There’s no doubt, winter has arrived, mornings are getting slightly chillier, and toes are frosty and longing for comfortable warm slippers. It’s time to dust off all those blankets and stock up with hot chocolate and soup supplies. “Before switching on your heaters, and taking long warm baths this winter, one should first consider the consequences and explore alternative ways of keeping warm in the colder months” advises Craig Hutchison, CEO of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
Eskom has embarked on a capacity expansion program to meet South Africa’s increasing energy needs. It expects to double its capacity to 80 000MW by 2026. During winter, energy consumption across the country almost quadruples due to the heating of water, use of electric heaters, cooking of hot meals and overall, people prefer spending time indoors with a hot cup of coffee and boiling that kettle more that often. Like with water resources, exploring the possibility of the best alternative energy options is a reality. Load shedding is definitely an exercise we are all familiar with and know that it is inevitable. Thus now would be the ideal time to consider alternative resources in preparation for the coming winter.
Solar power can be a great addition to a home; it certainly saves you money in the long run and will help cut your bills. We all know that solar power uses the sun’s energy- luckily in South Africa we are famous for very sunny yet cold winters. Although we have the main ingredient, it still makes one wonder, just how much can you expect from your Solar system during those long winter months?
Many people in South Africa still understand the term “solar” only as a system to heat your water using the sun’s generated heat on panels (thermal energy), but did you know that sunlight (radiation) can also be used to generate electricity that can be stored in batteries to use later (at night) or immediately to make sure you start moving off the grid and onto a grid tied system.
The lower the sun is in the sky, the less energy will reach the panels. In winter, the sun will always be lower and therefore will produce a little less energy than in the summer months. Also keep in mind that winter days are shorter, thus during winter, the ideal angle for your panels will be higher, due to the sun’s positioning. Some systems will allow you to alter the angle over the year to optimise the system, though this will depend on the mounting used. Certain systems will track each day with the sun, whilst others will allow for infrequent manual altering of the tilt over the year. Most systems are fixed on roofs for domestic customers, which means that the alternation of the position is unfortunately not an option for you.
“People are often surprised by just how much you can get out of these systems, with considerable savings over an entire year are considerable” says Craig. These installations are becoming more common in homes and they have reduced in price over the last year, making them even more viable to install now” added Craig.
How will you pay for your solar system?
Electricity saving starts the moment of activation – every watt generated from the moment the switch is flipped to “on”, is free.
However, an investment is required to ensure financial advantage later. When paying for an additional enhancement to your home one should remind yourself about what the future holds, not just for the country but also the Rand and the unavoidable increase in cost of living? The Global Property Guide showed property in South Africa to have an average yield of 6.4% while solar compares slightly higher for your money.
Let’s take, for example, a 3kW solar system which generates a fair average of 21 kWh per day, when considering 7 hours of average sunlight daily. Also, accounting for the system’s inefficiencies (derating factor) of 20%-25%, depending on the quality of the materials used, we can assume that 16 kWh is generated from this system as a daily average over the course of the year.
To translate that to the price of residential and small commercial rates of electricity, it is equal to R845 per month (or R10,140 p.a). It is easy to calculate from here how long the system will take to pay itself back. On average a 3kW system will cost between R75 000 and R120 000. That means a payback of roughly 7 to 12 years. Money saved could be used in many other ways to your advantage:
“Solar in other words the sun, is a sound investment. It also supplies one of the basic needs for our society – food, water and electricity, without harm to the environment. My suggestion is to plant some vegetables, harvest rainwater and stop using fossil fuels” said Morne Combrinck, owner of True North Solar. Many other parts of the country have initialised other alternative energy sources such as wind turbines in certain areas such as Port Elizabeth. Biogas systems are also known to be used in rural areas and bigger energy demand establishments across South Africa.
It has become unavoidable that making green decisions will not only be to your personal advantage but to the planet and future generations to come. If installing a solar system with battery power storage is not an option for you as yet, make sure you go back to the old school ways of keeping warm this winter.
More ways to save energy and money in the winter:
- Seal and insulate your home, one can prevent heat from escaping or cold from entering your home by keeping doors closed and insolating the walls and roof panels or close your curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts and open them during the day to let in warming sunlight.
- A very popular choice any season around is LED lighting, LED’s are at least 75% more efficient and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lights.
- One significant way to reduce energy consumption if you’re away on vacation is to simply lower the water heater. A timer on your geyser will also aid in great energy savings.
- Unplug those kitchen appliances, DVDs, televisions and computers to save energy while not in use. These electronics, when plugged in, use up energy even when they are turned off.
- Instead of running your electricity bill into red, build a fire place or dust off the old one in the corner of the house. A gas heater is also a great alternative.