//Winter is coming …

Winter is coming …

With the cold months a whisper away and the ever-present threat of load shedding, this is a good time to assess whether alternative electricity and heating solutions are worth considering. The high number of sunshine days in South Africa makes solar power an ideal source of energy that can be converted into electricity and many businesses and homeowners have either installed the solar power systems or are exploring the option. Although the initial set up costs are high, solar systems can save thousands of rands in the long term.

Solar systems in a nutshell

Solar power system consists of solar panels, an inverter and a lithium battery bank. The panels are installed on the roof. They collect the sun’s energy and convert it to DC electricity, which is then sent to an inverter. The inverter charges the batteries, which are connected to the mains. The mains feeds electricity into the building to power lighting and smaller appliances (including televisions, laptops, hairdryers, washing machines, kettles and toasters). Heat-generating appliances such as geysers, stoves, ovens and heaters cannot be used with a solar power system as they draw too much electricity.

Where to start

It is important to retain the services of a reputable installer that uses top-quality equipment. A sales representative visits the site or home to assess the requirement, then provides a quote. The bigger the building, the bigger the requirement (more lighting and a greater number of appliances), and the bigger the system will need to be.

What you can expect to pay

According to Gauteng-based NexSolar, solar power installations range in price from around R63 000 to R200 000, depending on the size of the building and its electrical requirements.

An 80m2 house, for example, would require two kilowatts (kW) of power per day and this system would cost approximately R63 000. A bigger system of 5kW would be recommended for a 250m2 building, at a cost of around R110 000. The costs include equipment, installation and electrical certificates.

The power requirement depends largely on electricity usage and the number of appliances (a phone, for example, draws 100W of power while a laptop uses 200W). Every household and business is different, even though there may be similarities. 

A bigger system of 10kW or higher can allow for a geyser to be run – if it is put on a timer so that it switches off automatically once the water reaches the right temperature.

In terms of heaters, stoves and ovens, gas solutions are a reliable alternative.

System-size guideline

Electricity expenditure per month

System size

Approximate cost (including Vat)

Below R1 300

2kW

R63 000

Between R1 300 and R2 200

3kW

R74 000

Between R2 200 and R5 000

5kW

R110 000

Over R5 000

10kW

R188 000

Savings and benefits

An installer should be able to provide accurate estimates of how much energy the system will produce, as well as how much you will save, each year. Generally, a system pays itself off within three years.

Over and above the benefit of lower electricity bills, a solar power system makes a home more environmentally friendly and limits reliance on Eskom.

Maintenance

A well-installed solar power system should last a lifetime. Depending on the supplier, the components are supplied with a warranty.

Approvals

If the building is in a complex, permission from the body corporate or homeowners association will be required. Grid-type systems need to be registered with the relevant municipality, but the rules in this respect are province-dependant and do change. Registration also depends on the type of system that is installed. The installer will be able to provide more information.

Will a solar system improve the value of your house?

It most certainly will. Estate agents advertise solar power with the house extras and potential home-buyers are requesting it more and more.

If solar power is already in place, it eliminates the hassle of a buyer having to worry about installing one themselves and they will be more inclined to seriously consider purchasing one home over another.

Wendy Williams is director of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.

Source: Moneyweb