Solar energy is a great way of cutting your electricity bills – find out whether your home is suitable and how solar systems work.
We all want to live self-sustainably, or at least reduce the carbon footprint of our home, and solar panels make that dream possible.
What are solar panels?
Solar panels are made of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. This electricity can then be fed into your home’s mains electricity supply.
The technology behind solar is relatively old, despite their futuristic appeal, but while the basics are the same the efficiency of solar panels has improved greatly in recent years.
It’s worth noting that solar panel suppliers often have two types of solar panels on offer: thermal panels and photovoltaic (PV) panels. The former are used only to heat water.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels are an environmentally friendly way of producing electricity for your home. As mentioned above, the technology relies on photovoltaic (PV) cells to turn sunlight into electricity.
The electricity produced by your solar panels will be used to power any appliances currently in use within your home. Any electricity which is not used will be sent to the grid.
So, in essence, solar panels work by producing extra energy which either gets used by you, or gets sent to the grid. Any electricity you consume which is in excess of what your panels are producing will be sourced from the grid.
Is it sunny enough for solar power to be generated in the South Africa?
Yes of course it is and with the amount of sunshine we get in our beautiful country solar panels are the perfect solution to ruducing your electricity bills and it is also a reliable fail over when Eskom are load shedding.
Is my home suitable for solar panels?
While solar works for a large number of properties in the South Africa there are still some areas and types of roof that are not suitable. The following questions will help you work out if your home could be suitable for solar panels:
- Do you own your home?
If you rent your home you can’t install solar panels, unless you negotiate this with your landlord.
- Do you live in a flat?
If you live in a basement or mid-floor flat then solar probably won’t be the right solution for you.
- What direction does your roof face?
North-facing roofs tend to be the best.
- Is your roof in the shade?
Heavily-shaded roofs aren’t ideal.
- How big is your roof?
There are different solutions for different sized roofs, but the more space you have, the better.
Remember, there are exceptions to every rule, so the best way to check if solar is right for you is to get in touch with the ATD Electrical. We will talk you through the options and do a survey if your property to discuss the best possible solution.
Will the quality of my electricity suffer?
No. You won’t notice any difference. If the panels aren’t producing much electricity, you’ll just use electricity from the Grid instead.
Solar panels don’t replace the energy you currently use, they simply supplement them with power from a greener source when possible.
Do I have to switch the panels on each day?
No. They’re always on.
How long do solar panels last for?
Solar panels usually have a 25-year manufacturers’ performance guarantee and you should get another 10 to 15 years of use beyond this.
The inverter – the piece of equipment that converts the Direct Current produced by the panels to Alternating Current on which the grid runs – needs replacing after about 12 to 15 years.
Do I need planning permission for solar panels?
You generally don’t need planning consent for solar panels. However, if you live in a conservation area or a listed building you should check first. Also, if you’re your solar panels would be visible from the roadside of the property you may need to apply for planning permission.
It’s best to check with your local council planning officer if you’re not sure.
How can I make the most of the free electricity from my solar panels?
To make sure you use as much of the free electricity from your solar panels as possible you need to try and use more electricity during the day, when your panels are producing electricity.
You could try:
- Putting the washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher on during the day.
- Charging mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets during the day and using their battery power at night.
Alternatively you may be able to store some of the energy produced by your panels with a little help from ATD Electrical. Having an battery bank connected to your panels for example is a good way to store your energy for when you need it.
How does this work with my Eskom account?
Nothing will change, except that you’ll pay less for your bills. More info needed about how the battery pack will take over electric supply when Eskom fails.