Solar power: the good, the bad, and everything in-between

More South Africans are turning to solar energy at home to combat load shedding. Picture: Kindel Media/Pexels

More South Africans are turning to solar energy at home to combat load shedding. Picture: Kindel Media/Pexels

Published May 29, 2023


As load shedding continues to worsen, more people are, unsurprisingly, turning to solar energy in their homes.

A survey recently conducted by Pam Golding Properties among its agents shows that more than a third of buyers (35.4%) are prioritising solar over other green features.

This, says chief executive Andrew Golding, is followed by boreholes and JoJo tanks, which is a pertinent reminder that water instability remains an issue in much of the country.

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“The survey also clearly indicated that, for sellers, having alternative power and water storage will sway the decision their way when a buyer is weighing up two similar properties.”

“We are seeing that properties with ‘green’ features such as these sell quicker than those without. Buyers tend to prioritise by viewing these properties first – they welcome the fact that all the work is already done, which adds considerable appeal.”

Notably, he adds, the survey results indicate that over 50% of homebuyers are asking for solar and other green features when buying a home. Encouragingly for sellers, it also reveals that 68.8% of homebuyers would pay a premium for a home with green features, making green solutions like solar an increasingly important driver of the price that sellers are able to achieve for their properties.

While going off the grid is the “ideal solution” Golding says it is apparent, however, that affordability is an issue for many consumers, particularly in the instance of first-time homebuyers.

“As a result, currently the focus for homeowners is primarily on offsetting the effects of load shedding, with water a secondary concern for most.”

In addition to the initial high costs of installing solar panels at home, Constellation Energy says other negatives include that:

  • Solar energy storage is expensive
  • Solar doesn’t work for every roof type
  • Solar panels are dependent on sunlight

The pros of solar energy at home are:

  • Solar energy is a renewable energy source and reduces carbon emissions
  • Solar energy can reduce your home’s electricity bill
  • Solar power can get you money back through Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)
  • Homes with solar panels installed may improve home value
  • Solar panels have low maintenance costs
  • Solar energy can generate electricity in any climate

Before installing solar in your home, Orlando Luis, chief executive of Brights Hardware, says various factors must be taken into consideration.

He offers the following tips:

Step 1 – Do your homework before you install solar

Decide what your goals are. Do you want to have a backup source of power to get you through load shedding, or do you want to get off the grid completely?

Next, you should measure your power consumption to better understand what size system you need to meet your immediate goals, and also your future goals.

An important part of doing your homework before going solar is to choosing a reputable solar installer.

Step 2 – Buying the solar panels and batteries

It is important to purchase good quality solar panels and batteries and not necessarily always go for the cheapest on the market. For example, I always recommend lithium-ion over lead-acid or deep-cycle gel batteries because they have a much longer lifespan, however, they do cost more in the short run.

When it comes to solar panels, the most important aspects to look for are if the panels are poly or monocrystalline, what their power and efficiency rating is, the overall quality and durability, and the manufacturer’s guarantees.

All solar panels receive a power rating indicating the amount of power they produce under standard test conditions. A higher power rating means that the panels are more effective at producing power.

Look for solar panels that are ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9000-compliant and certified.

Step 3 – What you need to do once your solar system is installed

It is important to note that if your solar installation is still tied to the electricity grid it must be signed off by a professional electrical engineer registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa and your system must also be registered with your local municipality. Then remember to let your insurance know about your new solar installation. Check whether your insurer has any additional requirements for insuring the system, and read your insurance policy to ensure it covers damage caused by extreme weather, power surges, and fires.”