Here comes the sun…the move to solar and pre-paid electricity

The day when we shall know exactly what electricity is will chronicle an event probably greater, more important than any other recorded in the history of the human race. The time will come when the comfort, the very existence, perhaps, of man will depend upon that wonderful agent. Nikola Tesla
Like it or not, we are all affected by the constantly changing load-shedding schedule. I know that when I recently had an early morning appointment, I waited for the electricity to return so that I would not be faced with robots that were not working. Although we might not be able to control the situation outside of our homes, we can make a decision to limit the impact of the incapability of ESKOM to supply the citizens of South Africa with stable power. No matter what any of the CEO’s or Ministers say, that institution is broken and will be for a long while. The wheels of Government grind so slowly that I don’t believe that any attempt to address the issues has been started.
When I travel, I like to know that my wife has stable electricity even when load shedding and subsequent outages take their toll.
In 2019 (I so wish that we had installed a system back in 2008) I turned to SOLCO Solar to install a system that would make us less reliant on the grid and more self-sustaining even though we were still reliant on COJ power to keep us ‘charged’. The initial consultation and subsequent quotation and finally the installation went off relatively smoothly and their professionalism is what has kept the owner and me in touch ever since. Although there have been many fly-by-night solar companies that have come and gone, SOLCO has been around for more than 3 decades! That must mean that they are doing something right.
This was our first inverter, 5kva, and it was enough…or so we thought. I do believe that solar systems are like tattoos, go large, or go home. Or I suppose, to put it into financial terms, go as big as you can afford without going into debt.
This particular unit together with 9 panels and 4 batteries was enough to run our household comfortably. Except that we were not able to utilize either the oven (we installed a gas hob several years ago) or the geyser (we looked at a solar option, but it was seen as too expensive) during load-shedding.
Time for an upgrade in 2023!
This 8kva unit was the top of the range as far as a household of our size and usage was concerned. By the time we discussed an upgrade, many homeowners had come to the realization that solar was a must and equipment was becoming as scarce as rocking horse teeth. When SOLCO said that they were out of stock and I would have to wait at least 3 weeks for a container to arrive, I decided to call other installation companies.
But the moment I mentioned 8kva inverters they all gave me the same time frame, so we decided to wait for SOLCO to get stock. Having a history with the company did help as we were at the top of the waiting list.
These connections almost look like they could be in some sort of space capsule, but they are, in fact, the flexible conduit in which the various cables run.
What looks like a hand-held radio is actually the connection for the Wi-Fi which connects the system to an app that can be used to check the system if we are away from home.


And we also upgraded the battery bank…from 4 to 6, with room for one more should we deem it necessary.
These are not the old-fashioned deep-cycle marine batteries that took up so much space. These are the modern li-ion type, each of which is just a bit bigger than a DVD player.
They last longer and take up MUCH less space.


This is what the entire system looks like after the upgrade.
A clean, neat, and professional installation that comes with a COC( certificate of compliance) that you can present to your insurance company or your real estate agent if you sell.
Going forward, I believe that there will be at least two items that could possibly be deal-breakers when it comes to selling/buying a property;
A solar installation and high-speed fibre.
Now, I can hear you saying, was the upgrade really necessary?
And the simple answer is “Yes it was”! For several reasons…
Firstly, load-shedding, and the stress that entails, no longer affects our house at all. The changeover from COJ power to solar is so smooth that it goes unnoticed.
Secondly, we are able to run the entire household, including both the oven and the geyser using the solar system. We try not to run them concurrently, but we can should we need to do so.
And lastly, but probably the most important reason, is when the unplanned outages kick in post the scheduled load-shedding. These, in our suburb, can last for days and the most annoying is the fact that COJ is never able to give completion times as they are plagued by antiquated equipment and a lack of manpower and spares.
The last post-load-shedding outage lasted for almost 3 days and our system handled it without any issues.
This is a screenshot of the solar app in operation.
In this particular instance, both the grid as well as the panels are feeding into our system. Although no settings can be altered off the app, it is useful for making certain how it is all working.


Who says that an installation cannot be fun?
The final piece of the puzzle in making certain that the system operates at peak efficiency was to go to prepaid electricity.
Now we could have done it alone, but the system is difficult to navigate. Hence us turning to Fasttrack admin cc to help out converting to a prepaid system. It was seamless…except for the fact that COJ decided to do computer software maintenance at exactly the same time we informed them of our change. Getting them to reflect the transition might take longer than expected.


The technicians arrived within two days of Fasttrack putting in a request and the actual control unit installation took about 20 minutes. It took longer to fill out the paperwork. The technicians arrived unexpectedly and luckily I was home to let them onto the property otherwise I might have had to wait for weeks for them to return.


Purchasing electricity can be done in a variety of ways and we have already seen a sharp reduction in the monthly account.
It is still early days, hence I am unable to give an exact cost saving currently.
But, in the long run, this is certainly the route to follow to make certain that it is one less item to tick off a stress-inducing list.
Now for the borehole and backup water storage and we will be ready for the apocalypse, should it occur.
Most importantly, choose the companies that you use on their longevity and NOT on price. Two men with a ladder and a van might offer you systems that are cheaper, but when the time comes for maintenance, they are nowhere to be seen. On that note, many of the instant solar companies are trying to make outdated stock seem as if it is ‘top-of-the-range’. Do your homework before signing any contracts to make certain that you are getting the most for your money.
Caveat emptor…let the buyer beware…a great law doctrine that every homeowner should be conscious of.
For more information on the company, click on the logo above.
For more information on the company, click on their logo above.