When is the best time to buy prepaid electricity?

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Have you been buying your electricity at month-end or throughout the month? You’ve likely been overspending. Here’s how Eskom’s Incline Block Tariff system works and why you should consider buying your electricity units at the beginning of the month, plus general electricity-saving tips.

How does Eskom’s Incline Block Tariff system work?

The Incline Block Tariff system was designed to encourage low consumption and to make electricity affordable.

Prepaid electricity units in South Africa can be worth R1.40 per kWh and can cost as much as R2.69 per unit close to the end of the month. This is because the price of electricity units in South Africa is split into tiered blocks. For example, this means:

  • Everyone starts in block 1 at the beginning of the month, when units are most affordable. The price per unit for block 1 is R1.26 for the first 50 units.
  • Once you’ve purchased the maximum number of units for block 1, you’ll move to block 2 where you’ll be charged R1.62 per unit, capping at 350 units. Thereafter, you’ll move into block 3 and then 4, depending on how many units you reach.
  • Each household is, therefore, billed differently based on the number of units they buy and how far up the tier of blocks the amount goes. The more power you use every month, the more you will pay.

The good news is that even if you reach block 2, your purchase history resets in the new month and you’ll move back to block 1. You can find your area’s tariff block here.

How to get the most out of your units

According to energy expert Ted Blom, the average South African family – with two adults and three children – spends approximately 1,000kwh per month (1,000 units). The price of the number of units you use will vary depending on the block tariffs.

Due to this, it’s best to buy the electricity that you need once per month and in block 1, before you reach 350kWh if possible, otherwise you’ll be charged at a higher rate. Monitor how many units you use per month by keeping a log to get a clearer idea of your household’s usage, and then calculate how much you’ll need to spend based on that.

Electricity-saving tips

The less power you use, the fewer units you’ll need and the less money you’ll have to spend. Here are some tips to make your units and go further every month:

  • Try to do all your washing in bigger, fewer loads rather than many small loads.
  • Use LED light bulbs as they use 90% less electricity and last up to 20 years.
  • Don’t set your fridge to an unnecessarily cold temperature. Set your refrigerator between 2°C and 5°C and your freezer between -20°C and -22°C.
  • Cover your geyser with an insulation blanket.
  • Consider investing in a solar geyser system or panels.
  • Only use the heater in one room and for a specific amount of time.
  • Switch off all unused appliances at the wall.
  • Limit the number of baths you take and how full you fill the tub, or take shorter showers instead.

For more advice related to saving, read this helpful article:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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When is the best time to buy prepaid electricity?

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