Excuse the pun, but in light of the fact South Africa has exceptional sunlight radiation, solar is one of the most obvious options to consider when looking at energy generation for your home – nothing as exciting as uncle Piet’s super-efficient micro diesel generator with specialised gearing ratio’s that can turn 1L of diesel into a gazillion KwH. Nope, sorry, just plain old solar panels on your roof. But “plain old”… not so sure that term is relevant any longer. The solar space is continually coming up with new innovations. The last 7 years has for example seen the development and roll out of what is termed “Solar Micro inverters”.
Why “Micro”? The conventional way of thinking about Solar (and the reason why the perception prevails that solar is “expensive”) holds that you need to install one large inverter (String inverter) i.e. 3kW, 5kW, 10kW or even bigger, depending on your home’s “peak power requirement” – the size of the inverter is an indication of the volume of energy that can be pushed into your home from battery storage at any given moment – for example an electric stove plate uses 2kW to fire up. Switch on two at the same time and your 3kW invertor system bombs out… Another important point about string inverters are that your entry level investment will be to purchase a 3kW inverter AND the 12 x 250W solar panels to service the inverter efficiently. Investment of close on R100,000 right? Well, there is still a place for systems such as these but Micro inverters bring a few advantages to the table – such as each solar panel is connected in parallel, has its own dedicated inverter, operates in lower light conditions, functions individually and can be installed in modular fashion as and when it suites the clients’ needs. For example 5 this month, 2 the next month etc. This gives a bit more flexibility to the client.
Batteries are also a big consideration in home energy systems.
1) Did you know that you do not need a battery bank to work with your solar installation in the first place?
Battery banks are however useful to help you beat the load shedding blues, to assist if you are in a remote location or are really set on cutting your connection to, and reliance on, Eskom altogether, but do not let your emotions get the better of you here. The investment decision regarding batteries is much more complicated than what you might think. For example:
2) Are the batteries you are looking at gel, calcium, deep cycle etc. – what are the pros and cons of each?
3) Is the invertor you plan to use for them pure or modified sine wave – if you don’t know the difference here – best to take advice!
4) What charger does the battery have on board that someone is trying to sell you? Will it take 2 hours or 24 hours to charge your batteries…?
Closing off the topic of batteries for now, we would like to leave you with this question: If you want to go off-the-grid, do you know which component of your current electricity bill you should consider when taking your investment decision? Again, if not – let’s talk!
All these and many more are questions we will brainstorm with you.
You should be asking yourself right now what your return on investment or payback period will be for installing an alternative energy system… Well, after the increases allowed to Eskom this year, depending on the distribution area you find yourself in and what energy products you have already installed, we can guide you to become energy neutral and achieve an average return on investment of 28,2% or IRR of 20.9% on your energy installation. You can bank on it!