solar Archives - EP Home Solutions

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!

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.”



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?



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.


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.


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

Solar delivers cheapest electricity ‘ever, anywhere, by any technology’

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Chile has just contracted for the cheapest unsubsidized power plant in the world, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports.

In last week’s energy auction, Chile accepted a bid from Spanish developer Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica for 120 megawatts of solar at the stunning price of $29.10 per megawatt-hour (2.91 cents per kilowatt-hour or kwh). This beats the 2.99 cents/kwh bid Dubai received recently for 800 megawatts. For context, the average residential price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“Solar power delivers cheapest unsubsidised electricity ever, anywhere, by any technology,” BNEF Chair Michael Liebreich said on Twitter after this contract was announced.

Carlos Finat, head of the Chilean Renewable Energies Association (ACERA) told Bloomberg that the auction is “a strong warning sign that the energy business continues on the transition path to renewable power and that companies should adapt quickly to this transition process.” Indeed, in the same auction, the price of coal power was nearly twice as high!

Grid-connected solar power on Chile has quadrupled since 2013. Total installed capacity exceeded 1,000 megawatts this year — the most by far in South America. Another 2,000 megawatts is under construction, and there are over 11,000 megawatts that are “RCA Approved” (i.e. have environmental permits).

PV in Chile

Chile is aided by the fact that its Atacama desert is “the region with the highest solar radiation on the planet,” according to the Inter-American Development Bank. So much solar is being built in the high-altitude desert that Northern Chile can’t use it all, and the government is rushing to build new transmission lines.

Chile is part of a global trend where solar energy has doubled seven times since 2000. In the U.S. alone, it has grown 100-fold in the past decade thanks to a sharp drop in prices that has brought the cost of solar (with subsidies) to under four cents a kilowatt hour in many places, as I detailed last month.

The future for solar could not be sunnier.

Read the original article by clicking here.

China builds world’s biggest solar farm

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High on the Tibetan plateau, a giant poster of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, guards the entrance to one of the greatest monuments to Beijing’s quest to become a clean energy colossus. To Xi’s right, on the road leading to what is reputedly the biggest solar farm on earth, a billboard greets visitors with the slogan: “Promote green development! Develop clean energy!”

Behind him, a sea of nearly 4m deep blue panels flows towards a spectacular horizon of snow-capped mountains – mile after mile of silicon cells tilting skywards from what was once a barren, wind-swept cattle ranch.

“It’s big! Yeah! Big!” Gu Bin, one of the engineers responsible for building the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in the western province of Qinghai, enthused with a heavy dose of understatement during a rare tour of the mega-project.

The remote, 27-square-kilometre solar farm tops an ever-expanding roll call of supersized symbols that underline China’s determination to transform itself from climate villain to green superpower.

Built at a cost of about 6bn yuan (£721.3m) and in almost constant expansion since construction began in 2013, Longyangxia now has the capacity to produce a massive 850MW of power – enough to supply up to 200,000 households – and stands on the front line of a global photovoltaic revolution being spearheaded by a country that is also the world’s greatest polluter.

“The development of clean energy is very important if we are to keep the promises made in the Paris agreement,” Xie Xiaoping, the chairman of Huanghe Hydropower Development, the state-run company behind the park, said during an interview at its headquarters in Xining, the provincial capital.

Click here to read the full article from The Gardian.

Businesses urged to find alternative energy sources

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On February 2, 2017, ENCA released a video featuring Alan Matthews, Head of Energy Partners Home Solutions. Matthews discusses why business owners will have to find alternative energy sources.

Click here to view original video on ENCA.

SMEs Increased Electricity Tariffs Looming

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Energy Partners spoke to HR Future about SMEs’ increased electricity electricity tariffs. The article features Mila Loubser (Head of Engineering Intelligence) and Cala van der Westhuizen (Spokesperson at Energy Partners.)
South Africa is still likely to see above inflation increases in electricity prices over the next few years, making it increasingly important for business owners to consider alternative sources of energy.

The large investments Eskom is currently making in infrastructure are likely to affect energy tariffs in the near future.

Since 2008 the average electricity tariffs in South Africa have increased by around 300%. According to our research, the next eight years will likely see a year-on-year tariff increase of at least 6% to 8%. In light of the upcoming 2017 Budget Speech, we are also waiting to find out if the government will introduce a new carbon tax. If this is the case, tariff increases could be as high as 13%.

SMEs should take advantage of the incentives provided for the installation of renewable energy solutions.

SMEs need to keep in mind that they can claim a percentage of the cost of solar and other renewable energy solutions back from SARS. Some banks also offer financing to their business banking clients for renewable energy solutions.

There are a number of benefits to installing solar energy solutions in small businesses, all of which contribute to reducing operating costs and downtime in the event of power outages.

A full solar solution can reduce the average SME’s electricity consumption by as much as 30%.

Reliability of energy supply is vital for SMEs. With this in mind, it is important for business owners to do a proper cost-benefit analysis to ensure that they are making the correct decisions, implementing the right energy solutions and using the optimal financing vehicle to reduce their annual energy spend.

Read the full article here.

SABC Digital News – Saving electricity during the festive season

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On December 21, 2016, Alan Matthews (head of Energy Partners Home Solutions) discussed how holiday makers can save money on their electricity bills by switching off all appliances when leaving the house. Listen in on the interview to learn energy saving ideas which can be implemented throughout the entire year. We hope to make consumers more aware of their day-to-day energy consumption and give you more insight on energy saving.

Do not just change your mind-set over festive seasons but also for the future, as South Africans should brace themselves for a possible inflation increase in electricity tariffs over the next three years.

Energy Forecast Online – Going 50% off-grid is better than 100%

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Our marketing manager, Cala van der Westhuizen, spoke to Energy Forecast Online on December 5th, 2016. Van der Westhuizen spoke about alternative energy solutions and how these alternatives are becoming increasingly affordable, however, powering a home completely from renewable sources is still prohibitively expensive. To read the full article, read here.

South Africa is likely to see above inflation increases in electricity prices over the next eight years, with some conservative estimates placing the rise in tariffs at between 6% and 8% year-on-year.

This figure could be as high as 13% if carbon taxes are imposed, and even higher should the 300% increase over the past three years be any indication.

This news is driving some consumers to seriously consider taking their homes completely off-grid.

Van der Westhuizen notes however that smaller scale solutions could provide significantly more benefits than a fully off-grid option.

Achieving the optimal 60% to 70% electricity independence, according to Van der Westhuizen, starts with replacing some of the home’s heaviest electricity users with more efficient solutions.

“When it comes to lighting, LEDs are great replacements for traditional downlights, as they save far more electricity in the long run. Geysers account for as much as half of the electricity bill in many households, with large unnecessary energy wastage. This can be mitigated by a highly efficient heat pump or, in certain cases, solar geysers. Even these simple, affordable solutions can make a big difference,” he says.

Van der Westhuizen states that the next step is to install solar PV panels and a battery or inverter system. He notes that these are extremely effective in generating and storing energy.

“Energy Partners Home Solutions’ integrated home energy systems is a full solution, designed to reduce a home’s monthly electricity spend by around 70%. With a carefully planned and designed solution, the cost of the system’s installation could easily be recovered in five years,” he adds.


If you are interested in saving energy, please contact us.

The Real Cost of Being Off the Grid

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Want to be off-grid? Are you sitting down?

Recently, Eskom once again demonstrated their lack of planning when it came to light that their Ingula pumped storage scheme is delayed and already well over budget, with costs spiraling from R8.9bn to R36bn. These costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers. Whenever we’re faced with an unnecessarily high electricity bill, or huddled together by candlelight due to another bout of loadshedding, it’s easy to whisper through clenched teeth: “I want to be off the grid.” While it might sound especially tempting when you’re feeling the strain on your budget or plunged in darkness, it’s not actually the cheapest solution. Here’s why:
It’s true that home solar energy solutions are becoming more and more affordable.

But the massive amount of solar panels and storage batteries you would need to power your home 100% independently, will come at a steep price.

In smaller systems, the panels and inverter account for the majority of the costs, while with off-grid systems, the cost of the batteries becomes the major component.

Here’s the catch: panels and inverters are designed to last 20 or 10 years respectively. Unfortunately lead-based batteries, which are commonly used for off-grid solutions, only have a typically lifespan of three to five years.

That means that you are not getting a permanent solution, but rather one where the bulk of the investment will need to be replaced regularly.
We’ve crunched some numbers and found that costs increase sharply after 70% grid independence, as detailed below:


The optimal home solution sits at around 60% -70% energy-independency when you consider the amount of energy created, versus the cost to do so.

There are, however, ways to mitigate the costs involved with being off-grid and going predominantly solar. A back-up generator is a good idea for times when the sun is in hiding (although probably not the best option if living green is your primary motivation for grid independence). Then, quite simply, by using energy sparingly – especially in winter.
Our best advice is to be an educated buyer, as too many suppliers promise returns without considering your home’s unique features and setting.

Transparency is essential to building a renewable energy culture in South Africa. This is why we’re dedicated to bust any solar myths floating around, and tailor our renewable energy solutions to each home we visit*.

*Consultations are free, with our quotes obligation free as well. Possibly the best small print ever? Let’s chat!