Our green solar power is much more than an alternative form of electrification; it has become the inspiration for a whole different way of living.
That is especially true should you plan to go off the grid.
If you have very deep pockets then you can simply contract with a company to install a large solar generator; you will hardly notice the difference, except that load-shedding and local municipal incompetence will be matters of the past. You will get no more electrical bills and when lightning strikes the utility's transformer you will be unaffected.
But that is for a very small minority, I suspect. For the rest of us it will mean learning to adjust our daily habits according to the sun; and especially when it is nowhere to be seen, hidden behind thick-clouds.
For the present, unless you have very high line-charges, plan to go onto prepaid electricity; then you will pay only for the grid power you use, but at a higher rate. When there are dark, cloudy days it will be convenient to have the utility available.
However very soon, now that Eskom is dividing into three parts, that will probably mean high line-charges for everyone again, regardless of how much power they use. So, in the back of your mind, keep planning in the long run to go off the grid.
That means starting with a large inverter and regulator, despite the expense. Then in time you can add more batteries and panels without having to upgrade anything.
One thing however is predictable. Those who source their energy and water from the heavens shall not have to go without for most of the year. However you will have to clean those solar panels and vacuum tubes during the dry and dusty season.
Think of this as a journey; a fascinating new walk with not only Mr Golden Sun, but also with Mother Earth. Let's plan to keep her pristine; our green solar power has also meant a new determination to hand over a beautiful world to our children.
We call it our Cyan Zone; caring for ourselves and the planet. It's a combination of blue and green issues.
If I have one strong recommendation, it is to stretch and go as big as you can from the beginning, especially the inverter; certainly not less than 5kW. I wish someone had said that to me at the start of our journey; but we were amongst the very first to start installing solar panels some 12 years ago. We saw the writing on the wall.
Upgrading from a small inverter, to medium size and then Big-Boy was unnecessarily expensive and wasteful. Only consider lithium batteries for the present but new technology will no doubt bring more changes in the near future.
A small bank of lithium batteries to begin with is okay; you can simply add more as needed. Lead cells are quite different; avoid them now in solar installations.
Christmas is often a time of buying white-elephants that in retrospect were a total waste; how about this year, the whole family forego presents and even your annual holiday, start saving for a solar farm, and in December splurge on something really worthwhile for you all? That will mean no more grid failure.
And no more loss of power because a storm has blown down a tree, or criminals have stolen the cables.
For two-weeks right now there has been loss of electricity every single day for
hours as contractors upgrade aging networks, over and above all the
other problems. Our green solar power means that we have barely noticed it.
It is time to go solar; just today the newspaper headlines are about a huge jump in tariffs. It does make financial sense as an investment too, but the payback time will be dependent on how much damage to your electronics from surges you have dodged.
Spikes that hit your TV or computers can be massively damaging; are your backups in order?
Hot water in the home is one of the non-negotiables.
Since somewhere around 50% of the electricity in the average home is used to heat water, a solar geyser makes a lot of sense. There has been a big hit in electricity prices every July for the last decade, with more to come every year; our green power means we can relax, and instead perhaps put that money towards some extra panels.
You can heat water using vacuum-tubes but also directly from your inverter.
Look at induction-geysers that are more efficient too.
Load shedding and security systems are other factors to consider. There have been a lot of break-ins when the grid has gone down and surveillance has failed recently.
Avoid those small compact gel-cell batteries; they fit neatly into the security box but are expensive, have a short lifespan and don't provide enough backup power for a long outage.
Electric vehicles are the future, even though the South African government appears determined to keep us backward by making import tariffs impossibly high; despite the fact that the E-car has landed worldwide, without a doubt for the better. Here nearly 50% of the selling price is tax; overseas there are huge inducements in the form of rebates.
For our family we turned over a blue leaf in January, 2020. That was a stupendous leap forward; we will never go back to a petrol or diesel car.
Pascal's wager is a fascinating philosophical argument, a sort of game in which every person is forced to choose and decide one way or the other; fence-sitting is not allowed. Have fun applying it to "the grid will fail."
Our green solar power has been the beginning of a journey starting some twelve-years ago. I wouldn't have it any other way, though I would have done some things differently.
Many others are on the journey too. But going off the grid is a big step requiring much aforethought and planning.
We have chosen rather to stay with prepaid electricity with the breaker mainly switch off to protect ourselves from damaging surges; but the utility is still available during inclement weather.
One thing is certain; the electricity situation with Eskom is not going to get any better in the foreseeable future, if ever. Is it time for you to think more deeply about our green solar power?
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