Getting off the grid with solar

Getting off the grid with solar

The most essential changes include all incandescent globes, which must be replaced with CFL, low watt fluorescent or LED lighting, and these have become more affordable.
This is according to Craig Hutchison, CEO of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, who says the main concern for many homeowners is probably the high cost of the initial outlay for such a system, which could cost as much as R300 000.

However, he says the immediate financial implications could be offset when the property is sold, as future buyers might be swayed by the advantages of buying solar powered homes.

Hutchison says your monthly electricity bill will be reduced by at least 50%, so the system eventually pays for itself. He says the sooner you convert to a solar powered home, the better.

Appliance conversion

According to Hutchison, you can convert a number of appliances in your home, and your decision would be based on your needs and financial circumstances. But, he says the most essential changes include all incandescent globes, which must be replaced with CFL, low watt fluorescent or LED lighting, and these have become more affordable.

Many household appliances like LCD TVs and laptop computers are becoming more and more energy efficient, and homeowners can also get solar fridges and freezers, evaporative air conditioners, electric blankets instead of heaters and gas stoves.
Other changes include getting solar geysers which make use of the sun to heat the water by circulating through specially designed heating panels (the geyser is one of the largest consumers of power).

Many household appliances like LCD TVs and laptop computers are becoming more and more energy efficient, and homeowners can also get solar fridges and freezers, evaporative air conditioners, electric blankets instead of heaters and gas stoves.

Installing a solar system

Planning to install a solar system in your home can be done in stages. For example, to get a basic solar system that will provide power for a TV, DVD, DSTV, a radio, cellphone chargers and say 10 x 15W lights one would require 4 x 80W solar panels, 2 x 20A regulators, 4 x 102A Deep Cycle batteries, 1 x 2000W 24V True Sinewave Inverter (so that future increased needs can be accommodated), 4 x panel roof mounts, cables, connectors and flex, and installation.

It is important to invest in the right equipment from the beginning. Thereafter, as you add more appliances to your solar system, you would need to increase the size of all the above components, so it is essential to consult a professional company for assistance.

Solar water heating systems are the most popular solar technology around, and many homeowners have at least heard of a solar geyser or pool heating system.
The most important is to invest in a system that you can add onto without making what you already have, redundant.

Batteries can always be added, but your biggest single item cash layouts are the inverter and solar regulators. Then you’ll be able to start off with a system costing less than R20 000 and expand that to a system worth R300 000 over a period of time, without problems.

Solar panels remain the most popular type of renewable energy producer at present because of their reliability, consistency and amount of sun we have available in South Africa. They produce electricity from photons found in light radiation, which means even on overcast days, they’ll produce something, though they obviously produce more electricity with direct sunlight.

Available solar system options

Solar water heating systems are the most popular solar technology around, and many homeowners have at least heard of a solar geyser or pool heating system. The principle is exactly the same for solar geysers and solar pool heating.

When it comes to solar pool heating systems, the water is pumped out of the pool, up through copper tubes inside the panels on the roof, and back down into the pool.
Solar geysers can either be gravity fed or pressurised. With gravity fed systems, the tank needs to be relatively high up, whereas pressurised systems don't need to be. All solar geyser storage tanks are insulated, allowing the water to stay hot overnight, and for an extra day or so, in case of bad weather.

When it comes to solar pool heating systems, the water is pumped out of the pool, up through copper tubes inside the panels on the roof, and back down into the pool. Temperatures can be regulated by altering the speed of the pump.

There are many adaptations that can be found in the solar industry where cells have been integrated into building materials like solar roof tiles. These integrated technologies are relatively new, but will become more prominent in the future.

As the costs of the various solar components are dependent on what you buy and for what use you want them, it is therefore worth visiting a number of suppliers and, as always, ask for references.

Lastly, keep in mind that the installations must be done by an accredited solar installer.

For more information, visit www.solarpanel.co.za.

 

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