Solar systems a 'money saver'

2012-08-17 14:13

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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  • sharon.truebodyvice - 2012-08-17 15:14

    Who can afford the start up amount????? Banks wont lend that sort of money to middle class people who dont really earn much and who still have a bond......

      raymond.billson - 2012-08-17 16:11

      Shanna I had mine installed for R14 000. A 200 litre and a 100 litre ayatem.

      martin.brink.965 - 2012-08-17 18:23

      By slowly building up your system, its not actually that expensive. 280 w/hr panels are generally 3g each, inverter should cost about 10g and regulator under 3g. Then batteries to store the charge... All of which can be done piecemeal. Run heavy current users - fridge, washing mach etc off mains until ready. I am talking electric grid free here. Use gas for your shower/bath water and grey water systems to capture the used water for pumping into the garden. Its all actually a lot cheaper and easier than one imagines.

  • raymond.billson - 2012-08-17 16:10

    I have installed a 300l - a 100l and a 200l system In January of this year and it has certainly paid for itself.We have boiling water every day thanks to the sun that blessed us every day. Cost was R14 000 installed. Included an eskom subsidy for the 100l system. It really is the way to go.

      derekneilmaclachlan - 2012-08-17 16:35

      Absolutely....Solar voltaic ( electricity ) is still too expensive, but a solar geyser is an absolute must. It will probally pay for itself in 3 to 4 years. I had a 100 litre installed for the very low price of just R3000-00.

  • glenda.mackay.18 - 2012-08-17 17:26

    @derekneilmaclachlan Please give me your contacts as you paid R3000.00. Don't see the saving if I have to pay R14 000 or R23 000.

      raymond.billson - 2012-08-17 21:52

      the R3000 is for a 100 litre system that includes the eskom rebate

  • julian.broadhurst.9 - 2012-08-18 02:30

    People should only use enough batteries when using solar to keep your entire power needs for 15min+- as a buffer, the rest should be covered with gas/compressed air since batteries are very expensive to replace and you will need to replace them sooner or latter. You can to store the excess solar energy by compressing air into tanks which can latter be used with a motor that runs on compressed air which drives a generator. You can also generate and store HHO for cooking, motors or even your car if you convert it to a hybrid. Always wanted to start a company for this among other things but never happened.

      horst.muller.7330 - 2012-08-18 14:01

      Sound interesting, but it doesn't look like you have done the calculations. Using compressed air for storage of power is technically feasible, but will cost a packet. Some quick 'back of the envelop calculations' have shown that you will need a pressure vessel of well over 100 m3 (at 100 bar pressure) just to maintain a power supply to the house for the night of 30W. And what is this HHO you are going to generate?

  • andynct - 2012-08-19 09:59

    This article is dishonest and misleading. A house spending R1000 a month on electricity hasn't a hope of going effectively "off grid" with an investment in a sytem of just R60000 as is implied in this article.

      shane.bradshaw1 - 2012-08-25 09:18

      This article is not at all dishonest. The system reflected above all inclusive cost around R12 000.00. it provides 100lt of hot water to the house hold and also provides lighting to 6 x LED 3w lights and a charge point for a cell phone and plug point for a radio. this caters for most of the general needs in a low cost home. this system can be up-scalled in R3000.00 increments providing an additional 145watts per hour over 6 hours a day to the owner. for a home that would probably never have been grid tide by Eskom, this is a gift of power, health and life style change. Off grid to you could cost more but to provide the basics of light for studying at night, hot water for bathing your kids and a charge point to stay in contact with the world and listen to the radio, does not have to cost a arm and a leg.

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