Green Living

Moving to solo with solar? Enlightening factors to consider

Story Highlights
  • The three types of systems available
  • Weighing up the pros and cons
  • Already a solar energy user?

With yet another spate of load-shedding affecting South African citizens and an Eskom increase of approximately 15% per annum, you may be considering utilising solar energy as an alternate energy source.

Before making the move to solar power, there are a few factors to consider, including:

  • Fully understanding your energy requirements and current usage
  • Whether the system will be used for residential or commercial use
  • What appliances you will need to run off the system
  • Roof type, size, strength, and angle
  • Financing options available
  • Type of system

The three types of systems available

Off the grid works completely independently of the national grid and uses batteries to store electricity which is accessed when excess electricity is being utilised.

The most popular system used by residential clients is the Grid interactive / Battery backup / Hybrid System which is similar to an off the grid system but is still connected to the national grid should you need the backup.

The Grid Tied system is more popular with commercial concerns as there are no batteries and the system can be utilised during peak daytime hours which fall outside of residential peak hours.

Weighing up the pros and cons

The main advantages of solar energy are:

  • Lower electricity bills as consumption from the power grid is reduced
  • Decreased demand on the national grid – with less demand, Eskom can attend to the maintenance of ageing equipment and power plants
  • Tax Benefits – SARS allows up to 100% of the cost of solar as a tax deduction incurred in the production of taxable income. Unless running a business from home, residential homeowners cannot, unfortunately, take advantage of these benefits.
  • Reduces carbon footprint and is environmentally friendly
  • Our South African sun – solar panels require at least 4 hours of peak sunlight per day for optimal output and with an annual average of 4.1 hours per day, up to 6.3 hours in summer, this makes South Africa one of the best places in the world to utilise solar energy
  • Increases the value of the home or business – depending on location and the size and quality of the solar installation, studies indicate that the value of a property could increase by 3 to 4%

The main disadvantages of solar energy are:

  • High initial capital investment – depending on your usage requirements, the equipment and installation costs are estimated from R 150 000 up to around R 350 000
  • Decreased power output in cloudy or overcast weather conditions
  • Conversion costs – solar energy is direct current and needs converting to alternating current for electrical appliances. If not already done so, you will need to change your current bulbs to LED light bulbs which will reduce your electricity consumption and determine the size of the solar system you will need to install.
  • Installation space – Initially, about 20 solar panels are installed on the roof and you will need a space large enough to accommodate up to 30 batteries, depending on the size of your installation.
  • Maintenance costs – inverter and batteries may need to be replaced once every 5 to 10 years, and the solar panels may need replacing every 25 to 40 years

Already a solar energy user?

If you are already using solar energy, below are some tips to increase your energy saving:

  • Using energy-efficient LED bulbs can save up to 80% of energy consumption
  • Ensure the solar panels are cleaned and unobstructed by any overgrown foliage
  • Use an app to track and monitor your energy usage
  • Older model electric appliances can use a lot of electricity so you may wish to consider replacing the appliances with more energy-efficient appliances or make the switch to gas geysers and stoves, heat pumps, and solar geysers.
  • Minimise the number of downlights and use dimmer switches where possible
  • Harness the sun’s energy by using solar lighting in your garden

See also: 5 Ways to Turn Your House into a Green Home

In closing

As there are a number of factors to consider, and it is a sizeable investment with long term benefits, take the time to conduct a little research and contact an established, reputable solar energy supplier.


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