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Bye bye loadshedding – go offgrid with solar

Last Updated: January 18, 2024By

It’s time to go offgrid with solar. We are all feeling extremely frustrated with the power situation in South Africa (or lack thereof).

For those who can afford it, solar is the best option to be self-sufficient and move away from a reliance on Eskom.

 

What does it mean to go offgrid with solar?

The Sun is able to provide all your energy needs. You just need solar panels to capture the energy, a battery system to store the energy and an inverter system to convert the DC power from the panels to AC power used by your appliances.

You can get a qualified solar installer to install your solar system or you can try and do it yourself.

We highly recommend that you DON’T try and install your own solar system but rather get it done right by a professional.

How much does solar cost?

A real life example from September 2022 shows that for a 3 bedroom house to go offgrid with high quality Victron inverter and charge controlling equipment, 12 x Trina Solar solar panels and a great FreedomWon lithium ion battery you will need to invest about R300,000.

This will give you a robust system that will get you about 70% offgrid and take care of all your loadshedding blues while reducing your electricity bill by at least R2,000 per month.

To go 100% offgrid with great equipment will cost you about R500,000.

You can do this for slightly cheaper but if you go too cheap you will end up having to replace the equipment and batteries and paying a lot more in the long run.

There is also a safety risk if you don’t use a qualified installer. Electricity can shock you or cause a fire.

Your insurance won’t cover your installation if it does not include an electrical certificate of compliance.

Do it right the first time and you won’t need to keep paying for maintenance and troubleshooting hassles.

Most people will need to borrow money from the bank in order to pay for their solar installation. Some banks have solar finance available.

How long does a solar installation take?

Your solar installer will come to your house and do an evaluation of your roof and where the best place is to install the battery and inverter. We recommend you keep these inside your house to prevent theft. They will also ask you about your geysers, your daily electricity consumption and anything else they should know before giving you a quote.

This initial assessment will take about 30 minutes.

You will then receive a quote within 24 hours.

Your quote should include a list of all the components that will be used for the installation and the labour costs.

Once you accept the quote and pay the deposit, your solar installer will start designing the system and ordering the parts.

Currently batteries are in high demand and you might need to wait a week or two for it to arrive.

Your solar installer will then discuss which time and day they can come and do the installation. You should expect the actual installation to take a full day for an average sized house.

If it is raining this may delay things and the installation might take a few more days.

What happens on the day of the installation?

Your solar installer will arrive with all the necessary equipment, tools and ladders. They will need some space to lay things out (in your driveway or yard) since there is a LOT of cabling, conduits and equipment involved.

Your installer will have a team of people who will need access to bathroom facilities. It would also be good to have refreshments (tea or coffee) available for them.

They will arrive with their own generator so you don’t have to worry about if there is loadshedding on the day.

You can expect a lot of noise and a lot of activity on the day, so let your neighbours know and try and keep any pets out of the way while things are happening.

Remember to keep your front gate closed once the team is inside your yard – this is a safety measure and they will feel more comfortable without people walking past and looking at all the goings on.

Remember to get all the solar equipment insured as soon as possible. Criminals will enter your yard and steal the panels from your roof. It is a good idea to have beams in your garden linked to your security company.

Once the job is done your solar installer will run tests to make sure everything is working. They will connect your installation to the internet and through bluetooth to an app on your phone.

You will be able to monitor your installation remotely at any time to see what the status is of each component.

Your solar will also be able to monitor your system remotely.

Maintenance of your solar installation

The most important maintenance is solar panel cleaning. This should be done with water and a soft bristle brush at least twice a year.

Any other maintenance work should be covered in your quotation – a good installer keeps an eye on things and includes maintenance in their quotation.

Enjoy freedom from the Eskom blues and get solar to go offgrid.

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About the Author: Tony Lopes

Tony is the founder and editor of CleanVolts.co.za. He has completed solar certifications and courses through Green Solar Academy. Tony's goal is to see solar panels on every roof-top in South Africa and the adoption of EVs and renewable technology across the African continent.

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