Load shedding is on everybody’s lips and it seems that no sooner has it faded from the collective memory, then Eskom loses a few generating units and it’s right back on the agenda. Load shedding has cost the South African economy billions of rand it seems that it will be with us for a good few years still. This is one of the leading reasons why South Africans are looking at alternatives to their electricity supply and the most practical one of these seems to be solar power. So, if you’ve been thinking about making the switch, do you wonder what it will set you back? Well, it depends very much on whether you want to go completely off the grid and whether you just want something to tide you over during the typical 2 and a half hours of load shedding.
It is a natural choice for South Africans, mind you, what with our abundant sunshine and sunlight is the ideal free, natural source of energy to convert into electricity in a country such as ours. While it is true that a solar system will set you back an upfront capital expense, the truth is that you will be saving money all the time while it is working – and not just in electricity costs. You will also be able to keep working when everybody else’s businesses come to a grinding halt during a power outage. And, as we all know, time is money.
What Is a Solar System?
Essentially, it is an array of solar panels that is installed at premises like a house or business – typically on the roof – that draws energy from the sun and converts it into direct-current (DC) electricity, which is then sent to an inverter. The job of the inverter is to use the SC power to charge a battery bank consisting of lithium batteries. This battery bank is connected to the main electricity and can feed power into the house to power appliances. It should be noted that it does not supply enough electricity to power equipment that draws large currents, like geysers, ovens, stoves, and anything with large heating elements. The solar panels, the inverter, and the batteries are, therefore, the 3 main elements of such a system.
Not All Solar Systems Are Equal
We should mention that not all solar equipment is created equal and you should opt for a top-quality installation. This is what SolarCheck does. We connect you with pre-vetted installers and suppliers in your area to ensure that the headache of finding good quality is relegated to the past. You might save money on inferior quality now, but it will cost you later. But alright, how much money are we talking about anyway?
What It Costs
For a typical house, a solar installation can be installed for as little as around R65 000. Such a system would supply around 2 kW of power per day and would probably be suitable for a house with a surface area of no more than 80 m2. Adding 150% to that capacity to take us to 5 kW per day does, in fact, not cost us 150% more and would probably amount to around R115 000. This would be a suitable solution for a 250-m2 home. As you can see, it becomes progressively less expensive per kW as we go to a larger and more powerful system. For example, doubling the capacity of the last example to 10 kW per day will likely set you back around R200 000. And remember, these costs include the installation, the equipment, and the electrical certificates.
How Do I Determine the Size of the System I Need?
That is the next logical question and, as suggested in the previous paragraph, the size of the house has a lot to do with it. But what if you don’t know the size of your house? Then knowing what you pay for electricity per month would also be an extremely effective indicator. To this end, our first example (the 80-m2 house) would probably require around R1400 of electricity or less per month. For such a house, a system of R65 000 that provides 2 kW per day will do. If your bill is R1400 to R2400 per month, you need 3 kW per day (system cost around R77 000). If your bill is between R2400 and R5300 per month, you will need 5 kW per day (system cost around R115 000) and above that, you are probably best off with a 10-kW system that will set you back close to R200 000.
Other Money Matters Related to Solar
Your installer should be able to tell you pretty accurately how much power your installation will be able to produce per month or year and, consequently, how much money you’ll be able to save on your Eskom bill. If you cannot pay cash, you could finance the system our of your access bond or you could chat to your bank about taking out a loan. Lastly, keep in mind that a solar installation most certainly increases the value of your property.
Remember that your system must be approved. If you live in a security complex, the homeowners’ association or body corporate would have to approve it. Grid-type systems must be registered with the relevant municipality and rules differ from province to province. Your supplier will be able to give you detailed information on the requirements.
The Long Term
A good solar system can last decades if good-quality equipment is used. Each supplier will also sell their equipment with warranties and this is also a good indicator of quality. So, it is always a good idea to team up with someone you can trust. SolarCheck takes the legwork out of determining where to get the best quality and the right suppliers and service providers in the area where you live. Now it is up to you to size your system, take the plunge, and join the ranks of thousands of South Africans who not only reduce their reliance on Eskom, but does something good for sustainability and the environment. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, you can only win with solar.