Our green solar power

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. "Off the grid" has also come to mean harvesting and storing rainwater; and growing our own food.

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.

Adding extra solar panels should be an option when you have more cash available.

"Things are changing fast and humanity is hurtling towards an unpredictable future."

- Branko Brkic, editor of Daily Maverick

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.

"The recent rolling blackouts have tested my resolve, sanity and sense of humour to the nth degree."

- Jillian Green

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.

Clean those solar vacuum tubes.

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.

Cyan is a secondary colour; blue and green.

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 dawn 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.

“If it’s a full solar system with all the bells and whistles, buyers are willing to pay a premium. In a trophy home, it could add R1m to the sale price.”

- Pam Golding Properties

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 period 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?

"The nightmare continues as some residents are still without power and those who have had electricity restored are calculating the costs of damaged appliances, blown motors and laundry service bills; destroyed alarm systems, having to turf out food that has gone rotten and more."

- Sunday Times, April, 2022

Hot water

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 in South Africa, 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.

"Despite spending packets on batteries and solar panels, I calculate I’ve saved about R500,000 in total over the past decade."

- Tim Cohen is editor of Business Maverick

Security systems

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

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.

Helen in her Nissan Leaf.

"A 20kWh Freedom Won battery and 8kW Sunsynk inverter, plus x kW of panels can be installed for R250,000."

- Fuel Levy heist

Pascal's wager

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

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 should have done some things differently.

Many others are on the journey too[1]. But going off the grid is a big step requiring much aforethought and planning.

We have chosen rather to stay with prepaid electricity but the breaker is mainly switched 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 your own green solar power?

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Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself and Mother Earth for future generations; and your family too, of course. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books.

Here are the back issues.

  • Lifestyle and ideal body weight
  • What are ultra-processed foods?
  • Investing in long-term health
  • Diseases from plastic exposure
  • Intensive lifestyle management for obesity has limited value
  • A world largely devoid of Parkinson's Disease
  • The impact of friendly bacteria in the tum on the prevention of cancer
  • There's a hole in the bucket
  • Everyone is talking about weight loss drugs
  • Pull the sweet tooth
  • If you suffer from heartburn plant a susu
  • Refined maize meal and stunting
  • Should agriculture and industry get priority for water and electricity?
  • Nature is calling
  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa