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Solar Quick FAQs

Why should I get solar for my home or business?

Solar power systems that include solar batteries, known as solar-plus-storage, are increasingly popular, but can be pricey. Luckily, batteries are not necessary for most solar homeowners. As long as you are connected to the grid, your system does not need a battery: excess power goes back into the grid, and you can draw from the grid if you need more electricity than your panels can generate.

Solar power systems that include solar batteries, known as solar-plus-storage, are increasingly popular, but can be pricey. Luckily, batteries are not necessary for most solar homeowners. As long as you are connected to the grid, your system does not need a battery: excess power goes back into the grid, and you can draw from the grid if you need more electricity than your panels can generate.

The electricity you consume on a monthly basis is shown on your electricity bill. The electrical energy value which is impacted by solar pv is measured in kWh for residential customers. Commercial and industrial customers also have to consider the maximum demand figures. The amount of savings will be impacted by the tariff structure you are on. You can get help understanding your energy bill by talking to one of the advisors at energyfundi or by reading the comprehensive guide published by the national Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC-SA) here. Your professional installer will also be able to help you understand your energy bill to best determine your current costs and potential electricity bill savings.

Net metering means that if your solar power system generates more electricity that you can use at any one point, the electricity can be fed back into the national grid. The surplus power may or may not be compensated for by the municipality or by Eskom. Currently net metering or surplus energy rebates range from 10 cents/kWh to 80 c/kWh depending on your location. Find out from the municipality tariffs that are published every year to see how much compensation if any you will get for feeding back power into the grid.

Installing solar panels on your home may not have an immediate effect on the property value but it is likely to appeal to sustainability-cconsious home buyers in the event of you selling the property. So your property rates at the municipality will no increase but you may be able to fetch a higher price on the market due to the solar pv system.

How does solar work?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels generate power by converting the energy from sunlight into electricity. Solar panels comprise of many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. (Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity.) This electricity is generated as a direct current (dc) and needs to be converted to alternating current which is what the appliances in the home operate on. The conversion from dc current to ac current is done by means of an inverter, which is a component that forms part of the solar power system installation.

The wind affects your solar panel system in two ways. The wind load affects the distance from the roof at which the solar panels must be mounted, and this in turn can have an mpact on the number of panels you can put on the roof and the system capacity. Excessive wind loads can result in your solar panels and roof being damaged or torn off from their roof mountings. Therefore, it is very important to have your solar system appropriately designed for the excessive wind conditions that may occur in your area. A professional solar installer will be able to design an appropriate system for the wind loads. 

Secondly, the wind has a cooling effect on your solar panels and this will help with increasing the solar panel efficiency. The hotter the environmental temperature, the lower the panel efficiency and the amount of energy generated.

Solar panel shading simply means that the sunlight is blocked from reaching a part of your solar panels resulting in a shadow falling on that panel. Shading is an often under-estimated factor that can have a high impact on the power generation performance of your solar panels and should be thoroughly considered for all times of the year. Shading can occur from nearby trees, buildings, chimneys or even antenna. Steps should be taken to reduce the shading (e.g. trimming or cutting of trees) or no panels should be located in the shaded areas.

Going off-grid with solar panels is possible but it currently comes at a very high, if not prohibitive cost. For you to go off-grid with solar, you need to have sufficient space for the the solar panels to be able to supply your property’s energy demands. You also need sufficient storage in the form of batteries for night-time consumption and for days when the whether reduces the production of your solar panels e.g. on overcast or rainy days. Alternatively, you will need to have a back-up system such as a diesel generator for non-productive days.

As long as there is sunlight, your solar panels will continue to produce electricity in the form of a dc current. However, depending on the type of solar system you have on your property, you may or may not be able to use this electricity. Most businesses and homes have got grid-tied system, which have the best business case. During load shedding, the inverters are programmed to shut off for safety purposes so that they to not feed electricity back in the grid while grid personnel might be working on the system un-aware. In order to use the power from your panels, you will need to have an on-grid micro-grid, which includes battery back-up or generators and special control systems which essentially ‘fool’ the inverters into ‘seeing’ a live grid and staying operational.

You will still receive an electricity bill form the municipality or Eskom after installing solar panels because you will still likely be consuming electricity from the grid during low-production times and at night. Only in cases that you have completely gone off-grid and disconnected your electricity supply from your utility will you not receive a bill.

Solar panels do not require a lot of maintenance and the occasional required cleaning is a low-cost exercise.  In order to get the best performance from your solar panels, they need to be kept free from dust and other fouling systems such as bird dropping that tend to accumulate on them over time. This can be done easily with an occasional hosing down of the solar panels with water in order to keep them dirt-free.

What are my solar financing options?

Currently there are no existing official incentives for residential property owners to install renewable  energy systems. Some local provinces such as the Western Cape Government have instituted feed-in tariffs for small-scale embedded generation. However, the  high fixed charges of those tariff structures can offset the value of the feed-in tariff for surplus generation. The tariffs and rebates currently vary from municipality to municipality across the country.

It is quite possible for commercial and industrial businesses to eliminate the high upfront costs of a solar installation through the use of various incentives and and tax breaks.

  • Feed-in tariffs, although not yet uniformly applied across South Africa allow businesses to earn some revenue from the utility on the surplus energy they may feed in to the grid, sing the net metering mechanism.
  • Section 12 (b) tax benefit allows for 100% depreciation of the solar asset cost in year one, effectively resulting in a 28% discount on the original solar pv costs.
  • Section 12 (i) tax benefit makes tax allowances for both greenfield and brownfield capital and training investment.
  • VAT deduction – VAT-registered companies can deduct VAT from the solar acquisition costs.
  • Reduced carbon tax – solar pv reduces your business’ carbon footprint and results in a lower carbon tax liability.
  • IDC Green Tourism Incentive Program  (GTIP) – small and micro businesses in the tourism sector can qualify for a grant of up to 90% (up to R 1 million) of the investment costs when switching to renewables.

If you sign a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) you are “renting” the solar panel system from the solar company that owns it. If you install solar panels with a solar loan you are the system owner, which comes with additional financial benefits and responsibilities. The question of whether you want to take out a loan or lease your solar panels is dependent on your preferences, needs, and financial goals.

May different financial institutions from commercial banks, development finance institutions and specialist financing companies offer loans with various terms, interest rates and conditions. Based on your requirements and criteria, compare multiple loan offers before settling on one that best suits your needs.

Make use of online solar calculators like PVSol where you can enter your location, annual energy use and estimated planned power installation. The free online tool will calculate how much solar you will generate in a year and you can use this to determine your annual solar energy savings based on your local tariffs.

Am I ready for solar power?

If you can afford to pay your current electricity bill you can afford to go solar. By taking advantage of zero upfront cost financing options including both solar loans and solar leases, it is easy for property owner and businesses to start saving on their electricity bills by installing solar. Depending on your particular circumstances, there is a financing option that is certainly going to make it affordable to get solar.

North-facing roofs with little-to-no shading and sufficient space are ideal for installing solar in South Africa. However, even if you do not have the most ideally located roof, there can be workarounds and all quotations will be based on an actual image of your roof space. Register your property on energyFundi to get  a professional assessment of your roof for solar.

The size will depend on how much electricity you use on a monthly basis, as well as the weather conditions of your location. Take a look at your past electricity bills and compare offers from licensed, pre-screened solar installers to determine the best system size for your needs. You can calculate your potential system size by taking your monthly energy usage in kWh and dividing by the number of hours in the month that your are using energy. e.g. a home using 1250 kWh in month with a 16-hour active day (480 hrs/month) might need at least a 2.6 kW system.

Solar energy systems can last for 25 to 35 years, and it can be costly to remove and reinstall them if you need to replace your roof. If your roof needs maintenance in the near term, you should do it before you begin your solar installation. One of energyFundi’s pre-screened solar installers will be able to tell you whether to replace your roof before installing solar.

A professionally-installed solar system should be very durable with the high quality solar panels designed to withstand wind, snow and hail. Your solar system can generate energy for anything between 25 -35 years although there will be a need for the occasional replacement of components such as batteries and inverters.

If you own your solar energy system, your property will sell at a premium: studies have shown that solar increases property values. However, if you lease your system, that is not the case. You will need to either buy out your lease before you sell your property, or work with your leasing company to transfer the lease agreement to the property’s new owner.

How to evaluate solar quotes?

There are a few  key criteria that everyone should use when choosing a solar installer. Confirm that they are certified, licensed and insured, have relevant experience, and can provide references. All energyFundi approved installers are pre-screened to ensure that they meet these high quality standards. Meet with your solar installer in person before you sign an agreement to ensure that you are comfortable working with them.

If you have multiple quotes from different solar installers, comparing them can be difficult. Not all solar installers use the same underlying assumptions and metrics when they provide equipment and financing options to homeowners. Using energyFundi’s standardised solar quotation system, you can make easy side-by-side comparisons to ensure that you understand the costs and benefits of each option. Homeowners with preexisting solar quotes can upload those onto energyFundi if they want our installers to try and beat the quote.

The first step to going solar is to register on energyFundi to receive and compare multiple installation quotes. These quotes will include a variety of equipment choices, financing options, and solar company reviews. When you find one you’re happy with, your installer will conduct a site visit to assess your property. Once you accept a quote through energyFundi, your installer will contact you to finalise the deal. The actual installation takes a day or two to complete.

If you are interested in receiving detailed information about how much energy your solar panel system is producing, ask your installer about solar monitoring system options. In many cases, solar lease agreements will include free programs to track your system’s performance. If you own your system you may need to pay for one separately.

Solar power systems that include solar batteries, known as solar-plus-storage, are increasingly popular, but can be pricey. Luckily, batteries are not necessary for most solar homeowners. As long as you are connected to the grid, your system does not need a battery: excess power goes back into the grid, and you can draw from the grid if you need more electricity than your panels can generate. Batteries become necessary though if you want to reduce the amount of electricity you draw at night or if you want your system to continue producing power during load shedding.