Firstly, Get yourself Energy Efficient.
Having to deal with the Eskom Load Shedding periods is no fun for South Africans. It makes us long for a day when our professional and leisure needs are no longer dependent on us depending on energy providers to deliver that lasting power supply. ESPECIALLY during those late nights where we can’t afford to get to work the next day - but if we do, we'll end up paying loads of penalties (and having that hanging over us for months at a time is simply exhausting). But would getting your home off the grid be a sound investment in the long term, and is it even doable?
Before you even start to look for a system, you need to make your home energy efficient. Changing your lights to LED lights is just the first step and would also benefit the solution you'll get. You'll have to change your day-to-day behavior. Switch of lights, use cold water for washing. Use natural light. Replace your electric oven with a gas oven, etc.
As it so happens, this is not a national issue, but rather a global one. Leaders throughout the world are attempting to mobilize people in the fight against climate change, and the biggest obstacle they face is the complacency of those who question the urgency of such an endeavor. Well, here in South Africa, the topic of sustainable energy is not some far-off distant concept, but rather one that impacts our lives daily. As such, we have a powerful incentive to work toward energy independence.
So just how easy is it to take your home ‘off the grid’? It depends on several factors, such as:
- The number of people living in the home
- The amount of electricity the home uses
- How old the building is (newer buildings are more likely to be designed with energy efficiency in mind)
- Whether you want to be completely independent of the grid, or just ‘less reliant on it
Energy sources in South Africa have long been a source of debate between those interested in improving the efficiency of their homes and those looking to save money. While solar, gas, and batteries are all viable solutions as an alternative energy source, solar panels may produce enough energy to power your entire home by themselves without the need for any excess from other sources. Not only will this save you money but will also increase the market price of your home as conservation becomes a higher priority across South Africa.
Find a new source of power
Forms of energy that do not depend on coal will be your most important step toward making your home energy independent. Options include:
Solar is the go-to form of renewable energy in many countries around the world, and it’s a viable option for South Africa due to its solar potential. The key component of a solar-powered system is an array of photovoltaic cells that absorb the sun’s rays and transform direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).
Attempting a DIY solar energy system is not recommended. While it may be tempting to install one's own solar power, due to the highly sensitive nature of photovoltaic (PV) systems, Grahame Cruickshanks, managing executive for a market engagement at Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) confirms that installing such systems is not an easy endeavor. According to Cruickshanks: “In order to get the best performance and pay-back period it is important to ensure that a solar system for energy...is correctly sized, specified and installed”. To prevent regret in the future, those who are not familiar with all the intricacies should instead contact an established professional.
Bottled LPG gas is an affordable alternative, and relatively straightforward to implement as well as reasonably cost-effective to run, as well as being far quieter than a diesel generator and with none of the vibrations or fumes.
A gas-powered geyser will go a long way toward freeing you from dependence on the grid. Geysers usually consume about 60% of household electricity, and as such, are the first port of call for homeowners seeking to improve energy efficiency. Gas-powered stoves are another helpful and affordable addition, making it possible for you to cook food and boil water without fear of Eskom interference.
The go-to option for restaurants and shopping centers that intend to remain open during loadshedding, although homeowners may be put off by the high cost of implementation. That said, a relatively low-end battery system can be implemented for around R15 000, according to the Western Cape’s guideline. This would be enough to generate 1 000 Watt (10.5A) continuously and 1.2 kWh energy (to put that in perspective, a TV and a decoder use about 30W when off, and 150W whilst activated).
A high-end battery system, generating enough power to keep large houses fully operational during loadshedding, would cost an estimated R50,000 (excluding installation); and there are mid-range options that attempt to balance power requirements and cost.
There is a lot to consider when going independent, but it is surely doable. With the correct information, guidance, and products, your journey will be one to remember. We have all you need in one place. Even all the questions you'll probably ask, already been answered.