Solar technology is being adopted in several countries around the world, with the respective national governments encouraging citizens to utilize solar power to run their homes or offices. Indeed, it has come a long way from its humble beginnings. As a resident of South Africa, you may be asking questions regarding the usefulness of solar equipment, the setup process, and the benefits of solar panels for the home.
That’s where this guide comes in – to answer all questions about solar power, how to calculate how many solar panels you’ll need for your roof, factors to consider when choosing an installer, solar panels prices, the top solar panel manufacturers and installers in South Africa and solar incentives in the country.
Reasons to Switch to Solar Power
As a homeowner, you stand a lot to gain from utilizing solar energy for your electricity consumption. Herre are some benefits of switching to solar energy in Africa:
Solar Power Is Eco-Friendly
This is arguably the most significant reason solar energy is becoming more popular each year. Solar power involves using solar panels to get energy from the rays of the sun and then converting it via the inverter into usable electricity for the home. There’s no emission of greenhouse gases, so the energy is clean and harmless to the environment.
In summary, solar power reduces homeowners’ carbon footprint in the environment. Multiply this by the number of homes worldwide, and it has a profound positive impact on global warming.
Save Money On Electricity Bills
When you’re not using panels to power your home, you depend on the national grid to provide electricity. This means you’ll be paying electricity bills every month. When you multiply what you pay monthly by several years, that’s a lot of money in rands.
Let’s not forget that inflation also affects electricity costs. The average utility bill for low-income and mid-income South-African families was R161 in 1996. In 2020, it was R2,028.
On the flip side, solar installation doesn’t just reduce or eliminate electricity bills; it also protects you from inflation. Let’s assume that you installed your solar system for R200,000. Before then, you paid a monthly utility bill of R2,500. Now, the average lifespan of solar panels is 25 years. Let’s do the math. If you were to pay R2,500 every month for 25 years (barring inflation), that would be R750,000.
If the initial cost of solar installation looked scary, look at the bigger picture. In 25 years, you’ll have saved R550,000 or more (if we want to factor in inflation).
It Boosts The Residential Property Value Of Your Home
Having panels installed in your home is not just good for the environment and your savings; it’s also an investment. According to property experts, a house with load-shedding or solar installation will fetch a higher cost on the property market than a house that gets its electricity from the grid.
Not only will it sell for a higher cost, but it will also sell quickly because the homeowners know that buying the house means they won’t pay light bills.
A PV system ensures you’re not dependent on the grid. It also makes you unaffected by blackouts or brownouts. In some cases, you may have more than enough electricity and may decide to provide light to another home or sell it back to the grid if net metering policies exist in your area of residence.
Solar Panels Are Very Durable
This is another major reason more people are embracing the idea of solar installation. Solar panels can last for as long as 30 years before they’ll need to be replaced. This is even speculated to get better in the future. Thanks to the improvements in solar technology, solar panel manufacturers may design panels that will last for a longer period.
Solar Systems Require Low Maintenance
This is another significant selling appeal for solar installation. Once the system is installed, it’s almost maintenance-free. All it takes to maintain your solar system is to clean dust or debris from the panels once in 6 months and replace the batteries once a decade.
These are sufficient reasons for wanting to install panels in your home. However, you should know that panels come in varieties.
Types of Solar Panels
This solar panel is the most durable and the best when it comes to quality. This is because monocrystalline panels produce more electricity than other types of panels. It has an efficiency rate of 24%. In terms of durability, the lifespan ranges between 25 and 40 years.
The quality comes at a cost because monocrystalline panels attract a higher cost than other panels. However, the cost is a fair bargain compared to the value it provides. This panel is dark-coloured, making it easy to blend with the roof of a home. It’s the ideal choice if you don’t have a large roof.
Just as the name implies, this panel is made up of different materials. It’s less expensive than monocrystalline panels, which makes it more budget-friendly. It’s less energy-efficient because it has an efficiency rate of 20%. It’s also less durable, with the maximum lifespan pegged at 35 years.
Unlike the monocrystalline solar panel, the polycrystalline panel is less tolerant to heat. This solar panel is bulkier in size, requiring more space on your roof. Polycrystalline panels have a unique appearance because of their size and blue colour.
The thin-film solar panel is the least in terms of popularity and energy efficiency, but it’s still a good option if you want to produce power. Thin-film panels have an efficiency rate of 19%. This panel is the least durable, with a maximum lifespan of 20 years. It’s also the most affordable option, making it ideal for budget owners.
True to its name, thin-film panels are the thinnest panels. They are also flatter, more flexible, and lighter in weight than other panels.
What to Know Before the Installation Process
Before the solar setup, you must determine how many solar panels you need. There are certain factors to consider, such as roof tilt, roof size, solar panel capacity, the amount of sunlight in the area, and the purpose of installation.
For the roof tilt, a south-ward-facing roof is the ideal position for a panel. East and West are also good directions as well. The roof size has to be adequate for solar installation. The larger the roof, the more space you have for the setup. In cases where the roof is not large enough to install the required size of the solar system, the panels are installed on the ground.
The panel comes in various sizes – 60-cell, 72-cell, and 96-cell. The more the number of solar cells, the larger the panel will be and the more electricity it will produce. This will determine the number of panels you’ll need. When it comes to the capacity, it can be as low as 150 watts or as high as 450 watts. The higher the capacity, the fewer panels you’ll need.
The peak sunlight hours (the amount of sunlight) are among the most important factors to consider. South Africa is tropical, so the average peak sunlight hours is 5 hours. The last factor to consider is why you’re installing a solar system. If it’s as a backup to electricity from the utility company, you’ll install fewer panels. On the other hand, if the solar system is your main source of light, you’ll need to install more panels.
How to calculate the number of solar panels you need
To determine how many solar panels you need, multiply your monthly energy requirement by peak sunlight hours divided by the panel wattage. Let’s start with calculating the hourly energy requirement. To determine this, you must know your home’s monthly energy requirement; it’s usually stated on your utility bill.
The average house’s monthly energy requirement in SA is 1100 KW. The hourly energy requirement is 1100 kilowatts/30 days = 36.6 watts. 36.6 watts/24 hours = 1.525 kilowatts. That’s 1525 kilowatts.
Let’s assume that the panel wattage is 350 watts. We already have our peak sunlight hours at 5 hours.
The number of solar panels will be 1525 watts x 5/350 = 7625/350 = 21.7 (approx. 22 solar panels).
The Cost of Installing Solar Panels in South Africa
Solar panel prices depend on the solar system you want to install. For example, a grid-tied solar system costs less to install because it doesn’t need batteries. On the other hand, the off-grid system involves all the relevant components. If it’s the former, the price will be below R50k. If it’s the latter, the prices range between R150k to R350k.
Bear in mind that the solar panel prices also depend on the installer and the array size or capacity of the solar system. A 6KW solar system will cost more than a 5KW solar system.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an Installer
Some of the most important factors to look out for include the following;
Their Track Record
You should be looking for the best in the business, and one way to ensure that is by checking the track record of the company you have in mind. Though the best firms attract a higher cost (in most cases), the value you’ll get is worth it. Do your research for a company with an incredible portfolio and glowing reviews.
Qualifications or Licensing
This is one of the most important things to look out for. Is the installer licensed or qualified to set up the system in your house? Check if the company has SAPVIA registration, PV GreenCard, Certificate for working at heights, a wireman’s license, etc.
The Breakdown of The Entire Cost
When getting the quotation from the company, ensure that every cost involved in the project is itemised individually. From the labour cost to the mounting cost to the price of the panels, inverter, battery, wiring, etc.
Make inquiries about the company’s maintenance plan. Some companies sell certain packages along with the system, while others may just give you a guide.
Site Plan and Assessment
This is usually free. It involves the company coming to your house to evaluate the layout of the site and the condition of the roof to determine if it’s suitable for a solar system.
The longer the warranty, the better. Make inquiries about the warranty of the entire system as well as the warranty of each component – inverter, panel, battery, etc. Most importantly, check if the manufacturer’s warranty is the same as the installer’s warranty (if the company you’re hiring is just into the installation).
Go for a company that has been in business for at least seven years. The reason is that they will have more experience and won’t make mistakes.
System Financing Options
Admittedly, the upfront cost of setting up a solar system is a lot. However, certain companies have financing plans that help house owners to make payments gradually. Check if the company you’re considering has such plans.
Top Solar Manufacturers and Installers in South Africa
Go Solr Solutions
This company specialises in the setup of hybrid systems. It’s ideal for low-income or middle-income house owners because it doesn’t require an upfront cost – just a fixed monthly fee. The company has power plans ranging from medium to extra large. It handles the maintenance and system monitoring. The firm has an office in Johannesburg but operates in various locations, including Greater Cape Town, Durban, etc. Its working hours are 8 am – 4 pm on weekdays.
Its contact information includes:
- Phone: 010 880 3948
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This firm was founded in 2015, and it installs solar systems for residents in Cape Town and nearby towns. It does installations for hybrid systems, grid-tied systems, and off-grid systems. Its working hours are 9 am – 5 pm (Mon-Thur) and 9 am – 3:30 pm on Fridays. The company doesn’t work on Sundays.
Its contact information includes:
- Phone: +27861111601
- Email: email@example.com
This solar firm was established in 2011 and has the largest renewable energy network in the country. In 2022 alone, it executed about 13,500 installations. Its packages include the full setup, VAT, and COC.
Its contact information includes:
- Phone: +27119189891
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Solar Incentives In South Africa
Fortunately for house owners in South Africa, there’s a new rooftop solar rebate. This incentive enables eligible house owners to claim about 25% of the cost of new or unused PV systems. This amount goes up to R15,000 per person.