What you need to know before installing solar panels and batteries in your home

There are several factors to consider before investing in solar power for your home, ranging from inverter specifications to the system’s impact on your short-term insurance.

South African residents considering solar panels and batteries to power their homes should expect to pay significant sums for equipment and installation.

It gets even more expensive if you want completely cut your connection to the Eskom network.

As with any major investment, it’s wise to get all the essential information before making a decision.

MyBroadband asked SolarAdvice what homeowners should consider before installing solar and battery backup systems in their homes.

SolarAdvice director Neil Berrow explained that the inverter is one of the most critical components of such a system.

“Some off-grid inverters can mix solar and grid power, but they can’t mix solar, grid and batteries,” he said.

“The downfall of a system like this is that once there is no more [photovoltaic solar power]you can only use your battery or your power grid, not both simultaneously.

“If your usage exceeds your battery capacity, you will be switched to grid power and not use your freely generated and stored solar power,” Berrow added.

Such inverters are not the best option for those hoping to save money on electricity.

However, it offers a cheaper alternative to hybrid inverters for households wishing to break their dependence on Eskom.

“If you’re considering having a solar panel, buy a hybrid inverter. They are much more efficient than other types of inverters on the market and will save you more money on your electricity bill,” he said.

“Don’t make a decision entirely based on price. Sunscreen products are expensive, but spend your hard-earned cash on popular brands instead,” he added.

Berrow said popular brands are a better option because they’ve been tried, tested and are more reliable.

He also has other tips for those looking to buy a solar power kit.

Berrow said the first step is to determine your needs and expectations.

This includes determining how much electricity your household uses after the day, as this determines the battery capacity needed to power your home when the sun goes down.

It is also important to consider the power consumed by your appliances and other electrical equipment, as this will determine the power of the solar panel you need to run them.

“Then start looking for a reputable solar supplier and installer for further advice. The installer you choose must, by law, be a licensed electrician with the Department of Labor,” Berrow said.

He also advised that it is best to have the site inspected by an installer before buying a solar kit to ensure a hassle-free installation.

“Also make sure that after your installation is complete, you receive a certificate of compliance,” Berrow added.

In summary:

  • Select a hybrid inverter if you plan to install a solar generator
  • Choose recognized and proven brands
  • Calculate how much power your household uses after dark to determine battery needs
  • Calculate the peak power your solar panels should be able to provide
  • Use reputable suppliers and installers
  • Installers should ideally inspect the site before purchasing the kit
  • Installer must be registered as an electrician with the Department of Labor
  • Make sure you receive a certificate of compliance when the installation is complete
Tarina Vlok, MD Elite Risk

Tarina Vlok, Managing Director of Elite Risk, also warned of several pitfalls paying attention to this can cause insurance claim issues.

“Insured persons should ensure that their installer demonstrates knowledge of the technical regulations relating to solar installations,” Vlok warned.

The rules are summarized as follows:

  • Installers must ensure that the roof structure can support the weight of the solar system.
  • Where this is not possible, a professional engineer or licensed technologist should design the installation to incorporate the safety and performance principles of the standard.
  • The solar system must be installed in such a way that it does not accelerate the deterioration of the roof.

Vlok recommended that policyholders use their insurer’s network to find accredited technicians and installers to avoid disaster in the claims phase.

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