How Bidorbuy CTO James Ostrowick cut his electricity bill in half

Increased load-shedding and electricity price hikes encouraged Bidorbuy CTO James Ostrowick to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system at his home, which cut his electricity bill in half.

Ostrowick said that in addition to load-shedding, regular outages plague their suburb because of old electricity infrastructure.

When they were hit with a 20-hour power outage, he realised it was time to look after his own electricity generation.

The first thing to consider was an inverter. He opted for a SunSynk inverter because of its good support, flexibility, and easy-to-use interface.

Another consideration was that the SunSynk inverter is bi-directional, making it possible to draw power from the grid and push power back into non-critical loads.

“This means you not only have a UPS device, but also a money saver,” said Ostrowick.

He then bought a 3.5kWh lithium-ion battery and eight 490W solar panels. His setup included:

  • A SunSynk 5kW Inverter.
  • A 3.5kWh PylonTech US3000C battery.
  • Eight 490W JA solar panels.
  • Cabling, brackets, and all the other required pieces.

The total cost for the system Ostrowick used for his home was R65,000.

“While the above setup wasn’t perfect, it was what I could afford at the time, and it will be expanded on,” said Ostrowick.

His future plans include adding at least one more 3.5kWh battery and four more solar panels.

Solar panels on roof
Solar panels on roof

Prior to the solar PV installation, they installed LED lights and a gas hob at their house to cut their electricity cost.

He also uses IoT devices to turn off lights when there is no movement in a room for a specified period.

The solar PV system installation cost another R9,000. It included two days of labour and extras such as the additional distribution board, circuit breakers, switches, and cables.

The installer split his electrical distribution board into two — one for non-critical heavy use appliances and the other for everything else.

“This is an important step. You don’t want your swimming pool pump to switch on in the middle of load-shedding and drain your battery,” he said.

“I also had a geyser timer installed to prevent it from running during the night when it wasn’t needed and drain the battery.”

He added that it is vital to understand your electrical appliances’ power usage. “Be wary of anything that heats up or is used to generate heat, as these are the biggest culprits in your electricity usage.”

Devices that draw a lot of current include ovens, heaters, geysers, kettles, microwaves, dishwashers, tumble dryers, and toasters.

On most days, Ostrowick’s household’s average power consumption is under 400W. It includes a couple of fridges and freezers, a laptop, monitor, USB chargers, and other electronics.

“We have spikes when the geyser kicks in, or when the pool pump runs. I do this at peak sun hours to use the excess generated solar power,” he said.

Electricity use
Electricity use

Ostrowick configured his setup to use as much solar power as possible. The battery charges during periods when the generated power is greater.

“I also only run the solar geyser’s 4kW element for 30 minutes twice a day. I found that that is more than enough,” he said.

Before his solar PV installation, the Ostrowick household used around 25 to 30 units of electricity per day.

“I spent around R2,000 a month on electricity. With the last price increase, our bill would have been around R2,500 per month,” he said.

After installing the solar PV system, Ostrowick said he is only paying around R1,000 a month on electricity.

Once he has installed a second battery and additional solar panels, he is confident that he can cut his electricity bill to below R500 a month.

Solar PV installation

SunSync inverter

Now read: How Zoltan Miklos slashed his electricity bill to R1,100 per month

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How Bidorbuy CTO James Ostrowick cut his electricity bill in half