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How do solar PV panels brave the elements?

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Solar PV panels are exposed to the elements year in and year out. Depending on where in South Africa they are installed, they have to withstand extreme heat, strong wind, hail and torrential rain. Before we talk about how they survive the weather, let us first take a look at how they turn sunlight into electricity.

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Image 1: The three main types of solar PV panels on the market.

A solar panel comprises electric wiring and solar cells housed in a protective metal casing. The solar cells are usually made from silicone and convert sunlight (photons) directly into electricity (voltage). When the sunlight hits the solar cells, it interacts with the silicone, which sets the electrons into motion and starts the flow of electricity. There are three main types of solar PV panels on the market, namely thin film, mono silicon and poly silicon panels.

It goes without saying that solar PV panels are most efficient when they receive maximum sunlight, which is why in South Africa they are generally positioned on the north-facing side of a roof. This location leaves them most exposed to the elements. However, they have been designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and can last for years. Here are a few examples of how solar PV panels brave the elements:

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Image 2: Poly Silicon solar PV panels installed on a north facing roof by Energy Partners Home Solutions

Withstanding wind.

Wind load is the pressure that the flow of the wind exerts on the roof, and therefore on the solar PV panels. It differs from region to region and is one of the factors that solar PV installers have to take into account.

A solar PV panel that is not secured properly or placed incorrectly could cause considerable damage when it buckles under a heavy wind load. For example, how far away the panel is placed from the edge of the roof, and how close it is to the roof’s surface, influence its ability to withstand wind load[1].  Before installing panels, solar PV experts first take the relevant wind load per square meter and the strength of the roof into consideration.

One also has to look at how the solar PV panels are fastened to the roof. Surprisingly, many solar PV panel installers do not take wind load into account when they design the mounting structures. Energy Partners Home Solutions, for example, have invested considerable time and effort in researching the fittings that connect the panels to the roof. Their state-of-the art solutions tightly securesthe panels without damaging the roof and is made from high-grade, durable materials. It conforms to European standards in terms of quality and waterproofing.

Premium mounting structures can add up to 5% to the cost of a solar energy system, but it is well worth the investment. They will last as long as the panels themselves, whereas cheaper fittings will often corrode and break during the panels’ lifetime.

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Image 3: Energy Partners Home Solutions’ high-quality mounting structures provide additional support against wind load.

Holding up in extreme heat.

According to Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners Home Solutions: “It sounds counterintuitive, but the hot summer sun baking down on your solar PV panels is not ideal. Solar panels actually become less efficient the more the temperature rises. As a precaution against overheating, we leave a gap between the panel and the surface of the roof to allow for natural ventilation.”

Braving hail and rain.

Solar PV experts recommend placing the panels at an angle of five degrees or more to allow rainwater to run down the panel. This keeps the water from building up on top of the panel, which could affect its efficiency and cause water damage in the long run. At the same time, placing the panel at an angle makes it self-cleaning: As rain and dew glide down the panel, it washes dust and debris away.

It is also important to ensure you purchase solar PV panels and mounting structures that are made from waterproof materials.

Many people who are considering installing solar PV, are worried about whether the panels will be able to withstand hail. We have all seen the destruction that these icy orbs can cause, but solar PV panels are not as easily dented and smashed as car bonnets and windows. Most quality solar PV panels have a weather-resistant covering that provides protection against moisture, dust and hail. Energy Partners Home Solutions’ solar PV panels can withstand hailstones up to the size of golf balls. Take a look at this video to see how solar panels hold up against hail damage.

Will your panels hold up, come rain or shine?

It is important that you only work with reputable suppliers to ensure that your solar PV panels will last a long time. They can give you the assurance that their products have been quality-tested, comply with safety regulations and are made from durable, weatherproof materials. It is equally important to have your system professionally installed, because how the solar PV panels are fitted and positioned affect their efficiency and weather resistance.

Energy Partners Home Solutions only installs Tier 1 solar PV panels, which is the official ranking for the highest quality panels. They offer both thin film and poly silicon technology and their panels typically carry a 25-year guarantee. Furthermore, when Energy Partners Home Solutions install their panels, they consider the optimal panel layout, shading analysis, expected yield and unique weather conditions of the particular location. That is how they ensure their panels will last longer and give clients optimal energy savings, whatever the weather.

 

To find out more, contact Energy Partners Home Solutions today on 0861 000 606 for a free, non-obligatory home energy assessment or visit www.poweryourself.co.za.

Energy Partners, part of the PSG group of companies, has been helping some of South Africa’s most well-known businesses save on their energy costs for over seven years. Energy Partners Home Solutions, a division of Energy Partners, brings the same award-winning solutions to the residential and SME markets by combining state of the art energy e­fficiency technology, solar PV systems and expertise with Energy Partners Home Solutions’ own advanced products. By partnering with Energy Partners, clients can reduce their monthly electricity bills by up to 70%. For more information visit http://www.poweryourself.co.za/ or contact 0861 000 606.

[1] https://www.powerfromsunlight.com/effects-wind-load-solar-pv-panels-protect-solar-panel-system-wind-load/

We’re Taking A Roadtrip Into The Near Future With EVs

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It is no longer controversial to say that electric transport will be the dominant means of travel very soon. With the realisation of this possibility, the popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), or notion at least, has enjoyed steady growth. In fact, according to a recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), by 2040, 33% of cars globally will be electric, as too will 54% of new car sales. The benefits of EVs are numerous and obvious, especially since petrol is not planet-friendly, nonrenewable and becoming increasingly more expensive.

Tesla

Tesla charging station

EVs now even enjoy the same superb performance statistics as many of the top combustion fired engines do: Tesla’s P100D can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 2.38 seconds. It is no wonder, then, that the defenders of our current reliance on nonrenewable energy are now most certainly in the minority.

 

The Nissan Leaf, for instance, a compact five-door hatchback, was the first ever all-electrical vehicle to go on sale in South Africa. It boasts an impressive range of about 195 km on a single charge, enough for the average weekly commute in a city environment. BMW currently has two options available in South Africa: the i3 and i8. While the i8 is a hybrid vehicle, meaning it uses both petrol and electricity, reaching a maximum range of 37 km on electricity alone, the i3 is all-electric and has a range of between 129 km to 161 km, depending on how efficiently you drive. There are many other models currently available and being developed.

 

Rising petrol prices are always a concern for South African drivers. Perhaps the most standout feature of EVs, is the fact that, when it comes to petrol, they offer a lower running cost.

 

Costs Graph

The graph compares the cost of driving a Nissan Leaf compared to a petrol-fuelled and a hybrid model respectively. It is based on a petrol price of R13 per liter and an electricity cost of R1.19 per kWh.

 

All of these benefits considered: Why are only a handful of South Africans driving EVs?

 

Implementation speed bumps in South Africa.

In South Africa there are a few barriers to adoption, including the lack of infrastructure, vehicle range and the current cost. And so there are indeed the nay-sayers, yet the demand for EVs in South Africa, according to a poll conducted by Wheels 24, looks very promising, with most respondents saying they would consider purchasing one. In this same survey, however, consumers also expressed concern about the range of EVs, although this would just be a symptom of an altogether different problem. Many EVs have actually got very reasonable ranges, depending on how you use them; in city driving conditions (the most conducive to efficiency) many EVs can provide a range of between 129-195 km.

 

However, were South Africa even to develop the necessary charge infrastructure, the power being used would have to come from the grid—a resource already under considerable strain. And as the price of these vehicles drop, and the adoption begins to uptick, so too would demand on the grid. This would result in a situation currently developing elsewhere, with cost fluctuations incentivising off-peak charging to better meet this increased demand. Charging your EV from the grid at a charge station, or even from home, would become increasingly expensive during peak hours. The BNEF study notes that, with the 8 million barrels per day displacement that EVs will cause by 2040, comes a 5% increase in demand for grid provided electricity. The first reaction to this problem might be to charge your EV off-peak, but an even more effective response would be to charge off-grid entirely—preferably at no cost to you, such as would be the case when using a home PV solar system. Elon Musk’s master plan (to be discussed later) actually foresees just such a future.

 

Cost is likely one of the bigger barriers to adoption. On the budget-conscious side of the spectrum, the Nissan Leaf will set you back about R450 000, which is by no means “cheap”. On the price-is-no-obstacle side, you have the BMW i8, starting at R1 755 000, which, even for a supercar, is pretty pricey. But these are early days yet, and as the technology advances and production costs decrease, we will begin to see these prices reach levels that the average consumer would consider reasonable. Tesla’s (who unfortunately has yet to export its models to SA) Elon Musk calls this the master plan part deux: producing high-cost, high-performance, but ultimately low-volume EVs, which would cover the cost of the R&D, with the end of producing an incrementally more affordable, and therefore high-volume unit for a broader market. It has even been suggested that EVs will reach unsubsidised parity with traditional, internal combustion engine cars by 2029.

 

BMWi8

A BMW i8

 

Solar at home paves the way.

Installing a solar PV system at home would dramatically increase the attractiveness of owning an EV. As your savings on both the cost of fuel and grid electricity accumulate, your investment in this technology will begin generating a handsome return.

 

The graph below is a highly simplified comparison between the cost of driving a solar-powered Nissan Leaf EV with driving a petrol-powered Polo 1.4 Trendline over a period of 15 years. The cost of powering the EV with PV stays constant over the 15-year period, while it gets increasingly more expensive to drive the fossil fuel-dependent vehicle. This is because, unlike petrol, the energy generated by a solar PV system is free.

 

Cost Comparison

Source: Energy Partners Home Solutions

 

According to an article that appeared on Wheels24, experts predict that by 2025, petrol-powered vehicles and EVs will cost the same. This means that, soon, there will be even more incentive to go the EV route.

 

We all know that a car is not an investment, and that it actually depreciates in value, but with this generous return in savings with home solar PVs, can EVs be described as another beast altogether? It certainly seems that way.

Build Your Own Solar Oven And Make a Dessert Worthy Of Braai Day

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It is Heritage Day – also known as Braai Day – on 24 September, and the solar energy experts, Energy Partners Home Solutions, know exactly how to celebrate it in a way that is uniquely South African. Gather your loved ones, light the braai and use the power of the sun to cook your dessert!

“Braai Day is not only a great opportunity to spend quality time with your family, but to also save electricity. With this in mind, we have put together some simple instructions that anyone can follow to build a basic solar oven and cook sweet marshmallow s’mores with the kids,” says Cala van der Westhuizen, Head of Marketing and Sales at Energy Partners Home Solutions.

“We have also included a recipe for the perfect solar cooked dessert. Just follow the instructions below and you will be amazed at the result,” he adds.

You will need:

  • Pizza box
  • Ruler
  • Black marker
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • NT cutter
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors
  • Cling film
  • Sticky tape
  • Black craft paper
  • Sosatie stick
Solar Cooker

Create a simple solar oven from a pizza box. Image source: http://science-u.org/

Step 1 and 2  – Cut an opening in the lid

Draw a square on top of your pizza box’s lid, making sure it is in the middle with a 2.5 cm border all around it.  Turn the box so that the part where it flaps open faces towards you. Use the NT cutter to cut through the two vertical lines of the square, as well as the horizontal line closest to you. Score, but do not cut, the horizontal line of the square that is furthest away from you (on the side where the lid is attached to the box).

Step 3 – Create a reflective flap

Fold the square open so that it stands upright. Cover the side that faces the opening in the lid with aluminum foil. Smooth out the foil as best you can. This shiny flap reflects the sunlight and is essentially what generates the solar oven’s heat. If needed, you can use a sosatie stick to keep the flap upright.

Step 4 – Cover the opening

Cut two square pieces of cling film so that they are slightly larger than the opening in the lid. Open the lid. Place one of the pieces of cling film over the underside of the opening and seal it on all sides with the sticky tape. Close the lid. Place the other piece over the top of the opening and seal it on all sides with the sticky tape. Note: When placing the pieces of cling film, stretch them as taut as possible and make sure the sticky tape creates an airtight seal all around their edges – This will help to keep the oven warm.   

Step 5 – Insulate the box

Now focus on the bottom of the box. Cover the base and sides on the inside with aluminum foil. (This step is optional, but it will insulate the heat better.) Cut the black craft paper so that it is the same size as the pizza box’s base. Place and glue the paper onto the aluminum foil on the base. The black paper helps to retain the heat.

Step 6 – Get ready to use your solar oven

Your solar oven is ready for cooking! Why not try some marshmallow s’mores for dessert? To create enough s’mores for six people you will need:

  • 12 chocolate-chip cookies
  • 6 marshmallows
  • 6 teaspoons of Nutella

Step 7 – Cook some s’mores

Take six of the cookies and place a marshmallow on top of each. Open the lid of the solar oven and put the cookies on top of the black craft paper. Close the lid and place the solar oven in direct sunlight. Wait for an hour or so until the marshmallows have melted. Once they are ready, open the lid and put a teaspoon of Nutella on top of the melted marshmallows. Sandwich the cookies closed with the remaining six cookies.

Tuck in and enjoy your Heritage Day braai dessert!

LED cost effectiveness is light years ahead

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Converting your home’s downlights to LED is the first real step to optimising its energy consumption

Many households don’t realise that the lighting in their homes can consume up to 30% of their home’s total usage. That is quite a substantial figure for a feature that we hardly consider and in fact take mostly for granted. This is why lighting is often an overlooked aspect of home energy optimisation: water heating, large appliances and other obvious energy consumers like swimming pool pumps are more often than not given priority by homeowners. However, converting your current downlights to Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) should actually be one of the first steps to optimising your home’s energy consumption.

LEDs are ideal replacements for traditional incandescent and halogen downlights (the majority of bulb types in South African homes), and are far more cost efficient in the long-term. Unlike conventional light fittings, LEDs create light through electroluminescence – a characteristic of certain elementary materials to emit light when an electric current is passed through them. This process is extremely efficient at turning electric energy into light, whereas other technologies waste a lot of energy through heat (this is actually why conventional fittings feel hot to the touch while in operation, and why LEDs do not). In fact, incandescent bulbs are the least energy efficient, converting about 90% of the energy they use into heat, and only about 10% into actual light.

When to switch off: The dark side of energy saving

The households that are aware of this wastage tend to employ various tactics in an attempt to curb it, such as switching off lights when leaving a room. Even if it is done with noble intention, it is not the best way forward. Analysing when it is or is not most cost effective and efficient to switch a light off is far more complicated than one might think. Firstly, it depends on what the price of electricity is at the time; and secondly, it depends on what kind of bulb we are talking about. This is because light bulbs have a nominal or operational life, which is dependent on how often they are switched off and on.

Bulbs2edt

We have already discussed the inefficiency of incandescent bulbs, and as they waste so much electricity generating heat rather than light, whenever they are not needed, should always then be switched off. Halogen lighting, although more efficient, still uses the wasteful heating technology of incandescent bulbs and so should also be switched off while not needed. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are slightly more complicated as they are more efficient than the aforementioned bulb types, but their operating life is determined by being switched on and off. Therefore the general rule of thumb is to switch them off only if you plan to leave the room for an amount of time greater than fifteen minutes. In stark contrast, the operating life of an LED bulb is unaffected by turning it on and off.

How to choose the right bulb

The benefits of LEDs extend far beyond their efficiency though. Aesthetically, there are two important factors to note when changing from traditional light fittings to LED: colour appearance and dimmer compatibility. Traditional bulbs produce a warm, almost yellow light—measured on a scale called the Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) scale they typically range from 2800k to 3400k. Traditional LEDs have a brighter, almost bluish-white in appearance, with a CCT of 5000k—which can appear harsh. However, the latest LEDs are available in a full range of colour tones and can easily replicate exactly the light quality that you require.

Light Spectrum

Many households now feature dimmer switches controlling their lighting. But traditional dimmer switches may not be compatible with LEDs because they draw such a low load. And so if you currently have dimmers on your downlights, you may need to upgrade your dimmer switches as well. However, this is a nominal cost compared to the money you save on energy. LEDs have been fashioned into a full range of fittings that can replace just about any type of traditional light, without requiring extensive rewiring. A conventional halogen downlight drawing 50W can be replaced with a 5W LED—reducing it to just 1/10 of the energy consumption—and provide equivalent light levels.

Probably the most under acknowledged feature of LEDs is that they have a short payback period and offer an excellent return on investment (if good quality fittings are used). The cost and savings will obviously depend on how long you run your lights, as well as the number and types of fittings in your home; these might be using outdated and inefficient transformers, which draw far more electricity than is necessary. In this case, both the bulbs and fittings would need to be replaced. The figures shown in the graph below are for a large home with ~50 LED downlights and typical usage.

LED Graph

Seven Questions To Ask Before Choosing a Solar Solutions Supplier

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The rising cost of electricity and a global drive towards earth-friendly energy alternatives have meant that more and more people are interested in going solar. Which means that more and more solar solutions suppliers are springing up. With so many suppliers out there, how do you choose the right one? Here are seven questions you should ask before you decide:

1. Does the supplier have a proven track record and a solid reputation?

 

Solar Installation

Ensure your solar solutions supplier has the necessary experience and expertise.

 

The most important consideration when looking at Solar suppliers is to choose someone with a proven track record that shows they have the necessary experience and expertise to install reliable, efficient solar solutions.

Here, it is important to check that the supplier’s expertise lies specifically in solar energy. Your supplier should not only be up-to-date with the latest solar technologies, but they should have the experience of having completed numerous solar installations across a wide selection of residential challenges. Your solar solutions supplier should be able to show you examples of successful installations that they have done for other homeowners to give you an idea of the type of workmanship and service you can expect. In short, they should be able to provide references from satisfied homeowners.

Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners Home Solutions, a leading energy solutions provider in South Africa that forms part of the PSG Group of companies, adds: “Find a supplier that has been in business for some time and runs a stable operation. Remember that the lifespan of an energy system is crucial to its value, which means that it should be producing electricity during the lifetime of the system. You should always ask yourself – will the supplier still be around in a couple of years?

No matter how big their business or how long they have been in the solar energy game, a supplier’s reputation always precedes them. This is why we advise you to always get

a third-party opinion. You can do this by looking up the supplier’s social media pages to see what people are posting about them on their wall or in the comments section. You can also search online for testimonials and reviews on sites like Hello Peter where the community rates and reviews suppliers. Lastly, if you see that your neighbours or friends have recently install a home solar system you should ask them what they thought of their supplier.

 

2. What is the return on investment?

 

Although solar technology is becoming increasingly more affordable, it could still be a costly exercise. That is why you should take into account whether the system you are thinking of installing will give you a good return on investment.

“A good home solar energy system can cut your electricity bill by as much as 70%. This means that on a R30 000 bill you can potentially save R20 000, depending on how much roof space you have available. So a proper solar solution should pay for itself with what it saves you on electricity. In fact, a carefully planned and designed solution could pay for itself within five years. Ask your supplier if they can make this promise,” says Van der Westhuizen.

If you are still in the planning stages of building your home and worried that a home solar energy system will drive up the price of your bond, keep in mind that the right home energy solution will save you more in electricity costs over the lifespan of the system than the increase in bond repayments. If you look at the below graph, it should give you a clear idea of the impact of a home energy system on a home loan payment over 20 years.

 

Repayment Graph

Solar savings tables provided by Energy Partners Home Solution.

 

3. Are the supplier’s systems regulation-compliant?

 

Solar energy systems have to comply with certain local regulations and most municipalities require that you apply for permission to connect your system to the grid, otherwise you risk facing harsh penalties or even having your system disconnected. Your solar solutions supplier should advise you on, or even manage, this process on your behalf to help you ensure your system is compliant. It has happened often at Energy Partners Home Solutions that new customers with existing systems discover that their original suppliers never registered their systems, and that when they want to confront them they are either unwilling to help or they have shut their doors on the business.

 

4. Is the supplier using the latest technology?

 

Solar technology is improving at a rapid pace to keep up with the fast-growing industry. It is therefore important that your solar solutions supplier is up to date with the latest technology and is able to provide you with the best possible solar solutions on the market.

Van der Westhuizen agrees: “At Energy Partners Home Solutions, for one, we are continuously searching for new ways to make our clients less dependent on grid-tied electricity and help them save even more money on their utility bills. For example, we developed our own hybrid inverter, the Icon™ home energy system. It not only works like a regular inverter, but can also integrate a home’s storage batteries and manage its hot water system to maximise savings. It is a first of its kind in South Africa.”

 

ICON

Energy Partners Home Solutions developed their own hybrid energy inverter – the Icon™ – to help homeowners maximise their electricity savings.

 

5. Are the supplier’s solutions right for you?

 

House

The size of the home is only one of the considerations when a solar solutions supplier assesses a homeowner’s energy requirements.

 

A good solar solutions supplier takes the individual needs of their customers into account and offers customised solutions that meet their unique home energy requirements. Before installing a solar system, the supplier should first do a thorough home energy assessment, taking into account factors such as the size of the home, number of family members and the area in which the home is located.

“No two clients are the same. When it comes to water heating, for example, Energy Partners Home Solutions will recommend a solution based on the amount of sunshine in your area, the warm water demand of the household and also what has already been installed. Based on these factors, we will find you the ideal solution for your household,” Van der Westhuizen explains.

 

6. Does the supplier take a holistic approach?

 

Your solar solutions supplier should be able to see the bigger picture when it comes to helping you save on electricity. They must be able to offer you more than solar PV and recommend additional other energy-efficient solutions.

Van der Westhuizen adds: “As much as 40% of the energy that traditional solar PV systems could generate is wasted, as it often goes unused. A smart system designer will make sure that the maximum amount of energy is produced smart design, optimised usage and efficient storage.

 

7. Does the supplier have foresight?

 

Your solar solutions supplier must be able to help you plan properly. When implementing a solar solution into a new home design, ensure they are capable of working with your architect and builder to understand your requirements and effectively incorporate the system in your project plan. The solar energy supplier should instruct your builder or electrician to install the required wiring as part of your renovation or building project to avoid extra costs later and to ensure a neat installation.

It is also important that your supplier understands which loads are essential to you during power outages and which loads are less essential. It is recommended that you instruct your electrician to split your electrical distribution board (DB) into essential and non-essential loads. Your prospective solar solutions supplier should be able to help you determine whether your electrical distribution board will be big enough to accommodate the extra equipment required for the solar PV and backup system you need, because it is difficult to expand your electrical distribution board at a later stage.

 

Ask the right questions

 

As you can tell from these seven questions, price should not be the only consideration when choosing a solar solutions supplier. Therefore, when you compare quotes from different suppliers, do not forget to also ask the right questions to ensure you receive the right energy solutions.


 

Read more about this in the press:

 

Property Wheel – Solar Solution Suppliers. The Seven Vital Questions To Ask.

Crown Publications – Seven questions to ask when choosing a solar solutions provider.

Heat Pumps vs. Solar Water Heaters

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Which is best for energy-efficient water heating?

Warm water from the tap is a modern-day luxury we have come to rely on every day, but do you know how much it is costing you? If you are heating water using a conventional electric geyser, it is making a significant dent in your monthly budget. In fact, in most regular households with more than two family members, the geyser is the heaviest electricity user and can account for as much as 50% of the electricity bill.

Therefore, one of the first steps in cutting your electricity bill is replacing your regular electric geyser with an energy-efficient alternative. Heat pumps and solar water heaters are two of the best options out there and both make great energy-savvy investments. But what is the difference between them and which one is best for you? Understanding how they work and weighing up their pros and cons can help you make the right choice for your home.

 

Heat Pump

 

Heat Pump

A heat pump uses energy from the surrounding air to heat water.

How it works

Absorbs energy from the surrounding air and transfers the heat to the water (the reverse of how an air con works).

Energy use and expected savings

The energy use is only slightly affected by variations in temperature, and therefore it runs efficiently at any time of day. Requires approximately one-third of the energy of a conventional geyser to heat the same amount of water. This leads to savings of up to 70% on heating water.

Maintenance

Requires general service every 18 to 24 months.

Life expectancy

Expected to last for 5-10 years.

 

Solar Water Heater

 

Solar Water Heater

A solar water heater relies on the sun for power.

How it works

Uses energy from the sun to heat water.

Energy use and expected savings

When there is direct sunlight on the panel, no grid electricity is used. When there is no solar energy available, such as at night, this system relies on a regular geyser element to heat your water to the desired temperature. Therefore the total savings vary a lot, depending on the orientation of the panel and when you use your hot water. Typically you can expect savings of up to 45%-70% on water heating.

Maintenance

Should be inspected and serviced every 18-24 months.

Life expectancy

Expected to last for 10 years or more.

 

While it is more expensive to install a heat pump than a solar water heater, a heat pump could save you more money on electricity, which will ultimately foot the bill of the initial installation.The table and graph below weigh up the electricity savings you could expect when installing a heat pump versus a solar water heater:

 

Solar water heater and 200L tank (20 evacuated tubes) Heat pump and 300L efficient tank (3.4 kW)
Initial capital investment (incl. VAT) includes: all components and installation R 26 391 R 35 495
Estimated payback period 3.83 years 4.43 years
Savings in the first year (incl. VAT) R 6 228 R 7 326
Savings % (water heating only) 54% 70%
10-year cumulative savings R 59 660 R 62 553

Note: The figures are based on City of Cape Town tariffs and a standard household with 4 family members using an average of 52 L of warm water per person per day during summer and 85 L of warm water per person per day during winter.

 

Cumulative Savings

The graph compares how much a solar water heater and a heat pump could save a homeowner over the course of 10 years. Light Blue: Heat Pump. Dark Blue: Solar Water Heater.

Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners Home Solutions says in most cases they recommend heat pumps in the Western Cape for the following reasons:

  1. It is more efficient than an electric geyser and leads to bigger electricity savings over the long term than a solar water heater.
  2. The region receives a lot less sunlight during the winter months, which means a solar geyser will use a lot more electricity to keep the water hot.  
  3. Coupling a large, highly insulated water tank with a heat pump works very well when combined with a Solar PV systemto increase your savings. How it works is that solar energy is simply absorbed and stored as heat in the tank for later use.

Van der Westhuizen concludes: “In the Western Cape, where there is not enough solar energy during the winter, heat pumps are our recommended water-heating solution. They are fairly simple to install, rely on air (you do not get a more abundant natural resource than that!) and above all, can significantly cut the cost of water heating. We do, however, believe solar water heaters can be equally efficient, depending on where you live and your unique energy requirements.”


Read about it in the press:

Business Tech – Heat pump vs solar energy – here’s what saves you the most money

SA Property News – What to consider when choosing an alternative water heating system

7 ways SMEs can beat the rising cost of electricity

By | Energy Partners Knowledge Base | No Comments
Electricity is a basic, but vital operational resource for any organisation. Unfortunately, it is an increasingly costly commodity that is putting a lot of financial strain on businesses, especially SMEs. Over the next eight years, South Africa is likely to experience above-inflation hikes in electricity tariffs of as much as 6% to 8%. This could even reach as high as 13%, if government introduces their planned carbon tax.

 

Electricity Prices

Figure 1: The graph shows the growing average cost of electricity (cents p/kWh) from 2006 until 2017/2018. Source: Numsa

If you are an SME owner you are most likely experiencing the impact of growing electricity prices on your profit margins and operating costs. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Because you run a smaller operation, it is much easier to manage your energy spend. Here are seven tips to help you beat the rising cost of electricity:

 

1.  Energy-efficient lighting

 

Lightbulb

Replacing your business’ regular light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs is a simple, cost-effective way to minimise your electricity usage.

 

A business that keeps regular office hours operates for at least 40 hours a week. Considering that most offices keep their lights on during that time, and even after hours, it is no wonder that lighting accounts for most of the electricity used in many businesses.

 

One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to minimise your business’ electricity usage, is replacing regular light bulbs with energy-efficient LED units. They use 90% less electricity than standard light bulbs and because they have a longer lifespan, your business’ lighting will require less frequent maintenance. But it is important to note that merely replacing the light bulbs will not guarantee the maximum savings due to the transformers used in the older fittings.

 

Using natural light to your advantage is another simple way to save on electricity: Open the blinds more often to lighten the workplace, consider installing a skylight or paint the office walls in lighter tones that automatically brighten indoor spaces.

 

2.  Switch off and unplug

 

Remind your employees to switch off all the lights and electrical equipment at the end of the day. Place small posters or stickers next to light switches to remind staff about this energy-saving rule, and even introduce a small fine for those who forget: For example, if the last person to leave the office neglects to switch off the air conditioner, he or she must buy a round of coffees for everyone in the office.

 

Many people do not realise that electronics still use power even when they are turned off. You might be surprised to hear that equipment that is still plugged into the wall socket can “leak” up to 0.05 kWh, which is the equivalent of about R0.05 to R0.10 worth of electricity every hour. While it does not seem like a lot, it will add up, especially if you have multiple appliances plugged in at the same time. To put this into perspective: 10 PCs plugged in overnight will “leak” around R10’s worth of electricity per week and as much as R50 during weekends, which add up to about R400 at the end of the month. It is therefore a good idea to unplug everything in your office before you leave for the day, or at least at the start of a weekend or holiday.

 

3.  Introduce work-from-home days

 

Work from home

Allowing your staff to work from home on certain days will save your business electricity.

Give your business an energy break and your employees a reason to smile by allowing staff to work from home on certain days. Thanks to technology such as Skype, email and safe network connections, this will not disrupt your business, but rather amount to significant electricity savings in the long run.

 

4.  Take charge of temperature control

 

A business’ productivity relies on the comfort and happiness of its employees, which is why air conditioners have become a workplace essential in our exceptionally warm summers. They are, however, very heavy electricity users. The cooler the setting, the more electricity they use. That is why it is a good idea to switch on the air conditioner early in the day, on a milder setting that gradually cools down the office as the day gets warmer. This is much more efficient than trying to quickly cool down an area during the hottest time of the day by blasting the air conditioner at its maximum setting.

 

If you are located on the ground floor, consider planting deciduous trees outside your windows, which will provide shade during summer. And, to avoid the excessive use of heaters or the air conditioner on a warm setting during winter, keep the heat inside by ensuring your office’s doors and windows seal properly.

 

5.  Rethink the office kitchen

 

The office kitchen is a great place for saving electricity. Because an SME has fewer staff members, a smaller fridge that uses less electricity might be sufficient, while a hot water urn is a good energy-efficient alternative to a regular kettle. Also, replace the microwave and toaster with newer, more energy-efficient models that might be more expensive to purchase, but will help your business save money on electricity over time.

 

6.  Get your staff on board

 

Energy Smart

Encourage your employees to become energy conscious.

 

7.  Go solar

 

Utilising the sun’s energy to power your business will help you significantly reduce its monthly electricity bill. According to Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners: “Depending on the nature of the business, one of our customised solar solutions could help cut an SME’s electricity bill by as much as 30%.”

 

On top of that, SARS also offers certain tax concession for businesses that go solar. A business can deduct the 14% VAT portion off the cost of the solar system, as well as deduct the full cost of the installation of a solar energy solution from their business income tax in the first year. This benefit effectively means that your system is discounted at another 28% through the saving in tax.

 

While many SME owners might be scared off by the initial cost of installing solar, it is true that a state-of-the-art system will pay for itself with what it saves on electricity over time. “The repayment term of a solar PV system for a commercial installation is close to around four years, depending on certain factors like self-consumption and the tariff structure. With solar panels that have a 25-year production warranty, it’s very much like buying 25 years’ prepaid electricity at five years’ cost,” says Van der Westhuizen.

 

Energy Partners Home Solutions also offer various financing options for SMEs that do not have the capex available to purchase the system outright. According to Van der Westhuizen: “As a registered financial services provider, many of our clients purchase a system that is financed by us and which they can easily pay off out of the operational budgets of their businesses. In certain cases, we can even offer a Performance Lease Agreement, which allows for the installation of the system at a fraction of the cost.”

Electricity Tariff Changes In 3 Major Municipalities

By | Energy Partners Knowledge Base | No Comments

Electricity tariffs for homeowners escalate on 1 July each year. To help you plan for tariff upturn, we had a look at the planned increases in the country’s biggest municipalities to see what we’re all in for.

Over the last two months, most municipalities throughout SA released their planned electricity tariff increases for 2017/2018. These are currently being reviewed by NERSA. If approved, new tariffs will take effect from 1 July 2017.

We reviewed the planned increases for the three largest municipalities where we operate so that you know what impact you’re likely to experience.

 

How tariff increases work

Municipalities use an inclining block tariff regulator for home users. This means that your electricity becomes more expensive the more you use. To make it easier to compare, we’ve calculated the cost for a typical family home using 800 kWh of electricity per month.

Monthly bill graph

Johannesburg

Johannesburg City Power will be increasing tariffs by 2.28%. The old and new tariffs for single and three phase domestic homes are shown below (all are excl. VAT).

Johannesburg graph

Example – Typical family home (800 kWh per month)

JHB Example

 

Tshwane

Tshwane tariff increases were different for each consumption bracket. The old and new tariffs for domestic homes are shown below (all are excl. VAT).

Tshwane graph

Example – Typical family home (800 kWh per month)

Tshwane Example graph

 

Cape Town

There has been much confusion around the new City of Cape Town tariffs. Until now, there have been two different residential tariffs. These were based on the value of your property. The old tariff structure is shown below (all are excl. VAT and in c/kWh).

The new tariffs introduce a 3rd residential tariff called Home User. The 3 residential tariffs are still defined by the value of your property; however, each tariff has changed slightly. The tariffs also see an increase of 2.8%. The new tariffs are shown below (all are ex. VAT and in c/kWh).

Cape Town Graph

How this impacts you

If your property is valued at more than R1 million, you will now pay a fixed fee regardless of how much electricity you use. This is because the city needs to maintain the infrastructure that delivers your electricity, irrespective of your consumption. If you use more than 600 kWh per month, your bill will remain unchanged as the rate for >600 kWh is the same for domestic and home user tariffs. If you use less than 600 kWh you will be paying more on the home user tariff due to the fixed fee structure.

Example – Typical family home (800 kWh per month)

Cape Town Example Graph

 

 

World Environment Day: Innovations For Greener Homes

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World Environment Day on 5 June is about encouraging worldwide awareness for the need to preserve and enhance the environment. With carbon dioxide emissions continuing to be a major environmental concern, we decided to take a look at some of the most interesting advances in green building which might just change the construction industry for the better.

 

Recycled paper bricks

 

University of Pretoria student, Elijah Djan was only 11 years old when he invented Nubrix, a brick made from waste paper. With only about 5% of South African households recycling their waste paper, the other 95% are sending theirs to the already overflowing landfills, the environmental benefits of this product are clear.

Djan is now turning Nubrix into a business. While more durability tests need to be done, he has subjected his waste-paper bricks to rain and compression tests, and built a Nubrix wall that’s still standing a year later. The hope is that in the near future there will be a very real drive towards sustainable innovation from both government and the building sector.

 

Bird-friendly glass

 

GlasPro UV glass makes man-made structures safer for birds. About two-thirds of South Africa is urbanised, and a wide variety of bird species are attempting to survive in these unnatural and dangerous new habits. Reflective, transparent materials such as windows cause hazardous collisions that kill millions of birds every year.

GlasPro has come up with a simple, yet effective innovation to keep them: bird-friendly glass coated with UV liquid that makes it visible to birds, which will substantially reduce the number of injured birds in urban areas. Human eyes cannot detect the UV coating, so it also does not reduce visibility from our perspective.

 

Buildings made of wood

 

Constructing any conventional home or commercial building requires tons of aluminium, steel, clay bricks and cement. There are many ways to marginally reduce the carbon footprint of these components but their manufacture has always been less than sustainable.

Architects in the United States are now exploring a new kind of structure built entirely from timber. Wood is by no means a new building material, but new innovations have once again made it relevant to modern building.

Researchers are combining new super-strong plywood, with precision digital CNC manufacturing processes to build timber structures that will rival conventional brick-and-mortar buildings very soon. While the costs of buildings like this are still high, one example of this is already here. An 18-story dormitory in Vancouver called Brock Commons, which finished construction late in last year, is the tallest timber structure in the world.

 

Modern twist on old practices

 

Researchers in Sweden have devised a way to adapt the so-called Trombe wall, a solar building design from the 19th century. This new take on an old idea can help to not only passively heat but also cool buildings, without increasing carbon emissions.

A Trombe wall is a passive solar building design that is built on the winter sun side of a building with a glass external layer and a high heat capacity internal layer separated by a layer of air. This serves to heat the entire building in cold months.

The new design, unveiled by researchers earlier this year, uses renewable wind and solar energy to generate both cooling and heating in buildings. The adjustments have also eliminated the original Trombe wall problem with overheating, which in turn has drastically reduced the total energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Constructing these walls is also sustainable, with prototypes already having been built with stone, wood and even wool. Researchers have hailed the new design of Trombe wall, as one of the best ways to meet the increasing energy demands of modern homes and commercial buildings without increasing carbon emissions.

Beyond installing state-of-the-art photovoltaic, water heating and lighting solutions, sustainable building practices offer some of the best ways to bring new structures ever closer to being carbon neutral.

Property 24 has featured this article. Read it here.