one-year-after-we-got-solar

One year after we got solar

Last Updated: January 18, 2024By

It’s been about a year since we got solar so I thought now is a good time to give you an update about our experience with solar, loadshedding and generally coping with the ongoing energy and water crisis in South Africa.

Here’s a photo of the solar panels being installed in 2022:

one-week-after-we-got-solar

 

Here’s a photo of the solar panels about a year later:

one-year-after-we-got-solar-image

 

How did we pay for our solar installation?

The installation cost R300,000. To pay for this we extended our bond with FNB and after the interest rate increases we are now paying about R2,500 extra on the bond to what we were before the installation.

How much are we saving on electricity?

Before the solar installation I was spending about R3,500 per month on the prepaid meter.

This image shows the daily electricity use before and after the solar installation:

On average I was buying 900kWh per month through the prepaid meter.

This image shows the monthly electricity use per month a year after the solar installation:

prepaid-meter-per-month

 

A year later and the average amount of electricity I have bought per month through the prepaid meter has reduced to 294 kWh.

Instead of spending R3,500 per month on the prepaid meter I am now spending about R1,000 per month.

This fluctuates depending on the electricity tariff rate, the time of year (we use much more energy in Winter), the amount of rain and cloud cover and the severity of the loadshedding in our area.

Overall, we have saved money and we had not had a single day without power.

This graph shows how much energy we have used from the grid and from the Sun over the past 12 months:

victron-graph-12-months

 

74.4% of all our energy now comes from the Sun.

A few more graphs for context:

consumption

grid

solar

 

It’s a shame we cannot feed excess energy into the grid. I guess our government wants us to be reliant on fossil fuels for some reason…

What have we learned over the past year?

We have learned how to be very aware of our energy use. We still have electric hot water geysers. We have two large geysers in the house, both controlled by GeyserWise timers, and one small geyser in the cottage with no timer.

The geysers can only heat water when the grid is on. The system is set up to heat the geysers from the battery until the battery reaches 40%, at which point the grid is used. If there is loadshedding the geysers are off.

Our battery can be set to stay constantly at 100% charge or optimised to save money. We have used the “stay charged at 100%”option a number of times when rain or cloud cover has been heavy or when loadshedding has been at stage 5 or 6. This results in much higher energy use from the grid (when there is grid power) in order to keep the battery fully charged at all times. It also means we have reliable power from the battery.

Without this option the battery often drops down to about 15% charged when there is heavy loadshedding or lots of rain (or both). This is not ideal because we have to be super cautious about our energy use.

What uses the most energy?

Anything that requires heat uses the most energy. Roughly in descending order these are:

  1. Geysers
  2. Dishwasher
  3. Washing machine (if not using the eco cycle)
  4. Air fryer
  5. Toaster
  6. Kettle

We did not use the wall panel heaters at all during Winter because we were afraid they would require too much energy, so we relied on heat from the gas heater in the lounge and extra layers of blankets in the bedrooms.

The pool pump also uses a bit of energy but we can happily run the pool pump, all three geysers, the dishwasher and the washing machine during a sunny day (between 9am and 3pm) and still have enough Sun to charge the battery back up to 100% to last us overnight.

Did we need to clean the solar panels?

Our solar installer cleaned our solar panels once over the past year (about 6 months ago) and his team cleaned the panels with some running water. We have had plenty of rain in the past week and the panels look great again after a dry and dusty Winter.

What maintenance did we do over the past 12 months?

We had one incident about two weeks ago where a fuse needed to be replaced. This was probably due to the highly unreliable voltage we are now getting from Eskom which is fluctuating severely.

Our solar installer, all credit to him, came and replaced the fuse at no charge even though he had bronchitis.

Was getting solar worth it?

Yes, without a doubt. We are very happy with our installation and it has added value to the property and helped us escape the nightmare of loadshedding and blackouts. We have had reliable power to keep our gate motor, security systems and WIFI going and this has been amazing for our peace of mind.

We’ve also learned how to be aware of our energy use and feel good knowing we are using less fossil fuel energy.

The next investment will be to connect the 5,000 litre irrigation tank to the house with a three-phase water filtration system and a pump. This means we will have some water supply when the municipal water fails, which it has done numerous times over the past 12 months.

A borehole would be great but it is a massive investment for potentially no water or unreliable water, so that will wait for now.

Life in South Africa has become about being self-sufficient and it is great to see more of our neighbours have also invested in solar.

Need a quote for solar?

We have partnered with reliable solar installers and would love to send your details to them.

Please use the link below to request a quote from one of our solar installer partners.

 

 

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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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