Tips for buying a backup power solution in South Africa

As of 9 May 2023, South Africa had already matched the whole of 2022 in terms of the number of accumulated hours of load-shedding.

These higher levels of load-shedding have caused a surge in demand for backup power systems.

There are many backup power solutions available to South Africans — including generators, battery-inverter combinations, and portable power stations.

Determining which one to buy for your home or business can be challenging.

We contacted South Africa’s top backup energy solution providers for advice when buying a backup power solution.

EcoFlow

EcoFlow told MyBroadband that the biggest mistake South Africans make is compromising on quality for a lower upfront price.

“While affordability is essential, compromising on quality can result in unreliable performance and shorter product life, which ultimately costs more in the long run due to repairs or replacements,” said EcoFlow.

Additionally, EcoFlow argued that although traditional generators are widely used in South Africa, they tend to be “heavy giant bricks” that require “cumbersome operation and routine maintenance.”

EcoFlow highlighted portable power stations as an alternative for South Africans who want a low-maintenance option that can be carried around and transported in a vehicle.

EcoFlow then highlighted the importance of understanding each product’s battery capacity, output, lifespan, and charging capabilities:

  • Higher capacities keep your devices powered for longer.
  • Higher output powers more devices at one time.
  • A higher lifespan is measured by battery cycles and provides increased battery longevity.
  • Faster charging speeds will help you prepare your battery for the next load-shedding period.

Ellies

Ellies COO Zeyn Agjee stressed the importance of understanding the limitations of each backup power system.

For example, generators are noisy and incur high fuel costs but deliver more backup power.

In contrast, inverters are cheaper to run and deliver a streamlined change-over but provide less power than a generator.

Therefore, understanding your needs and what each solution delivers will help you make the right purchasing decision.

Agjee also noted that short-term thinking is a big, yet common, mistake.

“Most consumers buy a system that is not expandable or batteries that are not optimal during frequent stages of load-shedding,” said Agjee.

“As consumers’ power needs change, it becomes more costly to add to their existing system, or an entirely new system is required.”

Agjee recommended that customers work with a reputable supplier to ensure their current and future needs are met.

SolarAfrica

Brandon Horn — Head of Commercial at SolarAfrica — explained that businesses have unique requirements that necessitate a more nuanced approach to installing a backup power solution.

“The size of your battery and inverter is directly influenced by how your business uses power and what you need the battery to do,” said Horn.

“If you undersize the system, you won’t have enough power. If you oversize the system, you end up paying for something you don’t truly need.”

It is therefore key, said Horn, that businesses don’t make rash decisions to solve their immediate power crises — lest they be caught out by “fly-by-night suppliers who overpromise fast delivery but end up delivering an inferior product.”

Another mistake is prioritising the battery over the inverter. The reality for many businesses is that the switchover period is just as important as battery capacity.

“If you run a business with machinery, you need to make sure the inverter matches the programmable logic controller’s (PLC) switchover rate,” said Horn.

“If your machines need to switch over in 10 milliseconds, your inverter must be able to accommodate that or else you risk a complete standstill.”

Horn then explained that although high-quality systems may appear to be unattainable, providers like SolarAfrica deliver financing options that don’t require an upfront payment.


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Tips for buying a backup power solution in South Africa