Bloemfontein Courant brings you light: Tips for surviving load-shedding

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Over the year, Bloemfontein Courant has covered a series of articles on load-shedding, infamously known as the dark lord. The effect has been felt far and wide and in an effort to bring light, this feature will give a glimpse of how some solve their outage problems.

Small businesses, offices, hotels, hospitals, homes, and more are all dependent on power. Although their needs may vary quite widely, each of these has to know how best to cope with load-shedding in their particular environment to avoid the potentially disastrous effects on their ability to operate effectively.

The greater their power requirements, the more generating capacity they will need. Taking a look at small and micro enterprises such as hair salons, these businesses utilise electricity and many cannot afford to buy generators for when the electricity is down.

The continuous electricity cuts have harmed such businesses, especially since the rollout of Stage 6. One such an SMME was Lashie’s Glam Salon in Heidedal. The owner, Laschianine Prins, said that her profits have decreased significantly because of load-shedding. Given that she needs electricity to do her job, she said that it is impossible during those two-hour intervals. As an alternative to network issues that come with load-shedding, Prins now uses an EFT transaction system.

According to Nicolaas Esterhuysen of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) University Estates, load-shedding, for now, has the biggest impact on the economic growth of the country. “Now that we should be recovering from the after-effects of the pandemic, load-shedding is eliminating all progress made thus far.” He adds that the impact of load-shedding can be felt by how the lifespan of electrical infrastructure, appliances, and equipment has decreased.

“The frequency of load-shedding results in more regular breakdowns and increased maintenance.” He advised residents to ensure that all electronic equipment is protected with surge arrester sockets, as load-shedding has a significant impact on home appliances. The public health sector has faced interruptions with service provision at clinics and other health facilities due to load-shedding.

According to the Free State Department of Health spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, the National District Hospital and the Universitas Academic Hospital have been exempted from load-shedding since August 2021 and the department is working on ensuring that other hospitals are too. “There’s been persistent engagements with every decision-making structure to get health facilities exempted from load-shedding.

“Since the call by the National Ministry of Health, the Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital in Bloemfontein, the Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom, and the Mofumahadi Manapo Mopeli Regional Hospital in Qwaqwa have applied for exemption,” says Mvambi.

To further combat the effect that load-shedding has, as the few mentioned sectors have, the businesses in this feature hope to lighten the load.

Remain operational:

While a large inverter or generator might be too costly for you (especially considering the cost of fuel), a small inverter can be a lifesaver when it comes to running computers, your printer and WiFi. Inverters change direct current (such as from a battery) into alternating current (which powers your household appliances). These inverters are compact and can stand on a counter or desk. A 2 000W inverter costs between R2 500 and R3 000. You will also need a deep-cycle battery, which you must remember to charge as needed between periods of load-shedding. Basic units including the inverter, battery pack and cables will cost around R7 500. When the workday is over, you can disconnect your computers and printer, and connect your TV.

Purchase a few LED emergency globes and replace the regular globes in your home with these. They work the same as regular bulbs when there is electricity – and also recharge their internal battery during this time, so when load-shedding begins, they continue to give light. As their batteries drain during load-shedding, the light they give gets progressively dimmer. Be aware that some globes need a good few hours to recharge.

TIP: Check if a battery charger is included in the price of a package deal.

A small uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device can be used to keep your internet running during load-shedding. Remember to check the voltage on your devices before buying your UPS device. A device that can power your WiFi router will cost between R600 and R1 200, depending on your needs.

TIP: Consider a UPS with lithium batteries for longer battery life

Power banks are useful for charging cellphones, tablets and other small electrical devices. Just remember to charge them when the power is back on. Priced from around R150. Rechargeable LED lanterns give bright light and are also suitable for charging most mobile phones. A 1 000-lumen LED lantern gives over 50 hours of light, lights up an entire room, and can be bought for between R250 and R300. As a guide, one lumen is similar to the light provided by one standard candle. Smaller lanterns that light up a smaller space and are cheaper can also be bought for specific uses, such as lighting up a desk. Ensure your laptops, power banks, cellphones and other devices are charged between bouts of load-shedding. Buy a cellphone charger for your car so that you do not end up incommunicado when you arrive home to load-shedding.

TIP: Before purchasing one, check if you need a bayonet or screw fitting and check to see if it will fit inside your light cover or shade.

Look at technology that enables you or your staff to work anywhere that has connectivity and still access shared resources. Think cloud-based business solutions and collaboration technology solutions, such as Skype, Teams and Zoom. If you work from home or run a small business that does not have walk-in customers, consider renting a co-worker space which should have a generator to keep its offices for hire powered. Plan your day to see which work duties or essential chores need power to be done, and which can be done without power. Small businesses can ask their staff members if they are willing to adapt to working hours that change with the day’s load-shedding schedule.

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