Wouldn’t it be great if you could get your electricity for free and be good to the earth at the same time? With the added bonus that you are free of state supplied power.

This seems to be the promise of renewable power, power is harvested at minimal running cost from the sun or the wind or waves or whatever energy source forms the primary provider. And the power is then converted to electrical current which powers your home. The energy source is free and inexhaustible and the impact on our planet is negligible (relatively speaking).

There is a problem though; we use a lot of power in our homes. Even after 2008 taught us to actually start thinking about our consumption, lots of life’s “human rights” class amenities, like hot water, and cooked food are pretty demanding on electrical supply. And the renewable sources struggle to supply enough load for our gluttonous lifestyles (at least with today’s technology). So we end up using a grid tied solution and generate some of our power from renewable sources and continue to rely on the state for the rest of our power requirements.

Notice there are three distinct things in this promise

  1. Free (or at least really cheap) power
  2. Renewable / green / environment friendly
  3. Reduce our reliance on the state

Grid tied renewable power doesn’t achieve any of these. It gets closer, but you still don’t get a cigar (maybe an attendance award so the millennials don’t cry fowl).

A smarter way to look at the alternative energy problem/challenge is to see electricity as part of the total home power mix. In fact many homes are already using a hybrid system in that solar geysers generate zero electricity. They cook the water in the tank by transferring the heat from the sun into the water – slowly.

The problem with solar geysers is they suck (only a little though). The home’s primary hot water solution has to be 100% reliable, and solar geysers really aren’t. So we end up supplementing the solution with electrical back-up which is a pretty crappy solution because electricity takes so long to heat up the water, so trying to predict how much backup power needs to be provided for you to be guaranteed of hot water whenever you want to shower is properly tricky. The solution to tricky is almost always brute force, so we end up switching the backup supply on from 2am till 6am every morning so you know there’ll be hot water for your dopey-drowsy ass when you wake up.

It works, it saves power, but it’s kak and you’re still poked when eskom pumps the brakes.

But what if we think outside the box for a second and ask ourselves, is electricity our best option for heating water? Or for heating space? or for heating food? or just for heating?

As you can probably guess I would argue “not so much”.

Electricity is a remarkable thing, good luck trying to power you TV with anything else, but it can’t hold a candle up to gas when it comes to heating stuff up.

If you are thinking about reducing your reliance on state provided power or wanting to live a little greener, gas should be your go-to energy source when it comes to heating and cooking in the home. So much so, that gas should really be the only consideration when it comes to heating your water supply and cooking your food. Even if Eskom wasn’t a dog-show and you could actually trust the state to provide what you pay the big taxes for. Gas is still a better solution than electricity hands down.

For Water Heating

Gas water heaters are instantaneous, they heat the water up in real time, with zero storage of water. Zero, no buffering, no caching, no tricksies. They literally beat 50Kw of thermal energy into the water in real time and that gets the water pretty hot under the collar. So you use zero energy while in stand-by – Zero.

High end gas water heating solutions are the only drop-in replacement for electrical storage geysers on the market. Heat pumps are slow to recover and make a noise, solar geysers choke when the sun feels shy and need backup.

With a high-end gas water heater your family honestly will not know you have changed the hot water supply source. Except that now you can only run out of hot water if you run out of cold water to make hot. And you’re the only house on the block that can shower when Eskom plutzes again and again and again.

For Cooking

Cooking with gas is so much a thing, it got a it’s own definition on urbandictionary.com. Honestly, there’s a reason you never here people waxing lyrical about grilling with electricity.

If you haven’t converted to gas as your primary cooking fuel you must hate yourself, and even if you hate yourself you should still get gas for cooking because Eskom.

Cooking with gas is insanely cheap, a 9kg (knee height) bottle will last a family of four for six months, but more interestingly cooking with gas turns a mundane cooking chore into a tactile journey. You can see the flame and when you need real heat like you need for stir-frying there is really no alternative.

So, to sum up…

  1. Free, nope but cheaper than electricity yes.
  2. Renewable, nope, but greener? definitely! (SA electricity is generated with coal, if all the scientist in the world got together and tried to create enough greenhouse gases to melt the earth we couldn’t find a better solution than burning coal).
  3. Reduce our reliance on the state. 100% fo’ sho’

Next time Eskom let’s you down and you vow to start making a change, make sure you’re thinking of gas for the cooking and water heating components of your solution. You’ll thank me later.

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