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Dealing with the ever present power cuts in Zimbabwe

light-bulbThey say there are two things that are certain in life: Death and Taxes. I think I must add, “there are two things that are certain in Zimbabwe power cuts and dry taps.” It has happened so often most people have simply stopped being surprised about it. It does not seem to matter who you are – hospitals and clinics are not spared, schools or just a lonely geek like me who just wants to post his secrets on Facebook – we are all plunged into darkness at inauspicious moments.

My colleague has advocated for the use of solar power in these dark moments. Solar is a great substitute but the problem with it is that it tends to be a bit expensive and, depending on your needs, in order for you to completely meet your needs you might have to borrow your neighbours’ roofs. You might even need a battery full of rooms to go with that as well. Besides it looks like summer is upon us (and speaking as a man raised on Solar power) you are likely to run out of power on cloudy days.

Of course if you have a big budget like Hippo Valley or Katiyo Estate you could just build your own power plant. What if all you wanted was just a way to stay online so you could chat with your friends, post your complaints about the power cuts on social networking sites, monitor the status of your servers and check football and sports scores?

Here is what you could do

  • Buy a small generator for your computer,Laptop, tablet and smartphones. There are available pretty much everywhere. If you drive a hard bargain you can get one at Gulf Complex for around $60. Please note these are “Zhing zhongs.” You will have to pay for fuel of course but since this will be for backup purposes the cost might not amount to much.

  • Buy a tablet if you do not already have one. Most tablets are power efficient when compared to computers. In my next article I will look at how you can get a 3G tablet for less than $130.There are many apps out there to keep track of your servers, chat or do whatever it is that you do online.

  • Buy a power bank for your mobile devices. If you do your math right you can charge your smartphone or tablet for up to five times. You can buy one online here.

  • Buy a universal Laptop charger. This will allow you to charge your Laptop using your vehicle’s power port. You can obviously charge your phone or tablet using a car charger.

  • When you are using Solar Power use a Laptop instead of a Desktop. The latter tends to waste a lot of energy.

  • Buy an SSD drive they use less energy when compared to traditional moving drives of course the savings are not enough for you to write home about but they can grant you a few more precious extra minutes online.

  • Unplug all the USB devices you are not using. Most people have this habit where they keep a USB memory stick plugged in even when they hardly ever use it.

  • Avoid using Optical drives ( I wonder who still uses those anyway.)

  • Switch off your WiFi adapter unless you need it. Like with USB devices most people tend to keep the adapter on needlessly.

  • Avoid gaming and other disk intensive operations unless it’s work of course.

  • Invest in VPN at work and use Remote Desktop apps on your tablet or smartphone. I use a VPS in France which I can access on my smartphone to do all sorts of complex stuff.

  • Open Task Manager and close all unwanted services. You might need to Google the name of each service and learn what each service does.

I am sure there are a lot of power saving techniques such as putting your computer in power saving mode. As always Google is your friend in such instances. You are also free to add any great tips you have in the comments section.

Picture from UNP

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

16 thoughts on “Dealing with the ever present power cuts in Zimbabwe

  1. Thanks for the interesting article however may I point out some inaccuracies therein.

    1. No matter how small your roof is, space is the last problem you will have with solar. Solar panels will easily fit on any rooftop and with new regulations you may be selling the excess electricity to your neighbour instead.

    2. The energy efficient devices you recommend are more expensive than a standard solar electricity system. I would say its a choice, whether to buy a $1 000 iPad, powerbank, install a VPN and an SSD drive……..OR……..Install a solar system for way less than that and have lights, television and DSTV for the night. Not forgetting laptops, WiFi and all the gizmo you want…

    1. Good point.
      I was debating about this new regulations the other day with my old man who by the way works at Zesa. Could you please point where these new regulations are available online.

  2. I agree with Itai, but whether or not you wish to use solar energy I’d recommend installing an inverter system (they’re convenient and affordable, especially if you’re in a position to talk about laptops and gaming rigs) and just forget about generators altogether (they’re loud, inefficient, generate pollution and cost money to keep running).

    1. only comment about inverters is make sure you get big enough ones

      i have a few UPS’ dotted around our house (UPS is just a much more high tech inverter but runs for less time)

      this gives most of my critical devices such as router, NAS, laptop/screen around 30 mins of run time before needing to put the generator on so i dont have to restart stuff if the power is out for more than 20 minutes – thankfully not sure how but we get very very few cuts in our area on power (water is a different matter however so i guess we cant have it all our own way) that we don’t need much more

      my first steps into solar will be solar geisers though because low power is almost worse than no power for tech gear! hence the UPS’

      1. I have a 600W inverter with two batteries and this setup runs pretty much everything I want during a power cut (lights, laptops, phone chargers, TVs) all night. I can’t remember the cost anymore (a few hundred dollars, I suppose) but more importantly I’m no longer raging at every power cut. It’s so worth it.

        I’m also interested in getting a solar geyser, and maybe some panels to generate my own free energy, but these always feel like such a huge project and expense!

          1. My system is wired to the mains and charges automatically when ZESA’s available. The only thing I control is whether the inverter is ‘off’ or ‘on’ and if it’s on there’s no power interruption to whatever’s connected. There are several ways you can have it set up so you need to talk to your dealer/electrician first.
            The batteries are like 12 v car batteries. I don’t know the real difference except these come factory sealed and have LED indicators for battery health state.
            And I don’t have any solar powered devices except one nifty see through solar calculator 😎

            1. They are called Deep-Cycle Batteries, more effective than car batteries for this solar business

  3. This Article is not meant for people in zimbabwe.

    Things like Ipad, tablet, SERVER, etc are was out of the league to many.

    Majority would rather have their family watch 8PM news or Generations than worry about how to raise $1000 for an Ipad.

    Actually Desk tops are found Kubasa only. So so few homes have a desktop. A Laptop yes the number is raising of laptop owners.

    Could it be that the writer is so out of touch with zimbabwe goings on?

    1. I don’t know where you got that absurd idea about desktops and tablets being rare in Zimbabwean households, especially in the scope of Techzim readership. If you want to consider the entire Zim population then this whole blog isn’t suitable for the average Zimbabwean…

    2. You seem to underrate Zimbos. My experience with students at University is that each will aim to get a good spec laptop plus some Tablet. Most will have Ipad 2 if not better. They cant afford a lot of things, but they will make efforts to ensure they have these gadgets. I am only talking about students, what more of a working person….

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