The term ‘load-shedding’ was first used in late 2007, so Africans have been coping with regular power interruptions on the national grid for 14 years. There’s no way of knowing how long this situation will continue, or when we will be able to rely on the grid 24/7 again. Many of us have bought diesel generators to power the essentials in our homes during blackouts, but that solution is noisy and expensive, while contributing to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn this problem into sharper focus. Before 2020, many of us could escape the worst daytime effects of load-shedding at work, in companies or buildings with generators large enough to power multiple offices. But with so many of us now working remotely, creating a cost-efficient, greener way to combat load-shedding in your home makes even more sense.
Depending on your budget, it might make sense to start by installing a system just to cover your basic power needs during load-shedding
Solar power is cheaper than ever before, practical, and available
The simplest solution is a battery and inverter system, which will supply your essential electricity needs over a few hours to cover load-shedding, after which it needs to be recharged. But if you recharge it using grid power, you’re paying the same price for grid electricity, and then adding extra expense to store it up and use it when the grid fails to deliver. That’s why it’s worth investing in photovoltaic solar panels that
turn sunlight into electricity – whether you just want to recharge a battery and inverter system that provides power during load-shedding, or you’re considering getting off the grid completely.
Rapid advances in technology have driven down the cost of installing a solar energy system, making this far more affordable than you might think – and there are several financing options available. But navigating the world of solar energy and backup power is daunting. How do you work out how much power you need, and which system will provide it best?
Understand your energy use
Understanding how much energy your household uses is the first step in planning a solar installation. It helps you define which solar solution will support your needs and see where you might be able to reduce your consumption overall. Would an air fryer, a microwave and an induction hob use less power than an electric stove and oven, for example? Is direct solar water heating with an instant-heat gas backup more cost-effective than an electric geyser?
Solar and battery backup solutions are not cheap investments, so it’s important that all systems are correctly designed and sized to ensure that enough power and runtime are available to cover your needs, as well as to ensure optimal return on investment from your solar system. Work with a reputable solar contractor accredited by the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA – the representative body of the solar PV industry in the world), to establish the right balance between solution sizing and your budget.