Solar systems a 'money saver'

2012-08-17 14:13
Renewable energy systems attract a high upfront cost, but they may be a money saver over the long term. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Renewable energy systems attract a high upfront cost, but they may be a money saver over the long term. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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VIDEO: Low cost housing

2012-08-06 11:06

Sean Van Horsten talks about using renewable energy solutions to augment low cost housing projects in this YouTube video.WATCH

Cape Town - Renewable energy systems attract a high upfront cost, but they may be a money saver over the long term, says property developer.

"I've done an exercise where we've looked at a conventional house: If you're spending let's say a R1 000 a month, it would probably cost in the region of R60 000 for a particular system," Sean Van Horsten, CEO of VHP told News24.

He added that by paying a loan amount that was fixed, a user could mitigate electricity price hikes.

"In essence, your R1 000 a month could go toward a loan over a 60-month period. The beauty of that is you are not subject to the increases every year, from Eskom."

Van Horsten demonstrated a low cost house that employs a solar panel for electricity, and solar powered geyser and a water tank for garden irrigation.


He said that this kind of programme in the impoverished area of Mfuleni township outside Cape Town showed that renewable energy is becoming more viable, particularly as electricity prices increase.

The supply of electricity came under scrutiny when snow fell in many parts of SA during August. Several households in the KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were cut off and Eskom urged customers to reduce consumption.

The solar panel installed on the low cost home equates to about 20% of electricity consumption, said Van Horsten. The system though, could be expanded to fully meet a household's requirements.

"The photovoltaic system we have here now is modular in design so at any given time the beneficiary can go and buy another panel or a battery or also grow the inverter.

"In essence they can take their house off the grid one day."

Van Horsten conceded that solar systems were expensive, but costs are declining. If used with low energy LED lights, one could arguably extend the power of photovoltaic systems.

"Over the past couple of years, we've really tested these renewable systems and of course, a product as it develops and becomes better, it also becomes cheaper.

"Your payments are set for a 60-month period for example. It would be a personal loan but thereafter, your system is completely paid off," he said.


The hot water geyser usually devours the largest share of electricity consumption and the installation of a renewable energy alternative could see long-term savings.

"Your water heating in one's house can equate to about 500 bucks a month just to keep the water warm in your house if you an average sized family for example.

"The first thing we would suggest is your water - take your water off - it has the biggest benefit and make sure you use a reputable SABS approved company and product; that your installers are held accountable in the event that something goes wrong with the installation," Van Horsten advised.

While the system is secured to reduce theft and vandalism, Van Horsten acknowledged that no system was perfectly secure, despite it being riveted to the roof.

"Of course if somebody wants to steal something they will a concerted effort to do so. We can only slow down the process to the point that if somebody's on your roof with a grinder… you're going to know about it."

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