In Makhanda (Grahamstown) you can leave home in the morning dressed for a scarf-hugging 9C and walk home in the afternoon shedding layers under a hot summer sun that’s baked the roads hot enough to melt the tar around the edge of the potholes.
In winter, most household electricity bills surge by 30-40% as heaters get turned on for comfort on cold nights, and in summer the air buzzes with fans and aircons. With Eskom getting Nersa’s blessing to increase tariffs an average of 5.23% for direct customers and 7.32% for municipalities (who add their commission to that) it’s time to look at other ways of keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer.
Here are three key areas of your home worth spending time and money on.
Proper insulation is a legal requirement in terms of the Sans 10400-xa building regulations for any new building, varying in specification across South Africa’s six climatic zones. Makhanda (Grahamstown) is in Region 4, which is Temperate coastal. The requirements are based on maximum energy demand per unit area (kVA/m2) and maximum energy consumption.
The measure is called the R-value and means thermal resistance. In Makhanda, the minimum required total R-value (m2/kW) of your entire roof is 3.70. Different insulating products (e.g. Knauf, Thermolite, Isotherm etc) have different R-values. Within each product, different thicknesses produce different R-values. The following excellent website provides information on options and their specifications: https://www.homeinsulations.co.za/sans-10400-xa/
Speak to BUCO hardware store about what options are available locally.
Thick curtains are the first step to retaining heat inside when it’s cold, and keeping it out when it’s hot. Close them when you leave on a morning that you know will turn into a stinker and you’ll return home to a house as cool as a cathedral.
Many older Makhanda (Grahamstown) houses have fireplaces. In winter, you should fit these with a cover if you’re not making a fire, to prevent the chimney channelling cold draughts into your living space.
Finally, PG Glass supplies and fits a product called SmartGlass. Either single-or double-glazed, it comes with various coatings to filter out direct sunlight, retain warmth and, as a bonus, reduce noise.
Many older Makhanda (Grahamstown) houses have wooden floors: if you’ve got them, keep them, is the advice of local property experts. Throw a rug or carpet over a wooden floor for comfort.
But if you have tiles, consider a change for your next home makeover. Tiled floors may be great for the dog to sprawl across to recover from the summer heat – but in winter, they’re unforgiving.
Laminate and vinyl floors are poor heat conductors, and so provide around 5% better insulation, Derick Kleynhans, owner of Top Carpets in Grahamstown and Port Alfred, advises.
“If you buy a quality product you’ll have a decent looking floor for 10 years-plus,” Kleynhans says. “Technology has improved so much in the flooring trade.”
It’s going to get hotter… plant spekboom!
Longer, more intense heat waves are one of the effects of climate change that are now occurring and experts predict that global temperatures will continue to rise over the next few decades, mostly because of greenhouse gases produced by human activities.
The next century could see a rise in global temperatures of between 1.8C and 4C.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which comprises more than 1 300 scientists from across the world, says the impact will vary on individual regions.
Here in South Africa, a 2015 study published by the Department of Environmental Affairs published a report on the most significant potential climate change risks and vulnerabilities for each our nine biomes – and what would help protect them.
Biodiversity is one of the early casualties of climate change.
“South Africa’s rich diversity of plants and animals and its high levels of endemism are critical to our national heritage and supports livelihoods and economic development,” says the Department in its report.
Albany Thicket is the dominant biome around Makhanda (Grahamstown) and regional climate for this biome is projected to become 2-4°C hotter by the end of the 21st century.
What you can do to help on Gardening Day this Sunday, 21 October
* Invasive alien species are a major threat to South Africa’s endemic biodiversity and water supplies. In your garden, gradually remove water-guzzling or forest-choking aliens and replace them with the thousands of indigenous plants that will help grow a network of biodiversity corridors within the city. Check out Some Mgcuwa’s ‘Local and Lovely’ columns on our website for ideas.
* The Department has identified degraded Albany Thicket as a location for climate mitigation through carbon storage and the Fish River reserve is one area where spekboom has been planted extensively and intensively for this purpose. You can plant Portulacaria afra in your garden, as a hedge, groundcover, in a rock garden – or even as a small tree. Oh – and you can eat it: the Vitamin C-rich leaves are edible.