The can o worms….
So you want to go Solar, good choice. But you want to go off-grid? Why, it’s the first question, oh and there is no wrong answer here by the way. Before you even think of answering that question, this is going to be a ‘buckle up buttercup’ question laden thread. Consider this the valley of a thousand questions. So here we have the first real question for ya, why don’t you buy shoes that are half the size you normally wear? See we start easy Let me answer that, because you cannot use them and it will be a waste of money. Facts don’t care for feelings…. Now with that out the way, let’s get the tongue out of our cheek. (or should that be shoe )
Your mind is made up, your budget cast and you have a good waf/haf (wife acceptance factor). So now is the time to hold them hosses, don’t get em cart out in front of them hosses…. Question time then, you guessed it, many many more q’s.
Why, where, when, how much budget, how much consumption, how much diversion (more on this later) and a bit on time warping. OK ok, I just want solar and be done with it already. Well maybe stop reading then and go buy some stuff as this might then not be for you. Or maybe not, Solar has no instant gratification like instant coffee but it can boil your kettle for a cuppa while you think. There is no one size unisex fits all here. Each and every one of these systems are unique to you, so the better you understand you, the better you will understand your requirements and therefore be better informed when having to make choices for better outcomes. If you too lazy to apply your mind, be my guest.
Consider firstly why do you want to install Solar PV? Are you building new or are you not connected to the Utility Grid (be that Eskom or via your Municipality) or do you want a reduced monthly energy bill? What about just being energy independent and not suffer another blackout, or even most of the above?
What does it take to go off grid? That depends, but one certainty is lots of money, frequently more than you want to spend or even can spend. That is just a fact. But lets unpack what a household would need, roughly. I will make em numbers easy so you can calculate along at home. Before we even get there, ha and you thought this was quick an easy…. What can you change to allow you not to consume so much energy? A new kettle o fish to consider as it’s less costly to not consume the energy in the first place, rather than to buy equipment to support that extra load in and off-grid system. Maybe off-grid is not viable and a compromise is needed. This is easy and maybe suitable for you.
So let’s look at the process for going Solar. We have to start by doing all the below, even though it may not be formally, it’s still done, even if only mentally and not really consciously.
- Energy assessment
- Assessment in light of the combined above
- Design and more planning
- Procurement & Logistics
- Build (and the inevitable realisation that you did a piss poor job of planning)
- Configuration and Programming if required
- Surge & Lightning Protection
- Tweaking (you always do this even if you don’t want to)
- Upgrades and additions
The biggest consumers of energy is water heating by geyser, then kettle, ironing, stove plates and ovens, microwave, underfloor heating, pool pump and spa pump and heater. During Winter it’s space heating and Summer time Airconditioning. Tumble dryer, washing machine and things like Air fryers, hair dryers and coffee machines can have quite a load but their use is less frequent. Can any of these things be reduced or changed to alternative fuels like Gas (diversion of energy sources)? For Petes sake, don’t try and get your women folk to not use the hair dryers please…. Are you willing to change appliances if they not yet working on Gas or solar water heating? That will cost money, but maybe investing here is a bit more palatable then spending the money on batteries for nighttime use. Remember, we asked what it will take to go off grid?
Do not forget about the CoC and other approvals and all the paperwork to be done. For interconnected Grid tied systems vs off-grid systems, there are differing requirements. Starting out, your electrician will most likely have to split the Distribution boards and neutral wires to accommodate the Solar install. All these things take time and money. Don’t be surprised for all the issues your sparky will uncover with the house wiring and general state of affairs, or the costs involved. Over time, your house loads may change, Murphy dictates that this will be an increase of loads. Consider this when planning your system, or later when you are faced with issues during operation. The national codes for House wiring and Solar PV systems are in place for reasons.
What’s to come then (likely each topic will be a post):
- Intros, this bit here and now
- Setting the scene and asking the questions
- Model an average household and see what a reasonable system is capable of, and if it can take you off-grid. A few panels, Inverter, Battery etc. really bare bones.
- Model the same household for off grid if the above does not quite make off grid and see what it takes
- Do some modelling as to costs and payback and savings, all them boring Financial stuffs
- Briefly discuss alternate fuels
- Look into the questions and answering all 1000
- What goes into planning and how to do so (Fail to plan, and you surely plan to Fail)
- Based on the previous, plan a system’s PV Panels
- Plan Inverter and battery systems
- Monitoring and managing the system
- Fallout, do the time warping thing or get your spouse and kids in line hehehe
- Living with Solar
How much energy do people consume monthly. Well as always it depends. To make things easy, see my promise earlier, I will use 500kWh per month apart from 3 winter months that will be 1000kWh consumption. This is so you can easily extrapolate and make it work for whatever your numbers are. For electricity kWh costs, I used a number as it varies all over the place depending on supply and where you are and pre-paid or other wise.
So more to follow, all them questions…