Interview with Lotus FM. Listen to the interview below.
Eskom has warned that some level of permanent load shedding at stage two and stage three will be implemented for at least two years. So that critical maintenance can be done on power stations, maybe maintenance that should have been done a long time ago. This means that you and I will have to learn to adapt to this new painful reality.
So we’ve been gauging your views on how you’ve adapted your home or business to cope with the continuous power cuts from installing inverters at home, to using a UPS or solar power, and all comes at different prices and different functions. So how do you even know what’s best for you or suited to you?
Lotus FM chatting with electrician Julian Collins, who’s a handyman from Handyman Homes. Julian, has been in the industry for 25 years. He started Handyman Homes eight years ago, and they’re now one of, or if not one of the biggest services in the city of Cape Town.
What solutions are there for those wanting to power up their laptops or computers? A lot of people working from home, what do they need to do in terms of, the size of UPS? I mean, how do you start that decision?
There needs to be a bit of a learning curve for everybody. Trying to understand some small technical details. So I think the first thing that people need is to have their internet up and running. And the internet is driven mainly by 12 volts and it’s DC so you don’t need to get complicated inverters, or that kind of thing to keep, what was known as your CPI, which is usually the thing that takes your fibre and turns that into your ethernet signal and then your router.
So the first thing I would recommend is looking at a DC to DC UPS, and that’s just a little 12 volt device, and that will keep your internet running, which I think is pretty great. They’re not particularly expensive. I would probably recommend spending between R1,000 to R1,500 for a good quality one.
You want something that’s gonna run at around 3 to 3.5 amps that’s gonna keep both those devices your fibre and your router and your wifi working in the home or in the office. Then you are looking at an AC, so a DC battery to an AC, so an inverted power source. There is so many of those devices on the market.
The UPS, which stands for Uninterrupted Power Supply. Originally, these were designed to stage between power going off and generators and other systems kicking in. So the few minutes. So a lot of these systems are sort of mis-sold. People think they’re gonna last for many hours during load shedding.
Actually, they’re really designed just either to be able to switch your computer off to save everything. Or if you’ve got another power source to get that other power source up and running. So the sort of the smaller systems under R5,000, they’re not gonna see you through the two hours, or possibly four hours of load shedding.
What I would recommend is spending more like R10,000 to R12,000 on a relatively robust, fairly large twin battery if you’ve got the budget, although it will be probably double that price. Go with lithium batteries, they’re going to last a lot longer. Again, there’s a lot of choice on the market. There are some really good options out there.
There are also some not so great options. You may be spending that much money and find after a year the batteries are no longer lasting for that long because the quality of the battery is just not there, which is a big part of the industry. There’s a lot of development in the technology of batteries. So lithium ion is always your best bet, but they are about double the price of lead acid, but they will last around four times the lifespan of the lead acid battery. So if you’ve got the budget, I would definitely recommend that.
If it’s a lithium based battery, then whoever is making that, the manufacturer is wanting to sell at a higher point, I would assume. Lithium batteries are much better quality. They last a lot longer. I mean, it’s the quality, it’s the technology, it’s basically the chemicals inside that. The problem with lead acid batteries, is that once they’re depleted and if they get depleted a few times, they never come back to life where you don’t have that same problem with lithium ion.
I would recommend you do your research, read the reviews, Google reviews or whatever, store you’re buying through, and then do a little bit of research, especially if you’re spending R10,000 to R15,000 or more. You know, if you’re going into lithium, the systems that we recommend, the companies that we work for or work with, their their systems for something that’s gonna be still a UPS or a PPS, a portable power supply. They are two different options to look at. Those systems are about R30,000 to R45,000, but they are going to give you, without integrating, without having a hybrid system, which I think will lead on to now. But without having the hybrid system installed, that’s going to give you a robust amount of power to run a few appliances, like a fridge. The basics around your home are lights, the TV or computers or things like that, and it’s gonna be able to run it for the entire time after the four hours of possible load shedding. You can do the same with lead acid. You have to have a certain amount of knowledge. I guess you have to know that if you try and wear these batteries, if you try and work them too hard, if you ask too much of them, then they’re not going to last.
And just sort of getting in the habit of knowing when you buy something or when you have a device, knowing what the wattage is, so you know that your inverter provides 1500 watts and if you try and add in more than 1500 watts, it’s either not gonna work, which is the easy thing, or is this gonna drain and damage that system. And it’s not going to last as long.
I think the big difference between, South Africa at the moment and Europe is grid tie, it is being able to have a hybrid system that when it’s generating excess electricity can be sold back onto the grid and be used by industry or be used by other, and then reducing your nighttime bill when you do need electricity.
So having a roof full of solar panels generating lots of lovely energy when the sun is out. But nobody’s home because we’re all at work. But industry needs that electricity and that’s how Europe’s system works. But unfortunately because of the older system, because we’re still running on older technology in the sense of our grid, where the grid tie is slow.
It is coming. Areas are getting grid tie and I would hope that it’ll be rolled out, but I don’t think we should wait for that. I would recommend what you have to do in South Africa is you have to invest in the batteries, so you have the nighttime storage and also with low setting. And as we’ve been told for the next foreseeable future. We’re gonna have an unreliable power source. So, although the hybrid systems are great and having something that will integrate onto the grid, when that technology comes along, what you do need is to have a good quality battery. But that can see you through your demand, and it’s about calculating your home demand.
And again, it’s also about, what do you want to do? Are you willing to accept a little less or a little more inconvenience, during load shedding to have a few less devices working and therefore a slightly less expensive system? Or do you want everything to be running? And all of that is really based on, one, how many panels you have, the size of the inverter and then the most important part, how many batteries?
Per panel you’re looking at around R3,000 per panel, but that doesn’t really paint a clear picture to get a reasonable system in your home that’s going to give you the security that you’re not gonna be affected by load shedding, is gonna start in at around R90,000 to R120,000. That’s a basic system that’s not gonna be able to heat water. It’s probably gonna struggle to use, if you’ve got electric oven, electric hobs, it will struggle at that price point to power those.
It will be a very robust system and it will, at that price point, reduce your bill by 30 to 35%. And I think that’s the thing that you really need to understand with these. It’s a good time to invest in these systems because, if you spend, let’s say R180,000, and that’s about an average price for an average house with a full solar system that’s gonna give you a very nice system. And not only that, it’s going to reduce your bill by 80%. So that investment that you are making now, the system is guaranteed for 15 years. Within five to seven years, you’ve paid for that system. So you’ve then got free electricity for at least the next eight years.
The systems we are trying to design, the ones that we want to supply and, we also can offer loans and finance and that sort of thing is systems that’s gonna reduce your bill, as well as obviously protect you from the load shedding. And also this technology is green. It has an environmental benefit as well, which is again, I think an important factor and something is important to understand. So not only are you gonna reduce your bill, not only are you gonna have power when it’s load shedding, it is a very large investment. But it does have the nice feeling of this is green technology.
Advice on taking that huge leap in terms of, for one green energy and for the fact that he’s talking about initially a couple of percentages there, that you can do the numbers in terms of your electricity bill if you go the full hog 180 grand and get that financed as an example. Yes, there’ll be finance costs. But, saving 80% of say a three and a half, R4,000 electricity bill a month and what your payback is and versus when you need to replace those batteries again. So there’s certainly some homework to be done and some decisions to be made. Some very attractive points made on green energy.
Also, the fact that, in a few years time you’ll have free electricity for about eight years thereafter. And we don’t know where the electricity price is going to end up as well. We know 18.65% this year, they’re going for 12% next year. It’s some important decisions to make and to be made, and it’s something that sometimes you can possibly get about three suppliers over to your place. Get the quotations, talk them through it, ask the pertinent questions and see what they say and you know, make a decision from that. I think it might be a good step to take in that direction.
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