What To Consider and look for when going Solar

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What To Consider and look for when going Solar

Going solar is a decision that many of us face these days in the hunt for affordable and reliable power. For some of us it’s about the afford-ability of power compared to grid power, while for other it’s about the reliability and in many cases it’s the need for power as there is no access to grid power. In all three of these instances the type of solar system needed differs and each should be understood properly before starting the hunt for an accredited installer.

Grid -tied System – Afford-ability (Cost saving). 

When your main focus is to reduce your utility bill instead of having backup power then you should focus on a grid tied system. Grid tied systems as the word indicates is tied to your current grid (Eskom if you reside in South Africa).  This type of system was designed to have no need for batteries, reducing the system cost dramatically.  The system comprises of a grid tied inverter and PV panels (solar panels) that is connected to your grid.  When the grid is active the system will produce power from the solar panels to feed your appliances and if there is not enough solar power available then the extra power needed will then be taken from the grid.  This reduces the amount of units (KW) used from the grid.

Pro’s and Con’s

  • The downside to a grid tied system is that if the grid fails the grid tie inverter switches off.  So there is no form of backup power available.
  • A single phase home is limited to a 4.6kw inverter.
  • A three phase home is limited to 4.6kw per phase.
  • The system is relatively cheap compared to other types of systems.

Hybrid Systems – Reliable power. 

In most cases the search for reliable power is what most clients are looking for.  This type of system can be build in many different types of ways, but the most cost efficient way is by using a Hybrid Inverter System.  This type of system allows you to utilize the power generated from the solar panels during the day to run your daytime loads and charge your batteries to have stored energy for your night time loads.  The hybrid system also allows for an alternative power source such as grid or generator to switch to when the batteries are flat before the sun comes back up again.

Pro’s and Con’s

  • The system can be build to generate quite a lot of power when wired properly.
  • The system switches fast between power sources making the power very reliable.
  • Can be build to accommodate 3 phase systems.
  • Batteries makes this system more expensive than a grid tied system.

Off Grid Systems – The Need for Power (No access to any power ).

In many cases there is no power source or access to grid power.  In these cases you would install an off-grid system.  These systems usually contain more parts compared to a hybrid system.  They do not usually have the build in function to search for alternative power when the batteries are empty.  The upside of these type of systems is that they can be build to generate quite a lot of power without having restrictions given by the utility ( Grid ) companies.

Pro’s and Con’s

  • More costly than hybrid or grid tied systems.
  • More parts making installation more expensive.
  • Can build a very powerful system. Ideal for farms, engineering companies etc.

What to look for ?

Once you have decided on the right type of system for your needs we recommend you look for an Accredited Company to do your solar installation.

A good company will not just give you a quote.  They will ask for your current power usage.  They will then in most cases give a quote based on that usage.  A good solar company will then at this point advice you on how to reduce power usage and what changes to make to accommodate solar.  This in most cases will result in a new quote (usually a lot more affordable).  They will assess your irradiation in your area and based on your house azimuth calculate the annual yield expected for your system.  It’s good practice to rather pay a little bit more for a decent installation done according to SAPVIA and SANS standards.

Things to note:

  • Solar geysers and gas stoves should always be considered and will reduce the cost of your solar system by up to 50%.
  • LED lights will reduce the amount of batteries needed. (Buy the ones that fir in your existing fittings)
  • Changing fridges to A rated fridges will save a lot of power at night.
  • Only use tier 1 products (a list of product names will be given).
  • Always make sure that you are supplied with surge protection on AC and DC side.
  • Always ask for a COC if not stipulated in the quote.

Recommended brands.

Solar Panels

  • JA Solar
  • Canadian Solar
  • Jinko
  • Sharp

Grid Tie Inverters

  • SMA
  • Solis
  • Solaredge
  • Huawei
  • Kodak

Hybrid Inverters

  • Mecer
  • Goodwe
  • Victron
  • Solis
  • Solaredge
  • Kodak

Off-Grid Inverters (Inverter-Chargers)

  • Victron Energy
  • MLT
  • SMA


  • Li-ion batteries Only (don’t use GEL/ Deap Cycle/ AGM in high cycle systems)
  • Pylontech
  • BYD
  • LG
  • Victron Energy

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