Many South Africans bought generators to deal with load shedding, hoping to make the best of a new situation. Having electricity was no longer the norm, and we had to adjust. Years later, load shedding is still an unwelcome guest, and 2023 has had record-breaking power outages. Are you looking for alternatives to keep the lights on for many years to come? You aren’t alone!
Short-term solution, long-term problem
Generators seemed like the best option, especially if you had hoped that load shedding wouldn’t be around for more than a year or two. A cheap initial cost made generators an attractive option. However, generators introduce several issues: They are noisy and release hazardous fumes. On top of that, fuel has a shelf-life, meaning it can’t be stored and forgotten about. You can only buy what you plan to use soon, or you will have new problems. If that wasn’t enough, in colder months, the temperatures can drop to the point where fuel starts to degrade, adding extra hassle.
Even if dealing with these issues isn’t a deal-breaker, some of these generators have been working long, hard hours and mechanical wear and tear is starting to show. That once cheap purchase now needs repairs, servicing or replacement – either in parts or as a whole. Add the ever-increasing fuel prices to this list, and running a generator might feel like it isn’t worth the effort anymore. So what can we do? Luckily, there are generator alternatives for backup power!
At Titan Electrical, we constantly search for solutions that make life easier for our clients. We recently worked with several commercial clients who had the same problem: monthly fuel bills were eating into their profits, and there is no indication of that changing. These clients use a fair quantity of energy every month and can’t afford to be without power.
After logging their power usage, we did a case study to see what alternatives were available. Some of these businesses used over R50,000 just on diesel for their generators every month! Diesel’s cost per litre has increased from R15.71 in October 2021 to R25.22 in October 2023. Even if the number of hours of load shedding didn’t change each year, the monthly cost could increase further.
We arrived at two solutions, depending on whether these businesses are allowed to install solar panels or not. Even without solar panels, a bank of batteries and a sturdy inverter could reduce monthly diesel costs by a significant margin. Add in solar panels, and the savings per month increase!
The goal was to save money for these clients. We didn’t build a system that made their existing generators obsolete or took them off the grid. This infrastructure was kept for those overcast days or to help charge the batteries when load shedding reached higher stages. However, the new system used their generators much less, meaning less money is spent on diesel and less mechanical wear and tear.
What about residential usage?
Only some people run commercial generators and buy thousands of litres of fuel monthly. So, where do households fit into the picture? Even on a smaller scale, the same issues apply: the petrol price has increased dramatically over the last few years, meaning generators cost more to run, even without changing how many hours per month you have load shedding. Unfortunately, the number of hours without power has also increased. As a result, any generator bought a few years ago has a drastically different running cost per month now.
Luckily, this smaller scale works in your favour: a residential solar system and inverter costs much less than the large systems used to meet the power needs of commercial premises. Some systems, like inverters, increase in price exponentially as capacity increases. Smaller capacity inverters, fewer solar panels and fewer batteries will be required to tide your home over during load shedding. Any extra capacity here will improve the duration that you can live comfortably without power from the primary grid. It might not completely remove the generator, but it gives you a generator alternative for most scenarios.
A good way to examine the various systems is to compare their lifetime costs. Yes, a generator is a cheaper initial purchase, but what if you factor in the fuel purchases for the next five years? Or the next 25 years? You might be surprised at how much that generator is costing over time. Depending on your usage, it might equal the cost of a solar backup system. Contact us for a thorough needs analysis, and we can recommend the best system for you!