eskom load shedding

Photo: Pixabay

Left in the dark by load shedding? Here are some tips to stay connected

UCT’s student guide aiming to minimise the impact of load shedding might be helpful to others trying to work during these dark times too…

eskom load shedding

Photo: Pixabay

In light (excuse the pun) of the recent return of load shedding, which is set to be suspended again on Sunday evening, Eskom have seen fit to publish a handy tip-guide to lessen the impact of the power saving measures. 

The guide, compiled by the University of Cape Town’s Information and Communication Technology Services to assist the student body, is also helpful for anyone else feeling left in the dark and unable to work during load shedding.

It probably would have been useful a few days earlier, when the country was once again plunged into darkness, but better late than never, right? 

Eskom project further blackouts ‘until April’

With Eskom having now taken to publishing a load shedding forecasts on their website and calculating how much power is likely to be off the grid each week, the embattled power supplier estimates that both planned maintenance outages and potential ‘unplanned incidents’ will lead to blackouts being ‘highly likely’ every week until mid-April.

UCT’s tips aim to minimise the impact of load shedding on South Africans desperately trying to keep their heads above water and remain productive while lockdown measures continue to prevent them from heading to offices. 

“In our tech-driven world, it’s really disruptive to have a few hours without electricity,” they said. “But losing power doesn’t necessarily mean losing productivity. In this article, we look at some key strategies for minimising the blow of load shedding, while also making the most of the electrical downtime.”

Invest in the right equipment 

Firstly, they suggest investing in the right equipment, such as the following:

  • Surge protectors: When the power comes back on, your electrical circuits can experience power surges – which could damage your appliances. Surge protectors, which plug right into your wall socket, are relatively cheap and will minimise the risk of power surges damaging precious equipment.
  • Alternate power: If you can afford it, buy a generator or UPS to give you emergency power when you need it most. With a generator, though, remember that you’re paying the initial costs PLUS fuel – so take the plunge only if you’re confident that you can manage in the long run with the volatile fuel price. 
  • Lighting: Buy or make solar-powered emergency lights, use a torch, or – at the very least – use some good, old-fashioned candles. But make sure that you have matches or a lighter. A lamp chimney is also a cheap yet valuable investment to minimise the risk of accidental fires in case a candle falls over.
  • Cooking / heating food: Load shedding slots change every day, so chances are, you could be powerless at one of your mealtimes. To ensure that you can still cook or heat food and liquids during load shedding, invest in a small, yet powerful, cooking device such as a solar cooker or a 2-plate gas stove. You could also take precautions before your power goes out, such as cooking in a Wonderbag or keeping a flask full of boiled water.

Know the load shedding schedule  

Secondly, UCT advise that the public become well-acquainted with the schedule and their load shedding status:

“The current load shedding is subject to fairly reliable schedules – so you can plan ahead.,” they said. “Whether you’re supplied by the City of Cape Town or Eskom, keep your schedule close at hand – whether printed or on your mobile device.”

Because the national and local load shedding status can change at the drop of a hat, they recommend that you keep yourself updated by connecting to the right information sources, such as the following social media and Eskom resources.

Charge up  

Next, UCT say you need to be smart with your electronics. Before load shedding strikes, they recommend the following: 

  • Working on a computer: Save your work regularly – either manually or by setting up auto-save options in your software. If the power goes out unexpectedly, you won’t lose your work.
  • Keep your batteries charged: Make sure that your phone, laptop and other electronic devices are always charged – with enough power to last for the scheduled load shedding interval.
  • Just before your load shedding session begins: Turn off all electronic equipment that plugs into wall sockets. Make sure that you flip the switch off at the wall.

After load shedding, they warn that equipment can be damaged by sudden power surges so protect your gear by waiting until the power has been restored BEFORE you switch the plugs back on.

In addition, the university recommends that its students continue to connect to UCT’s centrally-managed IT services (email, network drives, Vula, etc.) provided that devices have power, and a data connection. 

Plan ahead  

Finally, UCT suggest that you plan ahead for offline work.

“If your equipment (including laptops or tablets) is battery-operated, you can probably outlast the load shedding slot – as long as you charged your device beforehand,” they said. 

They recommended that you keep a list of tasks you can complete without electricity, such as:

  • Reading;
  • Studying;
  • Holding team meetings or brainstorming sessions;
  • Paperwork, or
  • Physical filing.