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Generator or Inverter? This is your load shedding buying guide

Posted by Shaun Parker on

Eskom load shedding is here to stay and is expected to continue for at least the next 3 years says the minister of Public Enterprises, Lynn Brown on the 14th of May 2015.

By now we’re all too familiar with top-of-the-hour anxiety as six o’ clock draws near. The next emotion is either heady relief as the power stays on, or dismay as we face the next four hours in the cold and dark, eating frozen peas with a spoon.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Given that an inconsistent power supply is a reality in South Africa, we all need to put solutions in place that cater to our specific needs. It’s time to put the power back in your hands. Zasttra.com brings you the energy solutions for whichever kind of user you are.

“I have a candle and my Kindle. I’m sorted.”
You’re one of those people who doesn’t really get what all the fuss is about. When the lights go out, you snuggle up under a duvet with a good book and mug of hot chocolate (heated on gas), and you’re sorted.  But as satisfied with your duvet plan as you might be, you may want to have a backup battery charging solution like a Power Bank or a solar charger with LED light on hand for email or cell phone emergencies.

“All I care about is my security system and being able to open my gate.”
Most electric fences, alarm systems and gates can be powered with a “12 volt 7 amp hour” battery that retails at a starting price of R249.66. Getting a longer lasting solution in place isn’t as simple as just buying a bigger battery, because recharging a bigger battery puts extra strain on your alarm system, meaning it could burn out. So you’ll need a separate power pack with its own battery, which costs R785.46, connected in tandem to boost the performance of the original battery.

Or you can find out about a solar solution for your security system, but that will have to be costed against the size of your perimeter.

“I’d like to keep the lights on and use some appliances.”
Now you’re going to have to start looking at generators and inverters. These use and produce different types of power, but what you need to know is that generators are noisier, less clean and produce a less constant power supply, so you can end up damaging sensitive equipment, while inverters are quiet, clean and constant – but more expensive. You’ll also have to keep feeding your generator fuel, or buy a battery large enough to power your inverter through the duration of load shedding.

It is important not to buy cheap inverters that do not automatically switch back to Eskom power when the loadshedding ends, and run the risk of blowing any connected devices.

If you want to charge your laptop and use a couple of lights in your house, you can probably get an entry level 950W generator for R1,399. Or you can get a 1.0 kW inverter for R1,249.00, which will probably get you the use of a few larger appliances, such as your TV.

The more devices you want to power, the bigger the generator or inverter that you’re going to need. If you want to watch TV, turn on a few lights and cook on one hotplate (remember that electric hotplates pull serious power), you could use a 2.8 kVA generator for R2,799.00 or a 6.5 kVA generator for R8,199.00.

The one drawback of inverters is that they can’t power high-current devices such as heaters, stoves and geysers, so you’ll have to have a gas or solar solution to run your geyser, kettle or stovetop.

Or for some of the benefits of both worlds, an inverter-generator combo for R3,599.00 - powered by fuel but stores and delivers energy as an inverter and, because it’s powered by petrol, is not reliant on being recharged by Eskom power.

“Money is no object. I don’t wanna know about load shedding.”
When money isn’t an object, you can really buy as big a generator and as quiet a generator as you want, such as this 5 kVA generator for R16 000 or a 3 kW inverter for R20 990 (bearing in mind that you’ll need backup gas or solar, and an array of batteries).

Estimates for going off-grid with sustainable energy range from between R230 000 and R350 000 (with a system that still ties into the grid for backup power if there is a shortfall in the power generated by your system coming in at around R150 000).

Power to you
It is important to have a solution in place that meets your family’s needs and keeps you safe. The solutions are out there – from the relatively inexpensive, right up the budget-blowing full home system. You just have to decide what level of inconvenience you are willing to put up with and how much you are willing to invest.

Beat Load Shedding


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