A cheap (and practical) guide to load shedding

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Look, we totally get it. Load shedding can be a real kick in the southern hemisphere and sometimes (or all the time) you’d rather not break the bank on some fancy-schmancy generator or solar powered stove to keep you going in the dark. Mostly you just want something practical, cheap and (possibly) dirty to do the job.

With that in mind, the Stuff office jammed its collective brainpower into a battery-operated blender and mashed it all up to create a giant super brain, one capable of generating only the most practical (and cheap) solutions for surviving load shedding. Not only that, we went and compiled everything into a handy list. A list only achievable through the power of the Stuff Super Brain™.

Fairy Lights

No-one needs an excuse to turn their living room/garden into the res room occupied by a first year university student that just wants the place to “feel like a home away from home”. Sure, you might feel a little embarrassed about hanging them when your friends ask why you’ve suddenly become so passionate about fairy hunting, but the joke will be on them when the power dies and you’re still surrounded by strings of battery-operated lights.

Fairy lights are ridiculously easy to find, incredibly cheap (unless you’re being ripped off) and are found in a variety of colours and lengths. While you might scoff at the idea, it’s always a good plan to have spare lights that can last for months on just two AA batteries. We’re also not too adult to admit that a couple of fairy lights spread out across the lounge and garden does make a dark house feel like a home away from home.

You can get a 10m string of fairy lights from Makro for just R69.

 

Ice bricks and a cooler box

One of the worst parts of not having electricity for extended periods of time is that all your food goes off or, arguably worse, stays at room temperature prior to consumption. Blegh. While our ancestors could just bury meat and vegetables under piles of snow to keep them fresh, we don’t have such luxuries. So it’s good to have the next best thing: Some ice bricks and an insulated box to put them in.

They’re not flashy and they’re certainly not going to impress your friends, but what will impress them is the fact that you have a whole crate of cold drinks ready for when the load is shed. Sometimes the most practical solutions are the most basic. If you want something a little more…chillier, then maybe look into proper camping cooler boxes because those boys? They keep things cold for dozens of hours. And they run on deep cycle (and car) batteries – handy for when Eskom takes a turn for the typical. It never hurts to be prepared for the worst.

Check out your local camping shop or online retailers for a range of different cooler boxes and ice bricks. Pricing, obviously, varies.

Vacuum Flask

While having stuff stay cold is an absolute luxury at the best of times, what’s even more special is the ability to keep things cool. Due to the fact that we at Stuff don’t have any X-Men like mutations, we’ve been forced to accommodate by becoming very familiar with vacuum flasks, the best way to ensure you don’t need a kettle with the power dies.

There’s a reason that Thermos has become the name people associate with keeping the beverages warm and that’s because they’re still the best at it. You could splurge on one of their fancy flasks that display temperature on the actual container but if you’d rather not spent R500 on a cup of coffee then there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that are (arguably) just as efficient.

You can find cheap flasks anywhere from Takealot to Clicks.

USB Fan

We’re headed into Autumn, so this item is less essential than it was mid-February but at the same time load shedding strikes like a case of severe food poisoning. You know, the worst possible times? Last thing anyone wants is to be stuck in the middle of a surprise heatwave without any means of cooling down. In case of that (increasingly likely, according to Greta) turn of events, you’ll be glad of a fan that doesn’t need a lot of juice to get spinning.

USB fans are incredibly easy to find, very affordable and for the price you’re paying exactly what you need. Sure, they’re not about to cool your entire dining room but they’ll certainly provide some comfort in a desperate situation. All you need to run one of these bad boys is a device with a USB port that has some form of battery life. Like, say, a power-brick. The fan motor doesn’t even need that much power to operate! Truly a marvel of engineering.

You’ll find a decent USB fan for R150 on Takealot.

Glow Sticks

These neon shafts of light and colour aren’t exclusively found in that one party you were too scared to attend in matric. While they’re certainly mostly used in raves, as we believe the kids call those debaucherous events, they’ve also been adopted by various military organisations. They’re lightweight, keep a-glow for ages and ensure you’re ready for a wide array of tactical manoeuvres.

They’re also fairly inexpensive and easy to find, with most military surplus stores selling them at a decent rate. While they might not be as magical as fairy lights, they’re certainly easier to transport from room to room if you don’t feel like draping a string of bulbs across your neck. We think a pack of these is certainly worthy of an investment.

You can find heavy duty glow sticks here for R250 for five.

Library Card

We know, we know. Just the other week we were calling those folks that read books nerds and now here we are recommending you purchase a library card. Well, here’s the thing: Even nerds get it right sometimes. Why worry about charging your army of Kindles and tablets when all you really need to go on wondrous adventures with Jane Austen’s cast of characters is a sliver of plastic with your name on it.

Sure, you could buy books only to read them once and then never look at them again. OR you could secure a library card really cheap and have a plethora of books and stories to indulge in for no extra cost. You also get to support one of the great institutions of civilisation that unfortunately just don’t get the credit they deserve.

You can order a library card from your nearest library for absolutely nothing!

 

Telescope

You know when light pollution isn’t a problem? When you live in the middle of nowhere. You know when else it isn’t a problem? When Eskom has a tantrum and turns off the lights. Why not take the opportunity to learn a bit more about the all-encompassing vastness that surrounds us every waking moment? Sure, you can’t watch TV but why should that matter when all you need for entertainment is the cosmic scale of space to remind you how small and insignificant you are?

While you’re engaged in all this existential dread you could also take a second to learn a bit more about the stars you see in the night sky. All you really need is a cheap set of binoculars (or a telescope) and a handy guide on astronomy to become more acquainted with the Southern Cross or… we want to say… the big man with sword? We never said we’d take our own advice.

You can find a cheap telescope set at Mr Price Home for only R200 but if you’d prefer something a little less “for kids” and a little more “actually functional”, check out Takealot for a range of well-priced star gazers.

 

Bluetooth Speaker

Here’s the thing about listening to music off your phone: It sucks. It doesn’t matter what kind of speaker your mobile device is running it’s just not the optimal way to catch up on podcasts or listen to your favourite album in the dark. That’s why a Bluetooth speaker is so necessary. Ideally a Bluetooth speaker that has plenty of battery life, to ensure you’re listening to the best audio possible until well into the evening.

If we may be so bold as to do our job, we highly recommend Sony’s SRS-XB21. It’s compact, comes with an incredibly powerful battery that should last the duration of whatever stage of load shedding you’re on and has unmatched sound quality for the price. While it’s certainly a little pricer than most of the other items on this list, it’s definitely worth it. Just let us have this one, please?

You can find the Sony SRS-XB21 on Loot for R1,588.

Fire Pit

Before the age of electricity, before humans discovered what it means to stick fingers into a wall socket and yell, “Ouch!” there was another method to hurt yourself through energy. Fire, or as it is professionally known in the tech industry, The Great Equaliser is known as both a tool and a deadly weapon. While we’re not about to encourage arson (don’t be like that, man) we are definitely about to encourage you to manage your light situation with a fancy fire basket!

You could be all rustic and make a circle of rocks or something but why would you want to get your hands dirty like that? That’s utterly below you! Instead, use a fire basket to ensure your fire is both controlled and stylish in your backyard. There’s no better time to learn how to build a fire. Seriously, it’ll be winter soon and you need something to keep you warm and let you read your books (from the library. See above).

You’ll find a Bascilica 120 Fire Basket for just R399 at Makro.

 

A Big Ol’ Dongle

Despite everyone complaining how desperately they want to escape from the Internet, we all get very cross and irritated the second we can’t access it. Load shedding is actually a gift. For once maybe you can put your phone down, get off Twitter and take a look at the glorious world around you. Actually, you can’t because it’s too dark to see anything. Okay fine, point taken.

In that case, make sure you invest in a cheap, light alternative to your normal Internet router. Everyone loves the word “dongle” but not enough people have cottoned on to the joys of being able to connect to the Internet by just throwing a USB stick into your laptop. There are so many of them floating around the country and with a decent data bundle deal, you can browse Reddit in the dark as much as you want. Like there’s any better way to browse Reddit.

You can buy a range of USB dongles from plenty of online retailers and a SIM card for it from any locally recognised mobile service provider.

 

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I completed a Masters Degree just so someone might take my opinions seriously one day. Also writes about video games over at Critical Hit.

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