Even though most homes in South Africa have electricity, over 50 percent of households do not use it for heating, the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) said on Tuesday.

"Of the 14.8 million households in South Africa, some 12.4m (84 percent) use electricity for lighting, 10.7m (73 percent) use it for cooking, and 6.5m (44 percent) use it for heating their homes," the SAIRR said.

It said it reached its SA Survey findings using data obtained from Statistics South Africa.

"Of the 16 percent of households without electricity for lighting, 10 percent used candles, while the remaining six percent relied on paraffin and other unspecified resources," SAIRR said.

It said 27 percent of households did not use electricity for cooking. Instead, two percent used gas, seven percent paraffin, 13 percent wood, one percent coal and four percent other sources.

The survey found that 56 percent of households did not use electricity for heating. Paraffin and wood were used by 28 percent, gas by two percent and other means by 24 percent.

The SAIRR said lights consumed far less electricity than household appliances used for cooking and heating.

It said electricity prices had risen above the inflation rate in eight of the past 10 years.

"If this trend continues, it can be expected that the average household will increasingly switch from electricity to other sources of energy for heating and cooking," said SAIRR researcher Kerwin Lebone.

"Energy sources such as candles and paraffin are also the main contributors to shack-settlement fires, that cause untold damage in terms of loss of life and property," Lebone said.