Durban man’s journey to living off the grid
*This article first appeared in our Energy Issue of our Simply Green digital magazine
Graham Robjant of Glenwood in Durban was unable to sustain his business due to load shedding, so he took the plunge to get off the grid. This is his journey...
In the past I used to battle with Eskom and load shedding. Being an electronics technician, I relied on power to fix equipment but, with four to five hours of no power, I had to have a Plan B.
Some inheritance money from my aunt made it possible for me to go off the grid. I opted for solar. It was the most important thing to be done at the time.
I spent R80 000 on solar power, which I felt was becoming the leader, and I hoped others would follow. Also, I wanted to be able to help people with advice after I had been through the pitfalls.
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Over 10 or 11 years, I have been able to iron out issues. I’ve got the T-shirt. You’ve got two kinds of systems: the system that runs totally independent of the grid and the grid-tie system.
The grid-tie won’t work in South Africa because of Eskom. Lots of people use it in Australia and are able to put power back into the grid. But, here, Eskom keeps turning us off all the time. If there is Stage 6 or 8 load shedding, it would be hopeless. You would have to hope you had sunshine.
The other alternative would be a wind turbine. For me, the biggest benefit is having peace of mind.
Five things Robjant has learnt along the way
1 Buy the correct batteries. A standard car battery is not the best. It is designed to deliver a lot of torque to immediately start a motor and is not designed to charge and discharge regularly. One needs a cycle battery which is designed to charge and discharge on a regular basis.
2 Choose the correct UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for your load. You must decide what devices you want to run, look up how much power they draw, then allow for another third of that amount of power to be available, and buy an appropriate inverter.
3 Choose the correct solar regulator.
4 Ensure that you are not running applications when you don’t need to. A TV left on can consume a lot of power.
5 Look into having a battery balancing unit.