The challenges of SA's grid

Being an electrical tech all my life I recognised that I could help with the chronic grid reliability that we have to endure. This is no easy task.
I’m convinced that many people have become accustomed to the power outages and are simply accepting the situation and that there’s nothing that they can do about it.
I accept that it’s a challenging subject but I don’t accept that we can’t do anything about it. There is either an indifferent or a hysterical response in people. Needless to say this is only evident when we have severe power outages such as we are experiencing presently.
Trying to help a hysterical customer is a challenge because they are irrational. The bad cases need to be ignored completely for your own sanity. There are those who do try to get to grips with the subject and these are the people I try to reach out to (as do those on this forum).
Like all emotional issues (and believe me this is one of them) the best solution is to talk about it. Facebook isn’t any good since only the ‘see how happy/smart/sorted I am’ are posted there.

When I come across those “hysterical” customers, I ask them one question: How long have we had LS in SA?

“They” have had more than a decade to come to grips with it all, educate themselves, and make alternative arrangements, as there are some pretty clever things to do if you are on a strict budget.

To NOW make their problem mine, and we cannot solve it calmly, I strongly suggest they go and have some wine fist, and once calm, we can then chat about options. first. :smile:

This is an interesting view, I have never seen it as an emotional issue… People tend to be very rational when it’s comes to spending a couple of 100k and upwards.

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Oh yes. There’s actually a pretty good psychological explanation for this. When you feel threatened, or you cannot control the situation (check!), you get the same evolutionary fight or flight response as you would for other more physical threats. Hence indifference (flight) or verbal lashing out (fight).

Then comes the need to make sense of the threat, which in my mind is a step in the right direction, although it can end up in tinfoil-hat land.

  • “They” are always loadshedding right before “they” ask for a rate increase!
  • This government cannot do anything right they had 28 years bla bla (not entirely wrong, by also way oversimplifying).
  • Why should we have to pay!? (you’re going to pay either way, either through rates, taxes, lost productivity, or emigration, which is hardly free).
  • You solar installers are taking advantage of the situation!!

I’ve heard it all. And I have heaps of sympathy. As I noted elsewhere, a family member of mine realised he needed to do something. This family member is on the wrong side of 70, so a 100k price tag is significant to him. That’s money coming out of retirement savings. But here we are, his equally old wife ends up alone during the day (because he still farms on a small scale and has to go out during the day), with no connectivity, no television, no radio, middle of summer with no fan running, and she suffers from one of the many old-people forgetting diseases which means that loadshedding is actually a confusing affair! Some form of backup is no longer a luxury, it’s survival.

That’s true as well. The irrational emotional ones tend to be the ones who also never does anything about the situation… almost as if they like bitching and moaning :slight_smile:

Ain’t THAT the truth!

Bugger … Axpert would have been my go-to with 2nd hand everything I could find for them. Batteries are the biggest expense then. But that’s me if I could not afford to sort them out.

No ways. In such situations I look at using a smaller Multiplus, or even a Phoenix. If I cannot do that, I point people to the Flexopower Lithium 555. That’s an impressively affordable and idiot-proof solution with a replaceable battery too.

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These are the people I’m referring to. They have adopted a simplistic logic to explain why things are the way they are. And that’s the end of the matter for them!
So if one can show them some baby steps of what they can do to alleviate some of the pain then you’re doing your bit!

Sometime it helps to tell them a story. A historical one.

Our trouble starts in 1999, under the Mbeki administration. These guys decided that the SOEs should be privatised. This in itself wasn’t necessarily a bad move, it even works well in other countries, but as you might expect there was some resistance to the idea.

In the midsts of all this, Eskom is pleading for some investment, but you don’t put new wheels on a car you intend to sell, and you also don’t put money into an SOE you intend to privatise, so nothing happens. Around 2003, Eskom pulls three mothballed stations out of retirement in order to keep up.

By 2007 we’re out of runway and the first bouts of loadshedding starts. Politics is in turmoil and a faction of the ANC basically performs the equivalent of a coop and installs a new president. Under this president the build plans for Medupi and Kusile is immediately approved and the country rejoices. Only, as we know, to see the money being funneled to connected friends and family, putting these build projects way over budget and still uncompleted.

Do you understand why I cannot take the simplistic “they had 28 years!” argument seriously? When you look at the facts, Eskom was actually on the ball pretty much all the way until 2004 and even until 2007, pleading for the right things to be done. Then it went wrong…

A picture tells a story … scary stuff…

Eskom published projections (weekly) for the next year…

Eskom published a bit of good news last week somewhere. Just can’t find it at the moment…

They said there is a good change that they won’t load shed for 41 days this winter…

Might not be good news to the normal guy on the street, but for someone in this industry… Well thats a different story… :sweat_smile:

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At first slowly, then suddenly…



here I would lean towards the axpert types (/spits on floor). The flexos are dandy and neat but probably only really useful if you KNOW you will have load shedding only once per day or that your load is so light that the slow as molasses charge can finish before the next load shedding since we are having stage 4+ load shedding with greater frequency.

The flexo AC charger is somewhere around 90W and needs 6-8hours for a recharge. The inbuilt MPPT is like novelty items included with promotional cereal boxes. As far as I know you can not use the flexo while charging from any source - so it is not plug, play and forget (I have an older flexo 444 and the power brick gets quite toasty - I put the brick behind the flexo so the fan blows over it but I do not feel comfortable to leave it completely unattended while charging). You have a total of ~550Wh battery capacity (with an indicated cycle life “>500”). Going for between R9000-R10000.

Axpert 1000VA 12V inverters are around R4000. Add a hubble s100/s120 12V (1.5kWh) or similar LiFePO4 battery for R5000-R6000. You end up with about 3 x the storage (for when the power does not come back at the scheduled time). Battery claims 2000+ cycles at 1C (100A). Can power bigger loads if in a pinch. Bigger inbuilt MPPT gives more options to add useful PV. Various parameters can be set without needing extra cables etc. and gives options to alter charge rates/battery types etc.

The smaller 12V multiplus options will definitely also be on my list - biggest drawbacks are price and needing your friendly relative/installer with a mk3 USB to adjust battery parameters if wanting to keep price down. Multiplus 500VA (R7000?) + 100Ah LiFePO4 battery ( R5K-R6K).

Only benefits of the flexo over the multiplus/axpert options are the small form factor, it should be quiet (so will easily go next to the TV for example to help keep cables out of the way) and that it comes “assembled”.

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I was under the impression it’s 80% in 1 hour. But upon investigating, it seems that’s for the larger Delta model (which costs around 24k, significantly less budget-friendly). So yes, thank you so much for your input, I will definitely have to be more careful with this recommendation.

I note that the main competition, the Jackery, is about the same.

So again, that means there is just no way to have anything decent for under 10k.

Perhaps. But maybe this couple need to pack it in and find some shelter in their twilight years?
For me the best fix is the one that provides the most appropriate answer. Establishing what their needs are is the challenge…

We’ve tried…

There’s actually a bit of a running joke with my own father. One day we’re on that big bridge in Kirstenbosch gardens (called the Tree Snake), and because we know my father has a mild fear of heights, my wife asks me if we’d eve be able to get my father up there. I reply: We’d have to get him off the farm first!

Same with this gentleman.

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They saw their parents get old and insist on doing things their way.

Now they are in the same place in life.

Our time is coming.

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