What is Load Limiting and other related power questions answered
If you live in South Africa, there is one topic that you can’t escape: power. Or more accurately the lack of power as Eskom is just not able to meet the country’s power demands. So today we have the situation where systematically areas are shut down for hours at a time and this is enough to conserve that power keeping the lights on in other areas. Effectively collective punishment manifesting itself as candlelit dinners several times per week.
Apparently this concept of “maintenance” of crumbling power stations was beyond someone’s pay grade. But why bother with trivial matters when the golden-handshake millions of Rands get paid regardless of what mess left behind….But I digress…
But wait – there is more.
In order to try prevent Load Shedding (a South Africanism word for Blackout), City Power has a new word we need to add to our lexicon – “Load Limiting”. With this new system, City Power is able to effectively limit the amount of power a household can consume at a touch of a button. Smart Meters were installed in around 92 000 households which are now under direct control of City Power. The concept is that if you can limit how much power each household can use, then you can prevent the Load Shedding.
What happens during Load Limiting ?
During Load Limiting, there is a 30 second interruption of power then power is restored. This happens repeatedly over 5 minutes and is the warning that unless power consumption is dramatically reduced the power will be disconnected. Therefore, during this time the household needs to run around switching off geysers, heaters, under floor heating, pool pumps, computers, ovens, microwaves and anything that draws power.
When does Load Limiting take place ?
Whilst Load Limiting can technically happen anytime, it seems to be taking place between 7 and 9pm which is when there is a high demand for power as people cook their dinners, have a shower and blow dry their hair.
Why are some being Load Limited now every night ?
I spoke to a Johannesburg resident who has been Load Limited every night. It seems that according to City Power MD Sicelo Xulu this will happen in the first two weeks of this project , thereafter Load Limiting will run concurrently with the Load Shedding schedule.
What does Load Limiting hope to achieve ?
The concept is that Load Limiting is a warning that your area is about to go through Load Shedding for several hours as per the schedule. However, if you switch of enough devices and appliances during the 5 minute warning, you can be avoid having no power at all and continue to have power whilst your neighbours who don’t have smart meters or haven’t switched off their appliances will sit in the dark.
So its a way to reduce power consumption, keep lights and TV on, and have limited power, verses having zero power.
What about electronics ?
Sensitive electronics such as computer, tablets, cell phones,TVs, laptops, PVR and gaming consoles are at risk with the power being disconnected for 30 seconds and reconnected again and disconnected again. It is advisable to physically disconnect these devices from the power socket.
Ideally, purchase UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). This is equipment that is plugged in between the power and the computer. The UPS’s task is to provide “clean” power and prevent power spikes from frying your devices. UPS has its own battery so that is provides your equipment with enough time to shut down safely without loosing any data.
It would also be wise to invest in a “gang of plugs” that have power surge built in. These will protect your devices as the fuse will burn out in case of high power surge and not fry your device.
*Headline image from Shutterstock.com