volumes of sewage they must treat, and the pipes and infrastructure are old and not maintained properly. The excess sewerage often leaks out into groundwater or is piped out into rivers or the sea, polluting aquatic ecosystems. Supposedly biodegradable items such as paper towels, tampons, flushable wipes and cotton balls do not break down like toilet paper does, and need to be composted or at least taken to the landfill. Condoms and plastic items are a definite no-no, as they can block pipes or end up polluting waterways and the sea.

A good rule of thumb is: If you don’t want to see it floating down a river, don’t throw it in the toilet!

The exception to this is dirty water containing harmful substances such as cleaning chemicals or paint. This should be flushed down the toilet rather than throwing it onto your lawn or down the stormwater drain as it is more likely to be treated properly by the sewerage treatment plant.


City of Cape Town. 2007. Smart Living Handbook. Cape Town: City of Cape Town. p85.

Case study: Saving water with efficient shower heads

If the Ngewanas never go green, and use an average of 15 per minute during four three-minute showers each day, over the course of the year they will use about 66 k of water, at a cost of

R1 719. They will also have to pay a sanitation charge to the municipality for part of that water, adding another R881. On top of that, to heat the water with electricity would require more than

2 000 kWh, at a cost of R3 852, bringing the grand total to R6 452. Cutting that in half with shower heads that use just 7,5 per minute would save R3 226 in a single year, all as a result of shower heads costing just a few hundred rand each!



water is essential for keeping clean, but small behavioural changes can help reduce your use of hot water, saving both water and electricity:

A four-minute shower uses between 30 and 48 of water

(depending on the efficiency of the shower head), while a conventional bath can use between 80 and 200 of water.

To save water a short shower (four minutes or less) is recommended instead of a bath.

A shower timer can help you keep to a short shower. It usually comes with a suction cup that sticks to the wall of your shower and alerts you when your time or water usage limit is reached.

If you are wasting water waiting for the shower or bath water to heat up, collect it in a bucket or container for use in the garden or for toilet flushing rather than letting it run down the drain.

Turn taps off properly to ensure that they do not drip, and replace the washer on any taps that continue dripping. A leaking tap can waste around 1 of water per hour.

Ensure that everyone in your home knows where your master water shutoff valve is located. This could save litres of water and damage to your home should a pipe burst.

If you have a solar water heater, ensure that you shower at the end of the day when the water is still hot from the sun rather than in the morning when additional electricity may be required to increase the water temperature.


A well-designed shower head can allow for a comfortable shower without needlessly wasting water. Wasteful shower heads release 15 of water or more per minute, whereas more efficient low-flow shower heads release in the region of 7,5 to 10 per minute at full power. A simple test of your current shower head would be to see how long it takes to fill a two-litre jug – if it takes 12 seconds or less at full power, it is wasting water unnecessarily.

When less hot water is used per shower, less cold water is released into the geyser to replace it, so water-saving shower heads can help to conserve electricity as well as water. Similarly, tap aerators help to reduce the amount of water used in hand basins by adding air to the flow of water. Many modern taps come with aerators, but they can also be retrofitted to some existing taps.

3.10.3 | SIT TubS

As a general rule one should shower instead of bath whenever possible due to the large amount of water and energy required to fill a bath tub. The amount of water and energy demanded by a bath is largely due to its size, and although South

Africans tend to install full-length baths of between 1,6 m and 1,9 m long, there are shorter options available that allow for a relaxing bath while using less water.

If you are installing or replacing a bath, consider installing a ‘sit tub’ as an alternative. These baths are around 1,1 m to 1,2 m long. While you probably won’t be able to stretch your legs out straight, they require less than half the volume of water for bathing than a full-length bath tub would.

does showering save more water than bathing?

Not always. It depends on the time you spend in the shower and what kind of fitting your shower head has. A bath uses around 80 to

200 of water on average. If you’re taking long showers (eight to 12 minutes) with a regular shower head, you could fill your bath in that time, and would therefore not be saving water at all. However, if you have a four-minute shower with a low-flow shower head, you’ll use only around 40 of water – you can therefore save a significant amount of water by showering in this way. If you’re unsure of how long you spend in the shower, you can set a timer on your cellphone to alert you when your four minutes are up. (Keep your phone out of the shower for safety!) There are also locally made shower timers that measure the average water output from your shower and programme it into a timer, letting you know when you have exceeded your personal usage target.




3.11.2 | dISPOSING Of fOOd WASTE

Separating your household waste into recyclables and non-recyclables is an easy and impactful change to make. Buy or allocate a second bin, box or bag for your recyclables, and place it near your usual dustbin for convenience. Various dropoff points will have a slightly different list of what you can and cannot recycle. However, most places accept paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium cans and plastics.

Where plastics are concerned, the ones that can be recycled usually have a polylogo

– a number in a triangle – stamped underneath the container.

Numbers 1, 2 and 5 are the most commonly recycled.

Composting your food waste saves landfill space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, while adding the compost to your pot plants or garden helps to create nutritious soil for healthy plants.

Here are three ways to compost your food waste:

Garden composter

There are various premade

composters to suit your space,

including enclosed ones that

can be turned easily by hand.

Buying a large ready-made bin

from a garden centre can be expensive, but you can make your own at very low cost by reusing waste materials. A 1 m x 1 m x 1 m container is usually sufficient, but for a larger family with more food waste two containers might be best.

Remember to wash out old food containers before putting them in the recycle bin to avoid bad odours and pests. Also, try to get into the habit of buying products in containers that you know can be recycled. This will further reduce your waste going to landfill. For a list of dropoff points in your area visit

> Get involved > sustainable Living > recycle.

When the first container is full, leave the waste to break down while you fill up the second. One side of the container should be removable for easy access to the compost. Cover the top of the container to keep the compost from becoming too wet or dry, and to prevent rodents or other scavengers from finding their way in. Adding layers of dry material such as grass cuttings or torn

up newspapers in between the food

waste will stop the heap from becoming

too wet. Remember to turn the compost every month or so using a spade or pitchfork. The compost is ready when it is dark and soil-like, a process that takes approximately three to six months depending on the season. For more information visit > Get involved

> sustainable Living > at home

> make your own compost.

bokashi bin

A Bokashi bin is a useful

option for smaller homes

or apartments where a

compost heap is impossible. Layers of

food waste are alternated with a thin

layer of Bokashi bran containing micro-

organisms, which ferment the waste

and speed up the composting process

to between one and two weeks.

The bin itself has three main components: an outer bucket, a smaller inner bucket with holes at the bottom, and a tap for draining off the liquid waste. This ‘compost tea’ can be sprayed directly onto plants as a liquid fertiliser, but must be diluted 1:100 with water. Once full, the waste can be dug into soil and covered with a layer of topsoil, or added to a compost heap. When used correctly, a Bokashi bin will not smell and can be kept indoors. For more information visit > organic shop > home > Garden > composting

> probio bokashi indoor composter.

Worm farm

Food waste can also be broken down by special composting earthworms, the most common type used being red wrigglers.

A worm farm can be made from a variety of waste items, such as old tyres or bath tubs, or bought from garden centres or other retailers.

The most common shop-bought version consists of at least three stackable containers. Organic waste is put into the top container. Once the worms have composted it, the container is moved to the middle position, and fresh organic waste is put into the top container. The top and middle container have holes that allow worms to access a fresh batch of organic waste once they’ve eaten and processed the old batch.

The bottom container captures the liquid runoff or ‘worm tea’, and has a tap system similar to the Bokashi bin described above.

Worm tea can also be sprayed directly onto plants as a liquid feed, but must be diluted with water in a ratio of 1:10.

The compost made by worms (called vermicompost) is the most nutritionally rich of the three methods described above, and can radically improve soil fertility.

This is because earthworms actually multiply the amount of nutrients found in the food waste as it passes through their digestive tract, and present them in a form readily absorbable by plants.


For more information visit > Get involved

> sustainable Living > at home

> make your own worm bin.


Murphy, M. 2010. Beginner’s Guide to Earthworm Farming. Penguin Books: Johannesburg.

Case study: reducing waste through waste separation

At the start of the project the Ngewana family was sending all their waste to landfill.

The family was challenged to take a critical look at their waste, which was initially a big mess and all in one bin. They realised that there was a lot that they could do and started with implementing a three-bin system, differentiating between waste to landfill, dry recycling and organic waste. Once the three-bin system was in place it was easy to implement because the municipality collected their recycling on the same day as their normal waste. They were simply required to place their recycling in a see-through bag, while waste was in the normal black bag. The main types of recyclable materials produced by the family were typical of a high-income home, with large amounts of packaging, including glass, plastic, tin, cardboard and paper. They also implemented a counter-top bucket for the food scraps that would go to either the worm farm or compost heap. At the start of the process around 15 kg of waste was sent to landfill each week, but this was reduced, with around 68% being recycled, 13% sent for composting or the worm farm, and only 19% sent to landfill.

3.11.3 | Disposing of garDen waste

Garden waste from pruning plants, raking up fallen leaves or mowing the lawn can be added to the compost heap described above. Large prunings or those from woody-stemmed plants or branches will need to be cut up into smaller pieces before being added to the compost.

Grass cuttings can also be used as mulch around certain plants to keep the soil moist and to add nitrogen. Some branches could be used as tree stakes or to construct garden fences or screens. Garden waste can take between six months and two years to break down fully before it can be used as compost or fertiliser replacement.

3.11.4 | Disposing of large householD items

Before you throw out large items such as old appliances or furniture, consider whether the item can be fixed or refurbished for a new look.

Repainting an old desk, fixing a broken washing machine or re-covering an old couch could prevent waste and save you money – and give you a certain feeling of creative satisfaction at the same time.

If you are still committed to getting rid of the item, remember that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Rather than dump it, try to sell it second-hand or give it away to a needy person or cause. Advertise in the classifieds section of a newspaper or online on free websites. Or sell the item yourself at a local market or car-boot sale and enjoy the camaraderie of these public spaces. Alternatively, ask a junk collection company to remove and sell the item for you.

3.11.5 | Disposing of hazarDous waste

Besides e-waste, there are some items that should not go to landfill and need to be handled separately. Some of these include batteries, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, motor oil, chemical cleaning products and insecticides.

These items are considered hazardous as they are flammable, corrosive, toxic, explosive or harmful to the skin or respiratory system.

Several major supermarkets in South

Africa offer a dropoff point for CFLs and batteries, while the ROSE Foundation

( collects and recycles used motor oil. Where chemical cleaning products and insecticides are concerned, there is no safe disposal method. Rather use non-toxic, organic and biodegradable versions.

3.11.6 | Disposing of eleCtroniC waste

Electronic waste such as old laptops, cellphones, TVs and fridges contain valuable components and metals that can be extracted and reused. If you cannot repair the item or sell it, take it to an e-waste dropoff point rather than sending it to landfill. Besides losing valuable resources, dumping the item could contaminate land and groundwater due to the toxic chemicals often present in electronic waste.

Many e-waste centres fix old computers and donate them to schools and other organisations that can benefit from more affordable technology. Find your nearest dropoff point through the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) website at

Can tetra pak cartons be recycled in south africa?

As of 2016 Tetra Pak cartons can now be recycled in South Africa through

Mpact Recycling, and should be included with your paper and cardboard recycling.

The Tetra Pak carton is a composite packaging made of 73% paper board,

22% polyethylene plastic and 5% aluminium, and it is used to extend the shelf life of products without the need for preservatives or refrigeration. In the

Tetra Pak recycling process the paper board is dissolved and used to make new paper board packaging, while the plastic and aluminium byproduct can be used in products such as roofing and flooring.

Globally, only 23,6% of all Tetra Pak cartons are recycled, equivalent to about one in four containers. Consumers are

therefore urged to rinse their cartons, flatten them to remove air, and reattach the lid so that they do not reinflate.

This allows for more recycling to be transported per vehicle, saving fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, and making it economically viable to recycle Tetra Pak cartons.



Most household cleaning products contain ingredients that are toxic or hazardous to human and ecosystem health. Avoid products with ingredients of which the names start or end in ‘ammonia’, ‘ethanol’,

‘glycol’, ‘ethylene’, ‘phenol’, ‘chlorine’, ‘dioxane’, ‘hydroxide’ and

‘naphthalene’. Unfortunately these ingredients are not always on the label: if you aren’t sure, rather don’t purchase the product. Also, avoid products containing phosphates. High levels of phosphates from the use of conventional soaps, shampoos, laundry and dishwasher powder

(as well as chemical fertiliser) are contributing to a rapid increase of algal blooms in South Africa’s rivers and dams, reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water and destroying species and their habitats.

3.12.2 | EIGHT dANGEROuS


Just because a product is sold in stores and has a recognisable brandname does not mean that it is safe. Unfortunately there is very little legislation in place in South Africa to prevent companies from using dangerous chemicals in their products. The damage caused by these chemicals can also be hard to quantify as conventional studies are usually of a short-term nature and look at the effect of one chemical in isolation, rather than taking into account the effect of exposure to multiple chemicals day in and day out over time, which is the reality for most people.

here is a LisT of The mosT weLL-Known and common chemicaLs ThaT are proven

To be haZardous To your heaLTh and To The environmenT:


Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), or simply dioxins, are environmental pollutants linked to cancer, hormone disruption, liver toxicity, immune system damage and developmental problems in people and animals. Dioxins are produced during the manufacture of organochlorine, paper bleaching, metal smelting and burning materials containing chlorine, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Dioxins are found in the air and water, and in the fatty tissue of animals. Rather choose unbleached paper and toilet paper, recycle or dump but don’t burn your rubbish, and reduce your consumption of meat and dairy.


Phthalates are used in numerous products, including flooring, shower curtains, paints, furniture finishes and food containers, to name a few. These chemicals interfere with testosterone and estradiol, and are linked to male genital abnormalities and breast cancer. Avoid anything with a synthetic fragrance, avoid vinyl products and rather store your food in non-plastic containers, eg glass or metal.


PFCs are found in the non-stick coating of pots and pans, in the additive that makes carpets and upholstery water- and stain-repellent, and also in food packaging with a plastic coating (eg fast-food boxes and pet food bags).

The chemicals are linked to infertility in both men and women, as well as to thyroid issues. Avoid non-stick items, rather go for stainless steel cooking equipment, and choose PFC-free carpets and fabrics.


Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in many personal-care products, such as soaps, toothpastes and shaving creams. It is also found in mattresses, insulation and flooring that have been pretreated to prevent bacteria.

The chemical is a hormone disruptor and affects thryroid functioning negatively. Triclosan is also toxic to aquatic bacteria, inhibits photosynthesis and – even in low doses – has been found to disrupt hormones, growth and development in animal species. Rather just use simple soap and warm water to clean yourself, and avoid pretreated products.


A known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is highly toxic to all animals.

Originally used as a disinfectant and for preserving biological specimens, formaldehyde is most frequently produced by humans for resin-based construction materials (eg carpet glue) and through the combustion of organic compounds (eg vehicle exhaust emissions). Instead, choose formaldehyde-free products.


Fragrance or perfume is used in a wide variety of products, from washing powders to air fresheners, soaps and sunscreens.

It covers a range of harmful chemicals that are linked to cancer, hormone disruption and damage to reproductive health – even in small doses. Rather open a window for better ventilation, or

choose unscented products or those with natural scents

(eg candles containing essential oils).


This chemical is found in window and multipurpose cleaners.

It can cause a sore throat when inhaled, and at high levels can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage.

Rather clean mirrors and windows with newspaper and diluted vinegar, or make your own multipurpose cleaner with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils.

See the ‘Recipes for home cleaning

products’ section on page 51.


Chlorine is found in scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, and household tap water. Chlorine is an acute respiratory irritant, and may be a serious thyroid disrupter. You can choose environmentally friendly versions of these products, or make your own using the recipes in the following section. To reduce your exposure to chlorine through tap water, install filters on your kitchen sink and in the shower.

The good news is that there are several brands of locally made, non-toxic and biodegradable cleaning products. These can be found in your local supermarket, health store, neighbourhood market and on websites such as Faithful to Nature ( or Ethical Co-op

( Alternatively you can make your own cleaning products using natural and effective ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. See below for home cleaning product recipes.

Many (but not all) home cleaning products contain vinegar. It is a remarkable ingredient that is able to break down grease, lift stains and remove odours. The strong smell evaporates when it dries. It can even be used to unstick scissors, remove candlewax, remove ink stains from clothes and water stains from wooden furniture, and unclog drains. There are many more cleaning uses of vinegar, just have a look online. (Note: Vinegar is powerful enough to remove the sealer on some countertops, eg marble, so double-check your counter type before you apply it. Always remember to dilute the vinegar.)

Another popular ingredient is baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarb), which is a powerful deodoriser, can remove stains and is also antibacterial. Washing soda (also known as sodium carbonate or soda ash) is a stronger cleaning agent, and gloves should be worn when using it to avoid contact with your skin.

Essential oils can provide you with a lovely scent of your choice and some, such as tea tree oil,


All-purpose household cleaner

Mix one part vinegar to nine parts water in a spray bottle, shake and use. (Yes, it’s that simple!)

Window cleaner

Mix warm water with two tablespoons of lemon juice in a spray bottle. Spray on windows or other glass surfaces, then wipe with a cloth or chamois.

Dishwasher powder

Many dishwashers are able to take a mixture of borax and washing soda

(15 m of each) in the dispenser drawer.

Use machine as normal.

Scrubbing paste

(for tiles, ovens, pots, etc)

Rub baking soda on the surface with a damp sponge and rinse with water.

Laundry powder

Mix half a cup each of finely crushed washing soda, salt, borax and baking soda with one cup of finely grated pure soap, then store in an airtight container. One tablespoon is sufficient for a small load, two tablespoons for a full load. If you have a top-loader you’ll need to dissolve the powder in a jug of hot water before adding it. For a front-loader use just a little hot water to dissolve the powder, then add to the dispenser drawer as usual.

have antimicrobial properties that can protect against disease. There is also much to be said for the simple cleaning power of hot water and the right type of cloth or sponge!

Here are a number of recipes for popular

HouseHold cleaning products tHat you can make yourself and tHat will keep your Home sparkling and fresH witHout damaging your HealtH or tHe environment. you may already

Have most of tHe ingredients in your kitcHen cupboard.

Drain cleaner

Pour half a cup of baking soda down your drain, then half a cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain and leave it for two hours, then rinse it by pouring boiling water down the drain.

Bleach replacement

Soak stained or yellowed clothes overnight in a bucket with 12 parts hot water mixed with one part vinegar.

Wash as normal the next day.

Toilet cleaner

Pour ¼ cup or 62 m of borax

into the toilet bowl just before

you go to sleep and leave overnight.

Flush the toilet in the morning.

For an even fresher smell add

lemon juice to the bowl.

You can also use a mixture

of baking soda and vinegar

instead of borax.

Are ‘green’ cleaning products as effective as mainstream chemical ones?

It depends on what you are cleaning, how long you are cleaning for, and the level of hygiene you want to achieve. The first few green cleaning products that came out might not have been as effective in cleaning as mainstream versions. However, thanks to innovation and product development there are now a number of local and imported green cleaning products that clean beautifully and are far better for your health and the environment than mainstream chemical ones.

If you want to remove dirt, mould, stains, food spills, drain blockages, etc, then green cleaning products will work perfectly well, especially if you attend to the problem immediately rather than leaving it to become worse. If you want to disinfect or sanitise, studies have shown that, although undiluted natural ingredients such as vinegar do have some antimicrobial effect on E coli and salmonella, when diluted in a solution they are not effective for killing these bugs. You need to decide on the level of ‘clean’ that is appropriate and necessary for your home.

Perhaps it is not necessary to be as sterile as a hospital. Too often we ‘go for the big guns’ on dirt when hot water and a sponge will do just as well, in addition to avoiding the negative impacts on human health and the environment.



Using toxic chemicals and poisons in your home to control pests can be harmful to human and pet health if ingested, and creates hazardous waste that is impossible to dispose of safely.

Pests can be controlled in an ecofriendly manner as follows:

Avoid infestation by cleaning dishes and countertops after every meal, sealing up potential entry points, emptying your dustbin regularly and ensuring that fresh produce is not left out on the countertop too long.

Drops of peppermint oil on counter tops, walls and skirting boards will keep ants away.

Spray cockroach hideouts with a mixture of equal parts tea tree oil, rosemary oil and citronella oil, or place catnip strategically.

Get rid of flies by placing about three tablespoons of dried cloves in a bowl and sprinkling them with citronella or a combination of peppermint oil, clove oil and lavender oil.

Mosquitoes are repelled by burning citronella, lemongrass, tea tree oil, peppermint oil or lavender oil. To prevent fishmoths soak cotton wool balls with citronella, lavender, cedarwood or peppermint oil and place these in cupboards and drawers, replacing them every few weeks.







Are store-bought insecticides safe?

Just because something is bought in a store does not mean it is safe.

Unfortunately there is very little in the way of standards, legislation or enforcement surrounding the use of toxic chemicals, particularly in non-food applications. Most store-bought chemical insecticides are indiscriminate killers, destroying beneficial insects as well as pests; they also pollute soil and water, and handling them can be dangerous to our health. A new class of insecticides used on soy and corn seeds called neonicotinoids have been shown to be partly responsible, alongside food and habitat loss, for the worldwide decline in bees – necessary for pollination of food crops and other plants. There are many natural insecticides that can be made at home and are safer for human and ecosystem health. Neem oil is an effective natural insecticide and fungicide that can biodegrade and is non-toxic for most other wildlife. It is available at most garden centres, and spraying it as directed on the stems and leaves of plants discourages insects from eating them. Keep in mind, however, that any substance designed to kill something should be used with caution, even if it is ecofriendly.

chemical-based pesticides, herbicides and insecticides are poisons that kill indiscriminately.

This means that beneficial creatures are also removed from your garden’s ecosystem, such as bees, which are essential for pollination, and birds, which eat pesky insects. The poisons eventually find their way into water sources, destroying aquatic life and making the treatment of drinking water even more resource-intensive.


The first ecofriendly step in pest control in your garden is to ensure healthy soil.

Healthy soil makes for strong and healthy plants, which are more resistant to pests and disease. Composting your food and garden waste and adding it to your garden helps to increase soil fertility. The second step is to use companion planting techniques, where plants such as marigolds are planted close to herbs and vegetables to repel pests.

Companion planting can also be used to attract beneficial predators to your garden.

These two steps can go a long way in reducing damage from pests by supporting a self-regulating ecosystem.

If, however, pests still manage to gain a foothold, try natural

pest control techniques. If all else fails, ask your local garden centre for advice on biological controls.





Growing indigenous plants is a great way to attract local biodiversity to your garden. Indigenous plants also tend to use an amount of water that can be easily sustained by the local environment. For example, fynbos indigenous to the Western

Cape is by nature waterwise, so is suitable for the drier climate.

Exotic plants (such as pine trees) tend to require copious amounts of water and can also be invasive, destroying native species by encroaching on their habitat or changing the soil type.

This is why it is crucial to know which plant species are invasive aliens in your region and remove them, before replacing them with indigenous varieties. To find out which are invasive alien species visit

3.14.2 | LAWNS

Lawns are water-hungry spaces that require regular maintenance and are costly in terms of energy, money and time. Consider replacing your kikuyu lawn with indigenous and waterwise buffalo grass or fynkweek (couch grass). If local water restrictions allow you to water your lawn, it is best to water in the early morning hours or in the evening when temperatures are lower to minimise water loss through evaporation. To feed your lawn use organic compost rather than chemical fertilisers that pollute water sources and are energyintensive to produce. Even better, replace your lawn altogether with low-lying indigenous vegetation or meadow-style grasses, which are just as aesthetically pleasing and support biodiversity while requiring far less maintenance. Meadows help to keep the feeling of openness and provide an inviting play space for children and pets.

3.14.3 | fOOd GARdENING

Growing your own organic herbs, fruit and vegetables can be a very satisfying hobby. It also provides other significant benefits, such as saving money, reducing carbon emissions related to artificial fertilisers, pesticides and food transport, and of course improving access to healthy food.

Food gardens can be tailored to suit virtually any living situation: you don’t need to have your own piece of ground or even lots of space. Fresh produce can be grown in containers on a balcony or rooftop. Vertical gardens, which make use of trellises, brackets or shelves with rows of pots, are another space-saving option. If none of these suit you, consider renting a space in an allotment garden nearby, and enjoy the community aspect of growing food alongside others.

3.14.4 | OuTdOOR HARd SuRfACES

Overuse of hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt in urban and suburban areas means that storm water is prevented from filtering through the soil and recharging underground water sources, called aquifers. This results in large volumes of polluted water being channelled into stormwater systems, and eventually into natural water bodies such as rivers and oceans.

Instead of laying concrete or solid brick pavers for your outdoor entertainment area, use permeable options, such as gravel, bark chips or raised wooden decking that allows water to pass between the slats. Permeable brick pavers are also an option, and are particularly useful for high-traffic areas such as driveways or parking areas. They can even be used in conjunction with a built-in rain water harvesting system that collects the runoff from underneath the pavers.

3.14.5 | IRRIGatIon

Watering your garden with a hose or irrigation system connected to the water mains uses far more potable water than necessary, and is restricted in certain parts of the country.

Reusing potable water or capturing rain water saves the energy required to treat water to drinking quality and pump it to your home.

Also, it avoids the water wasted through leaks in the water supply system. Using grey water or harvesting rain water are therefore two ways in which you can reduce your usage of potable water, while still giving your garden the hydration it needs.

other ways of reducing usage of potable water include:

Drip irrigation system

The only part of a plant that needs water is the roots, and any water left on stems, leaves and flowers simply evaporates.

Unlike a traditional irrigation system, which wastes water by spraying everything within a certain radius, a drip irrigation system waters plants at the soil level just above the roots, or the roots directly.

A medium to large garden would benefit from a piped system, which could be installed by professionals or purchased from a garden centre. Those with a small garden could skip pipes and instead reuse plastic water bottles with holes punched in the sides and bottom, buried next to the plant’s roots with the bottle’s neck left exposed out of the soil. The plant can then be watered by hand or hosed directly into the bottle, with no waste of water due to evaporation.

Grey-water system

Grey water is water that has been used in one or two applications but is still of sufficient quality to be used for another purpose, usually toilet flushing or irrigation. For example, water from your hand basins, washing machine, bath or shower can be redirected

to your toilet or to your lawn or fruit trees instead of being wasted

down the drain.

Grey-water systems can be installed by professionals or you could install one yourself, and prices vary according to the size of the system. Local suppliers have reported a payoff period of three years as a result of reduced water and sewage bills.


If you are using grey water for your garden, remember to use non-toxic, biodegradable

soap products (see ‘Cleaning products’ section) or you could

damage your plants and contaminate local water sources.

Rain water harvesting

Capturing rain water from your roof (or through permeable paving

– see page 56) is another way to save potable water. The rain water

is directed into a tank, which can be placed above ground out of sight or buried. The optimum tank size depends on the area of the roof catchment area, and can be as small as 260 and up to

27 000 for large properties.


Harvested rain water can be used to flush toilets or water vegetable gardens, plant beds and lawns. Again, there are several reputable local companies who can install rain water harvesting systems, or you could try to

install one yourself.


GARDEN is a useful resource for home gardeners and is supported by Nedbank,

Pam Golding Properties and the Endangered

Wildlife Trust. The guide explains biodiversity gardening and provides reasons for the importance of protecting and encouraging biodiversity. It also gives helpful advice on how to attract biodiversity into your garden, as well as valuable tips on organic vegetable gardening. Visit > About us > Green and Caring > Publications.

are alien plants really that bad for my garden?

Once again, it depends. An alien plant is one that is not indigenous to the area but originates from another region or country. Some alien plants, such as oak trees or fruit trees, are very useful to humans and are not harmful. Alien plants are mainly a problem when they are invasive, ie don’t have any natural enemies and spread uncontrolled, as in the case of black or silver wattle, pines, Port Jackson and eucalyptus trees.

They tend to use significantly more water than indigenous varieties, drying up water sources and reducing runoff by up to

30%. They furthermore push out indigenous vegetation such as fynbos, as well as the insects and animals that depend on it.

When there is a fire, flames of alien plants burn much hotter and higher than flames of indigenous plants, and there is greater devastation. Find out the names of trees and plants in your garden, and check whether they are indigenous or alien, and whether or not they are invasive. Remove invasive aliens and replace them with waterwise, indigenous varieties.

This will help to conserve water resources and encourage biodiversity to return to your garden.



Grey Water Systems. 2013. Website. Available at

Water Rhapsody. 2013. Website. Available at



The following tips can help you save electricity when maintaining your pool:

If your pool pump and filtering system is currently running continuously for more than six hours a day, rather adjust it to operate on two cycles a day totalling six hours. If this is insufficient, try increasing the filtering time by increments of 30 minutes until the water remains clear and chemically balanced.

During winter, reduce your pool pump time to around three hours a day, or consider turning it off for a few days at a time.

Set your pool pump to run outside the period of 17:00 to 21:00 to reduce your household’s contribution to peak energy demand.

Clean your pool filters regularly, but make sure you don’t dispose of your backwash water into the stormwater system.



pool pumps and filtering systems can contribute to up to 11% of the electricity consumption of a household. however, you can reduce this electricity use and the costs by a significant 70% to 90% just by choosing a variable-speed (or multispeed) pool pump over a fixed-speed pool pump.


a variablespeed pump can be adjusted to run at different speeds, depending on the function it is performing, for example at low speed when filtering water or at medium speed when operating the pool cleaner.


Variable speed swimming pool pump reviews.

2015. Available at

Case study: Saving electricity by adjusting the pool pump timer

Whoever told you to run the pump eight or 12 hours a day doesn’t pay your electricity bill. With such long runtimes, your pool could be one of your biggest power users, as the Ngewana family found out. Research shows that four to six hours is enough in summer for most pools, and just two to three hours in winter. Zweli

Ngewana usually had his timer set to

10,5 hours. He brought that all the way down to three hours for winter and will increase it to four or five in warmer weather. Even if he hadn’t switched to a more efficient pump, reducing hours by making two seasonal timer adjustments would have saved him R2 500 in electricity over the following year. A pool cover further reduces the number of hours needed, especially if it blocks sunlight.

Every pool is different, so monitor it and adjust the hours as needed if the water does not stay clear.

3.15.2 | SWIMMING


One of the greatest causes of water loss from a swimming pool is evaporation when the sun warms the surface of the water. Covering your pool or part of it when it is not in use can reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation by up to 80%, and cut the amount of electricity required for cleaning and heating. Those with heated pools can reduce the cost of energy required to heat the pool by up to 80% by covering it when it is not in use.


Impervious pool covers prevent heated surface water from escaping into the atmosphere as water vapour, and help to keep pools clean by acting as a barrier against dirt and leaves. This means that the pool does not have to be topped up as often, and the filter does not need to run as often or as long. All you really need is a sheet of floating plastic to cover a pool, but for safety and aesthetic reasons it is worth having a cover professionally fitted. There are a number of different designs and materials on the market, but the most important requirement is that it does not allow water vapour to escape. A pool net will therefore not suffice for this purpose.


Swimming pools with granular or sand filters need to be backwashed regularly to flush the dirt, bacteria, chemicals and other pollutants from the filter. These substances are harmful to aquatic ecosystems and human health. It is now a legal requirement that discarded backwash water is disposed of into the sewage system for further treatment, instead of into stormwater systems that lead directly to rivers and the sea. Many pools are not set up to cater for the disposal of backwash water into the sewer, and arrangements need to be made to allow for this in compliance with the law. As an alternative, systems are available in South Africa that allow for backwash water to be stored and treated on the premises so that it can be reused for non-potable uses. This saves fresh water and reduces pressure on overburdened sewage systems.


The advantages of swimming pool covers. 2013. Available at

3.15.4 | NATuRAL POOLS –

South Africa has approximately 650 000 swimming pools containing 32,5 billion litres of our country’s scarce freshwater resources.

in addiTion To LosinG a LoT of This waTer To evaporaTion, a GreaT deaL of enerGy is required To cLean swimminG pooLs.

Also, the chemicals or salts used to keep the water clear are energy-intensive to produce and can pollute aquatic ecosystems. Natural pools use ecosystems to purify and clean pool water, eliminating the need for chemicals and making the water more pleasant to swim in. Water is pumped from the swimming area to a manmade wetland, where waterside plants act as filters to remove and dissolve nutrients in the water before it is returned to the deeper swimming area. The filtration zone can form part of the pool or be situated elsewhere in the garden, and a wide range of attractive designs can be accommodated.

The water in the pool is environmentally friendly, and is safe to use for your garden if required, as it does not contain salt or chemicals.

Some existing swimming pools can be retrofitted to operate as natural pools. However, it can be difficult to get the right ecosystem balance to keep the water clear. Consulting a natural-pool specialist would be better than trying to do this yourself.

Is a natural pool hygienic enough to swim in?

When one hears that a natural pool does not make use of any chemicals to clean the water, the question that often follows is: Can it be safe to swim in? The answer is yes.

Natural swimming pools mimic natural processes to remove compounds that could fuel the growth of harmful pathogens and algae. This is how fresh water is cleaned in nature, and natural swimming pools simply mimic this process. We have become used to chemical water treatment since urbanisation brought about water-borne diseases – a result of human waste contaminating water supplies. The chlorine used to clean conventional pool (and drinking) water can’t be thought of as ‘safe’ either.

It is a skin and respiratory irritant and may also be a thyroid disruptor, and degrades soil and aquatic ecosystems. The human race has survived for centuries on freshwater resources provided in nature, so there is nothing to fear about a well-maintained natural swimming pool – even if the water is not the bright blue colour you may have become accustomed to.






When planning a new home or the addition of a new room, try to ensure that it is orientated to face north or has some north-facing windows. In the southern hemisphere north-facing buildings enjoy more hours of natural light and are warmer than buildings orientated otherwise. This is called ‘passive solar design’, and can reduce the need for artificial lighting and heating at no additional cost. Such a simple shift can save you a considerable amount of energy and money in the long term.

3.16.2 | vENTILATION

A well-ventilated home is essential for health and comfort. Air conditioners and fans are often used to improve ventilation, but they are energy-intensive and should only be a last resort. When building or renovating there are several things you can do to ensure good ventilation, depending on the design. Demolishing a passage wall to create an open-plan home allows for better air movement as well as increases natural light. Installing windows on two sides of a room (even if one set of windows is small and set high up in the wall for privacy) allows for cross-ventilation. There is also the whirlybird, which pipes fresh air into your home using the power of the wind.

It is installed on your roof and is connected to the room below through a simple duct. The vents of the whirlybird can be opened, closed or set anywhere in between by hand.

3.16.3 | NATuRAL LIGHT


Designing your home to take advantage of natural light not only saves you a considerable amount of energy, but helps to create a space that people enjoy being in. As mentioned under the

‘Lighting’ section, natural light actually improves people’s health, wellbeing and productivity. The optimum design for natural light would include a portfolio of interventions, including a north-facing orientation, large windows or glassed areas, and skylights and/or comparatively cheaper sun pipes or daylight tubes for darker

rooms or passageways (see page 28).

Open-plan homes also enjoy far more natural light and are more conducive to socialising with friends and family than those where the living areas are separated. Knocking out unnecessary interior walls – if structurally possible – is relatively inexpensive compared with other building alterations, and could vastly improve the look of your home as well as your lifestyle.

If you’re interested in using alternative, sustainable building products, look out for suppliers certified by Agrément SA. Agrément SA is an independent organisation that focuses on the certification of nonstandard or innovative building products, using assessments to verify whether the product is fit for purpose. Their certificates comply with the National Building Regulations and are accepted by the National

Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC). For more information visit

If you can’t find a sustainable option, try to reuse existing materials such as second-hand bricks, wood, windows and fittings rather than buying new. This is a form of recycling that helps to avoid extra pressure on already overexploited natural resources. Secondhand materials are also much cheaper, and can be sourced through classified adverts online or from building and demolition companies.

If virgin materials must be used, choose locally made ones with low embodied energy – those that do not require a lot of energy to extract, manufacture, package and transport. Some materials with high embodied energy, such as cement and concrete, can be used more efficiently when industrial waste or recycled aggregate is added to the mix.



There are numerous possibilities when it comes to sustainable building materials: adobe brick, bamboo, hemp, cork, clay, straw bale, sand bag, stone and wood are just some of the options that are usually more energy- and water-efficient and less polluting than cement blocks and other more conventional materials, particularly if sourced locally.

Besides choosing local products and those with low embodied energy, bear in mind the durability and ability for reuse of the material. Although steel, for example, has high embodied energy, it is a durable material and won’t need to be replaced nearly as often as timber – so the total embodied energy might be higher for wood products over time. However, the mining of the minerals required for steel is far more ecologically destructive than that of felling timber.

Innovation around how conventional materials are used has also resulted in increased sustainability. For example, using steel frames rather than bricks and mortar in construction can be 50% faster, much stronger and provide vastly better insulation, at the same time producing less waste and lower carbon emissions, and reducing foundation requirements.


Clearly, choosing the most sustainable material is not an exact science. There will be compromises, and much depends on the intended use of the material. Nevertheless, first look for sustainable materials. If there aren’t any, look for second-hand materials. If there are none, choose materials that are local, durable, reusable and have low embodied energy. Finally, remember to sell or donate your own used building materials that you don’t need or send them to an appropriate recycler.


Green Cape. No date. A Catalogue of Green Building Materials. Available at

fOr MOrE infOrMAtiOn

On grEEn BUiLding dEsign

And rEnOVAtiOn in sOUtH

AfricA Visit tHE grEEn

BUiLding cOUnciL’s WEBsitE

At gBcsA.Org.ZA.

3.16.5 | PAints

Most paints are made from the byproducts of oil, a finite resource. Global oil production is said to have peaked and is now in decline due to decreasing reserves.


Both oil-based and water-based paints also emit volatile organic compounds

(VOCs) throughout the lifetime of the paint, which affect human health negatively. Cleaning paintbrushes, rollers and paint trays of oil-based paint requires chemical solvents that are highly polluting to water sources – especially when they are poured into stormwater drains.

Water-based paints contain fewer petroleum products and toxic ingredients, but are still polluting. While water-based paints with low

VOCs are available from most hardware stores and are preferable to solvent-based options, they still partly rely on oil resources.

A better option is offered by paints and varnishes made from plant oils, and natural gum-based turpentine can be used to clean the brushes. They emit zero VOCs, are not polluting, and are available in many shades from independent local producers.




International Energy Agency. 2008. 2008 World Energy Outlook. Available at

Pro Nature Paints. 2013. Available:

Are sustainable building materials as strong as conventional materials?

Yes and no. The definition of ‘sustainable building material’ is quite broad, and includes characteristics such as: being locally sourced and made; thermally efficient; healthy for building occupants; low on energy and water used in manufacture; recyclable; and with minimal waste, harmful emissions and pollution during manufacture. Sustainable building materials therefore include recycled bricks, steel and aluminium; wood; and new materials such as cross-laminated timbers, mycelium (which is made of the root structure of fungi and can be made into bricks and other shapes), and ferrock (a stronger alternative to concrete made of steel dust, which actually absorbs carbon dioxide during its curing phase). HempCrete is another concrete alternative made from hemp fibres bound with lime, and creates structures that are both strong and light, saving on energy from transport and making use of a quick-growing, renewable resource. It is not helpful to label sustainable materials as ‘weak’ or ‘strong’, as there are many options available with different properties, and not all of them need to bear heavy loads. Rather compare materials that are appropriate for a specific use, and check for those certified by Agrément SA.

3.16.6 | EnErgy-EfficiEnt dEsign

To promote more sustainable buildings in South Africa the amended National

Building Regulations require that new buildings, additions and extensions comply with SANS 10400-XA energy efficiency regulations.


These regulations have implications for water heating, pipe insulation, roofs and ceilings, exterior walls, floor insulation (where there is underfloor heating), and shading over windows and glass doors. Homeowners are responsible for ensuring compliance with the new regulations, and can appoint a suitably trained professional to ensure that their building project is compliant and minimises energy wastage.

fOr MOrE infOrMAtiOn On sAns 10400-XA rEgULAtiOns

And HOW tHEy AffEct

HOMEOWnErs Visit nEdBAnK.cO.ZA > ABOUt Us

> grEEn And cAring

> sUstAinABiLity

> sAns gUidELinEs.


If the existing building is unaffected by an addition, only the addition will need to comply with the regulations. Renovations will need to comply with the regulations if they require

planning approval from a local authority. Garages and storage areas that are not within the building envelope and do not form part of the habitable area do not need to comply with

SANS 10400-XA regulations.

do sustainable options always cost more than conventional ones?

No, this is not always true, as it depends on the intervention and the timeframe you are considering.

Some sustainable options cost more upfront, but help you save money in the long term. A solar water heater is a good example. It costs more upfront than an electric geyser, but after a few years it will have paid itself off in electricity savings, and after that the sun heats your water for free. So, in the short term conventional options may appear more cost-effective, but over the long term sustainable options are often cheaper. Society also needs to broaden its definition of ‘cost’ to include externalities such as damage to social welfare and the environment.

Just because something may be financially cheaper in the short term, doesn’t mean there aren’t costs elsewhere.

For example, you may pay less at the till for solventbased paints, but you could face medical bills later due to respiratory issues, and pay higher water bills due to the municipal cost of cleaning and purifying paint-polluted water. In the long run the conventional choice can in fact be much more expensive than the sustainable one.

3.17 | THE



LOCAL when choosing building materials, fittings and appliances for your home, try to buy items made in south africa or, even better, in your own province. buying local has a number of important benefits: carbon emissions are often lower because the item (and its components) doesn’t have to be transported as far; local businesses are supported, which helps to generate employment; and wealth is kept in local communities rather than sent away to a distant country, where a multinational company’s headoffice may be located.





Buying local also encourages entrepreneurship in South Africa, and the manufacture of goods that are uniquely designed to suit local conditions. From a socialsustainability perspective, it is also easier to monitor working conditions for local employees than those in a foreign country.

Unfortunately buying local doesn’t always mean that the item is cheaper, but the benefits for the greater good maybe well worth the couple of extra rands.





If you are building a multi-unit residential development of three homes or more, you can now ensure that it is efficient by getting it certified using the Excellence in Design for Greater

Efficiencies (EDGE) tool. Recently launched by the Green Building

Council South Africa (GBCSA) in partnership with the International

Finance Corporation (IFC), EDGE is an affordable, fast and userfriendly online platform for rating green residential building developments, supported by a network of EDGE-accredited professionals around the country.

edGe-certified homes cost less to run by saving resources, and certification adds value to your home by showing potential buyers that it is efficiently designed. it aims to reduce the embodied energy of construction materials and shrink energy and water consumption.

To achieve the edGe standard a home must achieve at least a 20% saving in:

energy embodied in construction


predicted energy consumption in operation; and

predicted water consumption in operation.

edGe provides a common benchmark and understanding among all parties involved in your new building development, ensuring that your home is built to green standards. To get an edGe certification for your new home simply:

create a user profile using free edGe online software;

register your project for certification

and pay the fee to Gbcsa;

contract an edGe-accredited

professional to ensure compliance

with edGe requirements;

ensure the edGe-accredited

professional submits your application to Gbcsa;

pass the edGe assessment conducted by Gbcsa; and

receive an edGe certificate

for your project from Gbcsa.

why not improve the sustainability of your home for you and your family, and increase its value at the same time?




Homeowners often want to change or improve something in their home.

Perhaps after reading this guide you would want to install a solar geyser or heat pump, improve the insulation of your home or convert your garden to a more waterwise investment. If money is the only thing holding you back, you could secure the necessary funds in the following ways:

If you are a Nedbank Home Loan client, you may be able to

– access available funds through NedRevolve; or

– apply for a readvance or a further loan based on the value of your home.

Nedbank clients and non-clients can apply for a Nedbank Personal Loan.

If you invest wisely in improving your home today, it will reward you in terms of future value. If you apply and qualify for a personal loan, you will enjoy these benefits:

You could qualify for a loan of between R1 000 and R200 000.

The money will be deposited directly into your bank account.

You will enjoy a personalised interest rate linked to your risk profile.

You will enjoy flexible repayment terms of 12 to 60 months.

To find out if you can access additional funds do the following:

For enquiries relating to NedRevolve, readvance or further loans simply call us on 0860 555 111.

For more information on a personal loan just dial

*120* 5363# and a consultant will call you back; alternatively, visit your nearest Nedbank.

Remember that, to apply for access to additional funds, you will have to have the following handy:

your latest payslip showing one month’s salary;

your stamped bank statement covering the past three months (showing a minimum monthly salary of R3 000);

your valid South African identity card or document; and

proof of residence.


Alien invasive species

Species of plants that are not native to the area and that have the potential to out-compete native species and alter indigenous ecosystems.

Allotment garden

A parcel of a larger plot of land that is rented to individuals or families for growing fruit and vegetables.


Permeable rock that can contain or transmit groundwater.


Capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.


Compact fluorescent light bulbs that use

80% less electricity and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.


A tank situated above a toilet bowl and that is used to store the water used for flushing the toilet.

Closed fireplace

A fireplace with a door (or doors) attached to the front to prevent excess heat loss.

Collector plate

Rectangular plate with a glass surface that transfers heat from the sun to water in a solar water-heating system.


A series of thin tubes on the back of a refrigerator that release heat extracted from the refrigerator into the room.

drip irrigation

A system of irrigation that waters plants at the soil level just above the roots or delivers water to the roots directly.

Electric geyser

A water-heating system that uses heat derived from electricity.

Embodied energy

The total energy required to extract, manufacture, package and transport an item.

Geyser blanket

A layer of insulation customised to fit around a geyser to prevent the loss of heat.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Atmospheric gases that contribute to global warming or climate change, including carbon dioxide (CO



) and nitrous oxide (NO methane (CH

4 2


Grey water

Water that has been used in an application but is still of sufficient quality to be reused for another purpose, for example water from hand basins, washing machines or showers that can be used for toilet flushing.

Hazardous waste

Waste that is flammable, corrosive, toxic, explosive or harmful to human or ecosystem health.


Insulation used to prevent the loss of heat, in the context of this document from hot-water pipes.


Liquefied petroleum gas is a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases derived from petroleum and used as a cooking or heating fuel.

Passive solar design

An approach to building design that makes best use of the sun, shade and prevailing winds to heat and cool living spaces instead of using electricity.

Peak electricity demand

The time of day and year when total demand for electricity is at its highest, typically during winter evenings when more heating and lighting are required. A country’s power systems need to be designed to meet peak demand to avoid blackouts, so shifting electricity usage to non-peak times helps to slow the rise in peak demand and can reduce the need for additional power plants to be built.

Permeable paving

Paving options, such as specially designed brick pavers, gravel, bark chips or raised wooden decking, that allow water to pass through into the soil.


Inorganic compounds containing phosphorous present in personal and household cleaning products and fertilisers, contributing to algal blooms in rivers and dams and degrading water quality and habitats.

Potable water

Water that is treated or purified to drinking water quality.


A measure of thermal resistance, used to indicate the effectiveness of an insulation material.


A device that automatically regulates temperature or that activates or deactivates a device (eg electrical heating element) when a certain temperature is reached.

vertical gardens

Gardens designed to make use of vertical space rather than horizontal space through the use of trellises, shelves or other options.


Volatile organic compounds, some of which are dangerous to human health due to compounding long-term effects.


The operating power of an electrical appliance as expressed in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW).


Nedbank headoffice

135 Rivonia Campus

135 Rivonia Road Sandown Sandton 2196

PO Box 1144 Johannesburg 2000 South Africa

Nedbank Ltd Reg No 1951/000009/06. Authorised financial services and registered credit provider (NCRCP16).

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