Cheapest ways to survive load-shedding

South Africa’s persistent load-shedding likely has many homeowners looking for backup systems to provide light, power their Internet equipment, watch TV, or use certain appliances.

While solutions like solar power systems, inverter and battery installations, and generators can be expensive, several more affordable options are available in the country.

These include emergency lights and rechargeable lightbulbs, small uninterrupted power supplies (UPSes) designed to keep your Internet connection alive, and portable battery storage devices that can power larger electronics.

Despite Eskom’s efforts to fix its coal power fleet and end load-shedding, the power utility’s energy availability factor (EAF) hit a new low in February 2024.

The EAF is a critical performance measure for the power utility’s generation fleet and reflects the proportion of capacity available for providing electricity to South Africa.

The figure dropped to 50.84%, which energy expert Chris Yelland said was lower than the “very low figures” for the same time in 2023, despite three 800MW units at Kusile power station returning to service since then.

Eskom has been trying to improve its EAF as part of its turnaround plan to improve generation performance and end load-shedding.

Its board and management were tasked with returning the EAF to above 70% by 31 March 2025. This included intermediate goals of 60% by 31 March 2023 and 65% by 31 March 2024.

Improving Eskom’s EAF is critical to ending load-shedding, but Yelland believes it is fighting a losing battle with its existing fleet.

MyBroadband looked for affordable solutions to help South Africans survive bouts of load-shedding. We found several options ideal for various requirements, which we have listed with pricing below.

Keeping lights on

Load-shedding in the evenings and overnight can be frustrating without a backup system for lighting. However, several affordable LED light bulbs and emergency lights with built-in batteries are available for these situations.

These lamps charge when the power is on and can continue providing light from their built-in battery during Eskom’s rotational power cuts.

Manufacturers boast that the bulbs listed can last five to six hours on a single charge, while the emergency LEDs are claimed to last six to ten hours.

Eurolux FS211 Light Led Emergency Rechargeable 600Ah (FS211) — R99 (Electric Wholesalers)

Gizzu Everglow Screw-in Rechargeable Emergency LED Bulb 1,800Ah — R99 (Takealot)

Elecstor 7W E27 Rechargeable & Dimmable Globe Warm White 1,200mah (2-pack) — R119 (Takealot)

Magneto 630-lumen Rechargeable Compact LED — R119.95 (Electric Wholesalers)

Magneto 1,000-lumen LED Lantern — R245 (Takealot)

Staying online

Staying online during load-shedding is likely a priority for many South Africans, which requires keeping a router and optical network terminal powered.

Several small UPSes with a DC port are available to meet these needs.

These smaller UPSes are designed to power your router and optical network terminal off their battery storage.

Several options of varying battery capacities are listed below, with prices ranging from R350 to R909.

Mini DC Uninterrupted Power Supply UPS (8,800mAh) — R350 (Takealot)

Gizzu 30W Mini DC UPS (10,400mAh) — R599 (Gizzu)

Volkano Mini UPS (14,000mAh) — R599 (Takealot)

Gizzu Mini Dual-voltage DC UPS (8,800mAh) — R699 (Makro)

Gizzu 100W LifePO4 Mini PoE DC UPS (14,400mAh) — R909 (FirstShop)

Powering a TV or PC

A lack of power due to load-shedding severely limits your entertainment options at home and can hamper your productivity if you work from home.

However, South African residents can buy an affordable portable power station or inverter trolley to keep several electronic devices for a few hours.

These backup power options come with varying capacities and at least one three-prong power connection through which you can plug in a TV or PC, as well as a router and optical network terminal.

It should be noted that the inverter trolleys listed have lead-acid batteries, which will only last 150–200 cycles during higher stages of load-shedding.

Additionally, they can only be discharged to 50% without degrading, meaning only half of their rated capacity is useable.

The portable power stations use lithium batteries that offer far greater depth of discharge and more recharge cycles.

Several affordable portable power stations and inverter trolleys are listed below.

Gizzu Portable Power Station (296Wh) — R2,599 (Incredible)

Magneto 300w Portable Power Station (346Wh) — R3,299 (Incredible)

Gizzu Portable Power Station (518Wh) — R4,849 (Takealot)

Crystal 1,200VA Inverter + 100Ah Battery (600Wh, 300Wh useable) — R4,595 (GeeWiz)

Mecer 1,200VA Inverter + 100Ag Battery Trolley (600Wh, 300Wh useable) — R5,495 (GeeWiz)

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Cheapest ways to survive load-shedding