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Small changes in how you do things can reduce the use of electricity, especially during the colder months

With winter upon us I thought I would pass on tips on energy saving. This saves us money and the country electricity.

  • Close a heated room’s doors and windows. 
  • Insulate ceiling spaces with thermal insulating material. 
  • Ensure the fridge door seals are in good condition. 
  • Do not open the fridge doors unnecessarily. 
  • Do not leave the fridge door open while you are busy with other things.
  • Do not put hot food or liquids in the fridge.
  • Defrost your fridge regularly. A heavy build-up of ice increases the fridge’s running costs.
  • Use low-wattage light bulbs, but remember that a 100 watt bulb provides the same light as two 60 watt bulbs.
  • Switch off unnecessary lights.
  • Do not leave outdoor lights on during the day. 
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • It costs a lot less to boil water in a kettle than to boil water on a stove. 
  • Boil only as much water as required – but always make sure the kettle’s element is covered.
  • Pour excess hot water into a thermos flask for later use.

Q and A

Brian has a roofing problem:

Brian’s roof, which has a problem with skylights and water build-up. Picture: Supplied

Q: Attached is a picture of one of my roofs. The roof slopes and, originally, the skylights protruded above the roof panels. Water would build up behind the skylight at its highest level and penetrate the roof covering. Two years ago, we had a new roof installed.

As you can see, now the flat panels butt up to the glass, the theory being that the water would just run over them. The joints between the flat sheets and the glass are sealed with the appropriate membrane and sealant. Unfortunately, this is now giving way and water is seeping inbetween them.

Is there any other system we can use?

A: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I can see so much wrong from the photo that whoever came up with the solution should be taken to task. It looks like a patch job with any one of a number of things that can and will, fail.

Any contractor who says he can fix it without starting from scratch is looking for trouble. Roofs are designed so that water flows off one surface on to the next.

The minute you put something in place, however tiny, that will hold up the free flow of water you are going to have problems. Once the water begins to pool it will eventually destroy the material underneath.

Any projection passing through a roof must have a back flashing and then a back-apron flashing going up to the nearest ridge or be well tucked under the adjoining roof. In this case, if the rear flat metal sheet had been fixed over the skylight, and the front one fitted underneath the front edge of the glass, it might have had the desired effect. It will be interesting to see if any fellow contractors who read the column have suggestions.


Last week I was invited to a talk by Dr Jonathan Evans who, apart from being chairperson and chief executive of Ash and Lacy, an international company specialising in building cladding, is also a director of the Metal Cladding & Roofing Manufacturers Association in the UK.

He is a leading authority on fire safety and was involved in the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 died in London two years ago. It was interesting to hear what went wrong, how the government got their initial report wrong and what happened since, including Britain banning combustible cladding materials.

For me, the most interesting part of the talk was how the causes of deaths in fires have changed since the mid-1960s when “new-age” materials began to be used.

Before then, the highest percentage of deaths was caused by the flames themselves. Since, there has been a steady increase in deaths caused by a toxic fumes given off by these new materials. This has led to investigations into the toxicity of materials once they burn, not only at the scene of the fire, but in surrounding areas.

Evans’s advice was not to stay put in the event of a fire, but to get out as fast as possible before you are poisoned.

Many people die from inhaling toxic fumes from burning material. Picture: Supplied

 Dion Marsh, managing director of Ash and Lacy SA, says there is much work going on in South Africa to ensure we don’t have our own Grenfell Tower disaster. Many organisations, including major insurers, are getting involved to ensure our buildings and health are protected.

Of course, you can have as many regulations as you like, but if they are not enforced, the greedy and dishonest will get richer while the rest suffer. 

◆ I was advising about ceiling insulation last week. I took a look at the Thermal Insulation and Energy Efficiency Retrofit Guide, published by the Thermal Insulation Products and Systems Association SA at

It is one of the most comprehensive guides I have read on insulation and energy saving.

*Please keep your questions or comments coming to or SMS only to 082 4463859.


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