What you should know before installing solar panels and batteries at your home

There are several factors to consider before investing in solar power for your home, ranging from the specifications of the inverter to the system’s impact on your short-term insurance.

South African residents considering solar panels and batteries to power their homes should expect to pay significant sums for the equipment and installation.

It becomes even more expensive if you want to sever your connection to Eskom’s grid entirely.

As with any significant investment, it is wise to get all the essential information before making a decision.

MyBroadband asked SolarAdvice what homeowners should consider before installing solar and battery backup systems at their homes.

SolarAdvice director Neil Berrow explained that the inverter is one of the most critical components of such a system.

“Some off-grid inverters can blend solar and grid power, but they cannot blend solar, grid and batteries,” he said.

“The downfall of a system like that is that once there is no [photovoltaic solar power], you can only use your battery or grid power, not both simultaneously.”

“If your usage exceeds your battery’s capacity, you will be switched to grid supply and will not use your freely produced and stored solar power,” Berrow added.

Such inverters are not the best option for those hoping to save money on electricity.

However, it offers a cheaper alternative to hybrid inverters for households wishing to break their dependence on Eskom.

“If you’re planning on having a solar array, buy a Hybrid Inverter. They are far more efficient than other types of inverters on the market and will save you more money on your electricity bill,” he said.

“Don’t make a decision entirely based on price point. Solar products are expensive, but rather spend your hard-earned money on popular brands,” he added.

Berrow said popular brands are a better option as they tried, tested, and are more reliable.

He also further tips for those looking to buy a solar power kit.

Berrow advised that the first step was to determine your needs and expectations.

This includes working out how much electricity your household consumes after daylight hours, as this determines the battery capacity required to power your home when the sun goes down.

It is also important to consider how much power your appliances and other electrical equipment draws, as this will determine the solar panel wattage you need to keep them running.

“Then start looking for a reputable supplier and solar installer for additional advice. The installer you choose must, by law, be a registered electrician with the Department of Labour,” Berrow said.

He also advised that it is best to have an installer inspect the site before buying a solar kit to guarantee a no-hassle installation.

“Also, make sure that once your installation is complete, you receive a Certificate of Compliance,” Berrow added.

In summary:

  • Select a hybrid inverter if you plan to install a solar array
  • Choose well-known, tried-and-tested brands
  • Calculate how much power your household uses after dark to determine battery requirements
  • Calculate how much peak power your solar panels must be able to deliver
  • Use reputable suppliers and installers
  • Installers should ideally inspect the site before buying kit
  • The installer must be registered as an electrician with the Department of Labour
  • Ensure you receive a Certificate of Compliance when the installation is complete
Tarina Vlok, Elite Risk MD

Elite Risk managing director Tarina Vlok also warned of several pitfalls to look out for that can cause insurance claim issues.

“Policyholders should make sure that their installer demonstrates that they are familiar with the technical regulations relating to solar installations,” warned Vlok.

The regulations are summarised as follows:

  • Installers must ensure that the roof structure can support the solar system’s weight.
  • When this isn’t possible, a professional engineer or registered technologist must design the installation to incorporate the standard’s safety and performance principles.
  • The solar system must be installed so that it does not accelerate the deterioration of the roof.

Vlok recommended that policyholders use their insurer’s network to find accredited technicians and installers to avoid a catastrophe during the claims stage.

Now read: South Africa will keep using coal power until 2073

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What you should know before installing solar panels and batteries at your home