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Getting off the grid, forever

Rory Florence showed Cape Business News what he has done at home to get off the grid, become more sustainable and be less reliant on electricity due to the continuing load shedding crisis in South Africa.

“The main reasons I chose to invest in solar around my home was (1) Over a year ago I knew the electricity supply was going to become an issue and I figured it wasn't going to be a short term problem. (2) Because of all the load shedding, the electricity price was going to keep going up. (3) It is sustainable was well as a hobby of mine to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on somebody else.”

Financially, you do get a ‘pay-back’ with solar. It depends on the size of the system you put in, your usage and what you will be powering. You have to do a cost analysis and measure how many batteries you will need, against what appliances you will be running on solar. With all the price increases, solar has become more affordable. In most cases, any solar system you put in will take 5 to 6 years to pay back so there is no reason not to put solar in.

Florence said the first thing one should do when going solar, is to put your geyser onto solar– that is where your best saving will be in the beginning. Then you move onto making sure your house is at its lowest possible load. "What I mean by that is before you even look at putting a solar system in, you have to look at reducing the load in your house. This is because with a smaller load, you don’t have to put as big a solar system in. For example, replace all the lights in your house with LED lighting (using LED technology reduces your load down to 10% - 20%.)"

The next step is to decide when you want to power your house with solar, if you want to go off grid completely, or whether you want to feed back into the grid – which is a lot more expensive to do with more regulations around it.

“My system started with 8 panels at 85W each, which gave me around 640W power and was enough to power my lights. With my smaller system, I was looking to power my fridge too. I soon realised that I need to start looking at my appliances in terms of energy efficiency and whether they can be run on solar. A lot of people have old appliances in their homes. There is a rating with appliances which measures the amount of energy the device uses, starting with A+++ being the highest and most efficient.”

“My fridge use to be an A-rating fridge, using about R1,700 of electricity a year. I replaced it with an A++ fridge which meant it could run on the solar system. But if I were to keep the A++ fridge running on electricity, it would have cost me R315 a year, Florence said.

“I have recently invested in a second bank of panels up to 1.5KW. My panels are currently angled for winter sun, whereas summer sun is plentiful and the panels don’t need to be angled.”

Florence's solar is currently running three of the bedrooms (lights, charges, hairdryers etc,) fridge, freezer, borehole, pool pump, garage door and all the lights. During loadshedding, it also runs the TV sound system.

Pricing:

A third of the price goes to your batteries, a third is your panels, the other third is the wiring and controller.

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