Getting off the grid – Choosing a Solar PV System

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Categories: Advice, Off-Grid, Solar Power

Switching to a Solar PV system lifestyle can vary between minor and major changes. You can even can go big and disappear from the grid if you want to. But going big isn’t exactly something you take on overnight. Despite the price decrease on Solar PV panels, and the equipment that comes with it, it’s still a costly business. To put this into perspective you might want to look at our article on the cost for getting off the grid. Basically, you want to establish why you’re doing it, then you can make the appropriate changes. Here are some tips good-old solar advice you might want to consider from an objective point of view.

Solar PV Systems: Does the Purpose Justify the Cost?

This is where you decide whether you’re doing it out of your dedication to implement clean energy, or if it makes sense economically. For those who choose the former, it’s a noble idea in which cost doesn’t really play a big part. But for those who prefer the more practical approach, you’re thinking about the electric bill at this moment, and that’s a good start. Is it higher than R1000 a month, which is a good indication to start making some changes. Or does it range well below it? – in which case it won’t make economic sense to install the full package.

Solar PV SystemWhat would good solar advice be without some tips on what to look for? So, before you start shopping for panels and trackers, make the calculations first. Panels have a typical usage period of 25 years, and batteries range between 10 and 20 depending on the manufacturer. Take this into account, because there is maintenance involved, although it’s not much. Also taking into account future price hikes from Eskom of course. If the comparison shows you’ll be saving more in the long run, then solar power should definitely become an option.

There’s No Incentive from Government

This is a sensitive issue for South Africans, because most countries pay homeowners for energy that’s fed back into the grid. For us, there is no incentive. The only possible way you can get something back is if you live in Cape Town, and it’s still not a very lucrative deal due to the restrictions. So if perhaps you were bargaining on making some extra money, you won’t be doing it in S.A.

The only real motivation we have is the increasing price of electric units, and the fact that change has to take place if people want to carry on with their comfortable lives. As an interesting side-note, the amount of energy the sun sends to the earth in one minute can fuel the world’s electricity needs for a year. It’s literally impossible to harness all that energy at once. The best part is that South Africans have more than enough sunlight.

It’s worth calculating exactly what you need when choosing a Solar PV system, use the Online Solar panel calculator to get an idea of what you need.

Hot Days don’t mean Efficient Days

The PV cells you find in a Solar PV don’t care about the heat that comes from the sun. All they want are the actual rays, because that’s their source of energy. In other words, hot days can also make the panels less efficient as the PV cells get too hot. The same principle counts for cloudy days. There is still some manner of sunlight that breaks through, which are captured by the PV cells. The efficiency is going to be low, but it doesn’t stop working altogether.

It Provides Great Independence

Whether you choose moderate changes or a full off-the-grid system, you’ll be building your independence. Load shedding might not be a problem at the moment, but there is no telling when it can be implemented again. You can also be sure that you’ll have power in case of unexpected blackouts. There’s no getting past the fact that resources are running low, and at some point the demand is simply going to outweigh production.

They Look Better

There have been major developments in Solar PV system appearance and efficiency. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to worry about how it’s going to look. Just a few years ago the appearance aspect played a big part in how quickly the change to solar power was made. More specifically, it motivated people to stay away. But today you get to choose between different colors, sizes and designs. You can actually choose panels that will suite your home better.

However, it’s also important to pay attention to the efficiency of the panels. The last thing you want are panels that look great, but don’t really deliver the energy you need.

You can Remain Tied to the Grid with your Solar PV System

It never hurts to have a backup, because let’s face, during cloudy days Solar PV panels aren’t very efficient. Staying tied to the grid isn’t going to cost much if you mainly use solar energy, but you have the peace of mind that if something unexpected happens to your Solar PV system you won’t be stuck in the dark.

Assuming you want to install a system that doesn’t use batteries, it’s crucial that you stay tied to the grid. The reason why some people prefer this option is because batteries form a significant part of the solar cost. If you feel you only want to have solar energy during the day there’s no need for batteries.

Solar Geysers make a Big Difference

There’s a very logical reason why many households start with a solar geyser and gradually work their way to more independence – it’s cheaper and it will cut your electric bill with at least 50%. So if you were wondering where you should start when it comes to making moderate changes, a solar geyser is probably the best place.

We hope this bit of solar advice helped to answer some questions you might have.

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