We’re not here to disappoint anyone — we know you’re all quite fidgety because you’ve been stuck watching prehistoric Netflix (a candle flickering against the wall) for the past two weeks. Maybe you haven’t had a proper warm bath for a few days, or you’ve long since blown your UberEats budget. Here’s something to brighten up your gloom slightly — Stuff’s load shedding survival guide!
In this guide, we’ll cover some of the more expensive gadgets that will keep the lights on and the humans entertained. If you’re looking for the budget version of this explainer — scoot over to our previous survival guide, left over from the last time load shedding was a big thing in SA.
In the meantime, fear not! You’ll likely save some precious money on the electricity bill this month — and we highly recommend investing it in some ‘keeping-the-lights-on’ tech. You know. In case load shedding is an extensive part of the foreseeable future… which, given it’s an Eskom project, seems tragically likely.
Fight the Power
First and foremost — know when load shedding will strike again so you can be prepared. Good thing there’s an app for that. A few actually.
Download a load shedding app
We’ve narrowed down the available load shedding notification apps to three of the most accurate options. The best (and most accurate) platform to check schedules is, and always will be, the City Power website. Here you’ll find info about the current stage of shedding, and when to expect the next blackout.
App-wise, there are two apps that we find most useful — EskomSePush (Android and iOS), and Load Shedding Notifier (on Android and iOS). The former sends push notifications to your mobile phone, which is nifty. And we feel two apps are better than one… just to make sure the schedules are accurate.
Power up the small things
When you feel comfortable with the schedules, you’ll know when to charge up all your electronics for preparation. Remember your phone, laptop, tablet, Kindle, battery-powered anything to be honest. And most importantly — your power banks.
Get yourself a proper power bank — they are not excessively priced, depending on what you buy. We suggest getting a monster power bank that has storage of around 30,000mAh (like this Fonsi Powerbank for R450 from Takealot). These should be fine to power several smaller mobile devices — but if you plan to charge a laptop it won’t work. You’ll need a proprietary power bank for that, and a specific connection tailored to your laptop.
Better yet, pick up a solar power bank for yourself — something like this USB Solar Power Bank, that only costs around R300, but is pretty nifty when you missed the EksomSePush notification and the sun still happens to be up.
Power up the big things
For this step (if you’re into this kinda thing), you’re going to need some expensive things. Things that store power to be more specific — deep cycle batteries to be even more specific.
There are options to harvest the energy — from solar panels to wind energy, or a generator or an exercise bike. Just know that any one of these could cost you upwards of R3,000. Along with this, you need a deep cycle battery or two (depending on the output you want), and an inverter. An inverter (available here from Builders Warehouse) is the thing you need to change DC current from your battery into AC current that can be used to power general items in your home.
If you’re not an electrician, you better call your cousin from Brakpan to come and help you set this up. He should be able to explain to you how much power output your inverter provides — so you’ll know exactly how many devices you can run. You might be able to get more than a few appliances running on it, depending on the size inverter you’ve purchased.
We’re not gonna lie, though, getting an inverter and a couple of deep-cycle batteries isn’t going to be cheap. You can buy pre-built units for around R6,500, but if you’re going all-out you could find yourself spending anything from R15,000 on your inverter (pure sine, for preference) and between R3,500 and R12,000 per deep-cycle battery. But at least you won’t have to listen to a generator roar when the power’s out.
Keep yourself sane
Essentials? Nah. This is a list of nice-to-haves that’ll brighten up your dark nights (or not-quite-as-dark-but-still-powerless days). After all, what better to do throughout load shedding than use electronics? That makes sense, right? Right.
Switch it on
This is a no-brainer if you’re a gamer. Many kids (actually, a lot of adults too) need to play games in order to keep themselves sane when the power’s off. The Nintendo Switch console (that was Stuff’s Gadget of the Year in 2017) is an absolute must if you expect to have any brain matter left after the Dark Ages.
Nintendo’s impressive selection of gaming content is growing, so you’ll find something to keep yourself busy. Whether it’s Fortnite, Mario Kart or Dark Souls Remastered — this is the most fun you can have off the ‘grid’. You can get the console from Nintendo directly from the online shop. You may have to restrict yourself to offline only games, though. Unless you plan even further ahead…
You can come at us with ‘the printed medium isn’t dying out’ speech, but we’re a tech publication, and although we have absolutely nothing against the printed word (heck, we still sell it, after all), we all absolutely adore our Kindles.
First, they last for an astonishingly long time, so there’s no need to keep it charged for a Stage Three session. Second, they are comfortable on the eyes because of the side-lit screen (which is available on the Paperwhite, Voyage — if you can find one — and the Oasis_. We have a review of the Kindle Paperwhite 3G right here, so decide for yourself if some self-lit reading material is what you need to survive the darkness. We promise it’s better for you eyes than staring at printed pages by candlelight.
The perfect time to Netflix and Chill
This goes without saying, but ideally you’d need some media consumption device — this can range anywhere from a MacBook Pro to a budget Honor mobile phone. And there’s a schweet ‘hack’ you can use.
If you don’t have a Netflix account, they do offer one month free, so if you sign up now, you’ll have a good few weeks to test it out.
Netflix allows you to download (certain) content directly to your device to watch offline. You can save movies, series, or documentaries and access them any time. Just make sure the device is charged, if not refer to section one of this guide.
If you’re in the mood for some chilled tunes in the candlelight, Spotify offers the same service with its music selection. There’s a free trial, too, so again you can kick the tyres before you lay down cash.
Pump it up
There are a multitude of wireless speakers out there. Here at Stuff, we’ve gone through (almost) every speaker you can think of, and we highly recommend you check out our reviews page. Whether you just want to stave off the silence or shake the walls, there’s something there for you.
If you’re looking for longevity, JBL’s range has options that won’t break your bank account — like the Xtreme 2 Black that has up to 15 hours of play-time on a charge. There are also wireless Bluetooth speakers for anyone from travelling disco-dancers, to 90’s hip-hop crews, to the hipsters in the park.
Come to the dark side… we have gadgets
This survival guide could have been much longer but we’ve rounded it down to everything we are most likely to use when the Stuff office experiences load shedding. You should also include items like portable gas stoves (for shedding over mealtimes. Add an old-school kettle for the all-important coffee supply), little solar lights or battery-powered fake candles (Brett knows where to get those [Amazon]), but we reckon you’ve got enough to keep you sane until the light comes back on for now.