As ailing Eskom continues to drive South Africans to despair, solar energy is quickly becoming the go-to sustainable solution for our ever-increasing power problems.
SA may be short on electricity, but one thing we do have a lot of is sunshine. This makes investing in a solar power system (which harnesses light and heat) a great idea because while we might not be able to rely on our energy provider, we can always rely on our old friend, the sun.
How solar power works:
- Your solar panel absorbs sunlight.
- This is converted into direct current (DC) electricity by a photovoltaic solar cell.
- Finally, the solar inverter changes the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) to keep your household/office appliances powered. Hey presto!
So why should you go solar?
While many locals believe that investing in solar panels is too expensive an option (or just too technical and confusing to even consider), you might be surprised by some of the advantages. And in the long run, you'll save money.
While we admit that it's relatively costly to install solar power, and it's a long-term investment (it takes some years to pay itself off), solar systems are becoming more affordable as more options become available and technology improves. Solar battery storage also keeps the solar power for you to use when it's cloudy.
Let's look at some of the benefits of solar power:
- Unlike an electricity system that can cost a lot to maintain, solar power needs little maintenance. No moving parts means no wear and tear, although the inverter needs to be replaced every five to 10 years.
- You won't be affected by ever-rising electricity costs – and the average household that uses 30kWh of electricity a day can save (depending on the solar package you choose) between R1 067 and R2 133 a month on their Eskom bill.
- You might save on your tax bill. The Minister of Finance recently drafted a solar panel incentive "to encourage households to invest in clean electricity generation capacity which can supplement electricity supply". (Only new and unused solar PV panels qualify). This would enable you to claim a refund "to the value of 25% of the cost of new and unused solar photovoltaic panels, up to a maximum of R15,000 per individual".
- Solar power means fewer power surges, which protects appliances (laptops, fridges, TVs, etc).
- Did you know that you can choose a rent-to-own option when getting solar panels for your home? This means you get your solar power installed straight away, but pay it off over five to seven years, while the solar provider maintains the system in that period. The other option is to subscribe to a solar service without having to buy the panels.
- Solar is a plus when selling your home. A house with a built-in, ready-to-go solar setup will be attractive to any buyer, and you can up the asking price to reflect this.
Reliable, guaranteed power supply
- Solar power is reliable. Running your home or business efficiently requires an energy supply that doesn't let you down when you need it most.
- Weather temperature doesn't affect solar energy systems. So, it isn't a problem in winter, as long as you get enough sunlight. Luckily, we don't have those very short winter days that Europe experiences, for example, so South Africa's ideal for solar energy solutions.
- It will keep your Wi-Fi running all day so you can work without worrying about loadshedding.
- Don't want to shell out on battery storage? That's also fine, because you can harness the sun during the day and just use the power grid at night (depending on loadshedding). It is, however, advisable to buy a solar battery bank to keep you in power when the sun is weak or hidden by clouds. The batteries act much like an uninterrupted power solution, and store solar power to keep your most important appliances running when the grid goes down.
- Live in a remote or rural area? No problem! Solar energy is a great option for those who live off-grid, and don't have access to the usual services.
Solar energy is a responsible power source
- You can reduce your carbon footprint. While diesel generators provide power when needed, they aren't eco-friendly. A solar power bank will help you reduce carbon emissions that a generator or coal-fuelled power station creates, and solar is a renewable energy source.
How much does it cost to install solar in South Africa?
The average South African household uses around 30kWh of electricity daily, which works out to roughly R3 000 a month. If you decided to install solar but were put off by the start-up costs, you could choose a rent-to-own package that gives you roughly the same amount of electricity that you were getting from the grid. A plan that includes a 5kW inverter, a 3.6kWh battery and 8 panels would set you back R2 019 a month over a 7-year rental period (at 6,5% annual escalation). Psssst: there's also a slightly eye-watering initiation fee of R11 245. The same package, if you wanted to buy rather than rent, will cost you R112 445.
And what can you expect in return? Battery life of approximately 6 hours, which means you'd be able to power your house for 3 hours – you could run your security system, 10 LED lights, a fridge or freezer, a microwave, kettle, TV and a computer. And here's the part you've been waiting for: you'll be saving R1 067 per month and a total of R143 930 over the 7-year rental period!
Is getting an inverter better than installing a solar system?
The problem with this popular solution is that inverters still need the electricity grid to recharge, and when loadshedding lasts for many hours, your inverter might not have enough time to recharge between blackouts (depending on the size of the charger, it can take up to 8 hours to charge the battery if it has been completely depleted), leaving you in the dark.
Read more: Frequently asked questions about solar energy
With SA's electricity crisis, isn't it nice to know that if you spend a bit of money now, you can have access to a renewable energy source for years to come, without having to rely completely on the grid?
Hippo.co.za will help you find the best Solar Power deals in just a few clicks. Then you'll be 'energy independent' in no time, and you'll be helping to save the earth by not relying on fossil fuels! What's not to like?
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.