Is Renewable Energy The Answer For South Africa, Or Just Part Of The Green Agenda?

We cannot limit our conversation on renewable energy to one or two technologies when there is an entire suite of options available to fulfil our needs.

I think a good starting point is the question of what does electricity actually mean for South Africans, more specifically what does it mean for South African's who currently do not have access to electricity or those who have access but cannot afford to pay for the electricity supplied through the grid? Electricity is an enabler; it is part of a suite of energy products which people need to satisfy basic living requirements such as the ability to cook, to study at night, to keep your community safe, to better your circumstances.

As such the South African government has an obligation to provide all South Africans with access to affordable, safe, clean electricity. In terms of the debate currently happening in South Africa, it is important to note that the pro-nuclear and pro-fossil fuels lobby is not disputing the fact that renewable energy is cheaper than nuclear and coal, in fact they cannot make such an assertion because the evidence is clear. Based on the latest bidding round for renewable energy wind and solar PV new build tariffs are in the region of 0.62 R/kWh.

According to Eskom financial reports baseload coal is at 1.05-1.16 R/kWh. Based on work undertaken by EE Publishers on the Levelised Cost of Electricity for nuclear, the new build tariff weighs in at 1.17-1.30 R/kWh. The pro-nuclear and pro-fossil fuels lobby premise is a reliable and flexible electricity system on the back of an inflexible archaic model of electricity provision. South Africa is facing not just poverty but it is also facing inequality and unemployment. It is clear from global trends that the world is shifting from fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy.

New occupations and increasing levels of job opportunities are contained in the renewable energy sector. More people are being absorbed by the sector than by other sources and if you disaggregate the numbers by renewable sources, then you get to see that jobs are predominately in solar and wind. The current electricity sector based on the inflexible, archaic model is riddled by perverse fuel subsidies, rent seeking and negative cross-subsidisation. Basically, in this context, the ordinary South African citizen is paying for corporate public-private inefficiencies.

Evidence suggests that the nuclear industry suffers a structural handicap which prevents it from following a 'learning curve' normally expected within maturing technology-based industries, where the rate of return improves over time as the technology improves and problems are minimised with experience (such as we are seeing with the decrease in the cost of renewable energy as the technology matures). We as South Africans need to consider the source of the information we are receiving in the media and ask ourselves who has our best interests at heart? Is it our government and public utilities, with their vested interests in nuclear and fossil fuels, where daily scandals emerge of family members benefiting from massive procurement deals?

Is it the pro-nuclear and pro-fossil fuels lobbyists who are trying desperately to keep their failing industries alive to serve their own corporate interests? We cannot limit our conversation on renewable energy to one or two technologies when there is an entire suite of options available to fulfil our needs. Distributed mini-grids have the potential to provide electricity access to people in remote parts of our country where the central grid is unlikely to reach for the next decade or more.

Rooftop solar provides people with options that have never been available before in terms of self-generation and really putting the power back into people's hands. Whilst large-scale wind and concentrated solar power are technologically mature and already working to add renewable energy into South Africa's grid. In fact at a time when we were experiencing our worst load shedding, renewable energy was the only technology adding power into the grid, and doing it on time and in budget.


Article Source: Written by Penny-Jane Cooke  Acting Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager for Greenpeace Africa

Scotland sets 50% renewable energy target

Half of Scotland's heat, transport and electricity energy needs will be met by renewables by 2030 under plans published by the Scottish government.

The draft Scottish Energy Strategy sets out a vision for the transition away from oil and gas dependency and towards a low-carbon economy by 2050.

Only 13% of Scotland's total final energy consumption came from renewable sources in 2013.

Environmental groups had been campaigning for the 50% target.

A public consultation on the proposals will run until the end of May.

 88920011 longannet














Above: Longannet in Fife had been Scotland's last coal-fired powers station until it stopped production last year

Last week, the Scottish government set a new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 66% by 2032.

Its energy strategy, which was unveiled by Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse at Holyrood, includes exploring the "re-powering" of existing power stations, which could see Longannet reopen as a coal-fired station with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

It also sets out an ambition for Scotland to be the first place in the UK where onshore wind energy schemes thrive without subsidy.

And it proposes the establishment of a Scottish government-owned energy company, with responsibility for helping the growth of local and community energy projects.

  • Target to cut Scots emissions by 66%
  • Scotland exceeds greenhouse gas target
  • Scotland 'leads UK' on climate change

But the strategy says that "most important of all" is helping to end "fuel poverty misery", partly by greatly improving the energy efficiency of existing homes.

In his foreword to the report, Mr Wheelhouse stressed that exploration and production of oil and gas in Scottish waters "will continue to provide high-value employment and a stable energy supply for decades to come".

He added: "Our ambition is that these strengths should also provide the engineering and technical bedrock for the transformational change in Scotland's energy system over the coming decades.

Read full article here:

Choosing the best Solar Panels – Tips and hints

Choosing the best Solar Panels – Tips and hints

The cost of solar panels in South Africa has greatly reduced in recent years.  These days, solar panels are priced anywhere from under R6.00 per Watt to upwards of R15.00 per Watt; depending on various factors.

It’s very important when selecting the best solar panels to use for your solar power system installation to bear in mind a few crucial factors aside from the price tag. After all, your purchase decision is one you’ll be living with for a very long time and it should provide you with a good return on your investment.

Don’t base a buying decision on solar panel cost alone – the following are a few tips for choosing the best modules for your installation situation.
How much do solar panels cost?

This depends on a number of factors:

The cost of a solar panel is determined in part by its capacity (in Watts), the physical size, the brand, quality of materials, the durability / longevity (or warranty period) and any certifications the solar panel might have.

The price you’ll pay will also depend on the number of panels as part of a package if you’re buying a full system. The more modules in the system, the less cost per unit (generally speaking).

However, choosing solar panels on price alone is not wise, as what you select may not fit the area you wish to install it.

The modules may not provide the best performance to help ensure economic payback of the power produced, or a solid warranty from a well-established company.

Solar panel manufacturer Tier rankings

3 Tiers Of Solar Panel Quality

In addition to cost, when choosing the best solar panel for your installation situation, it is important to consider both how it is manufactured and what materials are used.

It is commonly considered for there to be three tiers of manufacturer quality and Africa Solar Power only supplies solar panels from the first tier.

Tier one includes the top 2 percent of solar PV manufacturers.  We consider Tier one manufacturers are those that are vertically integrated. This means they control each stage of the manufacturing process. These companies invest heavily in research and development, use advanced robotic processes and have been manufacturing solar panels for more than 5 years.

Tier one producers use the purest/best grade of silicon to produce solar cells. The higher the silicon grade, the longer the solar cell will last and the better it will perform in converting the sun’s energy to electricity.

Tier one manufacturers produce some of the best performing solar panels and these can often be acquired at a very reasonable price.  Modules produced by Tier 1 manufacturers include Canadian Solar and JA Solar; both of which are used in Africa Solar Powers’ range of solar power systems.

However, “Tier 1” is a claim that some manufacturers make that don’t fit our definition – so it’s important to understand not all claiming to be Tier 1 are equal. Quality can vary greatly between Tier 1 manufacturers, so this should only be an aspect of due diligence when searching for the best solar panels for your needs.

Tier two includes companies who invest less in research and development, are reliant on both robotic and manual assembly on production lines and have often been in solar panel manufacture for 2 – 5 years. Tier two manufacturers can produce good panels at good prices; but it can be a hit and miss affair.

Tier three encompasses 90% of new solar PV manufacturers. These companies assemble panels only, they usually don’t manufacture their own cells and don’t invest in research and development.

While often available at a cheaper price, tier three manufacturers use human production lines for manual soldering of solar cells, which often isn’t the best approach as quality can vary operator to operator and day to day. A Tier Three solar panel may in the long run cost you much more in terms of reliability and electricity output.
Panel cost vs. value – other factors

As not all module manufacturers are equal and there are a variety of other factors that should influence your purchase decision rather than focusing solely on cost.


This is the range a panel will either exceed or not meet its rated power. For example, a solar module you purchase may have a ‘nameplate’ wattage of 200 watts; but due to quality control issues, the output in ideal conditions may in reality only be 195 watts. A positive tolerance rating means the module will not only generate 200 watts, but perhaps more under standard testing conditions.

Temperature co-efficient

The temperature co-efficient rating is important to determine what the impact heat has on a solar panel’s operation after installation. The lower the percentage per degree Celsius, the better. The price of a module with low temperature co-efficiency can be a little more; but in South Africa’s often hot conditions, a little extra cost can be worth it.

Conversion efficiency

The efficiency of how a solar panel converts light into electrical energy will determine how much power your system generates. If two solar panels cost the same, but one has a higher conversion efficiency; then that module provides the better value for money – assuming the claimed efficiencies are correct.

PID resistance

PID stands for potential-induced degradation. Caused by  stray currents triggered by certain climate conditions; the phenomenon can cause substantial power loss. Good solar panels will display little or no PID.

LID resistance

LID stands for Light induced degradation; a process that occurs in the first few months after solar panels are installed. While this stabilises after a period, it can reduce the amount of power the module produces. A good solar panel will have little or no LID.

Embodied energy

Another important aspect to look at is the embodied energy of the solar panel – that is how energy intensive the production of the panel was and how quickly it will have paid itself back by producing more energy. Consider this aspect an environmental cost.

Durability / Longevity / Warranty

The durability or longevity of a solar panel warranty is important for a number of reasons – it can be an indicator of the manufacturer’s confidence in its products. Reputable solar panels will have a performance warranty a period of 25 years. All of our key modules; including Canadian Solar, feature this 25 year warranty period.

However, an important point to remember about warranty is that it will only be honoured for as long as the company operates. It’s another reason to select a well known brand of module rather than purchase an obscure low-cost brand that may disappear overnight.

As you most likely won’t be able to buy solar panels directly from the manufacturer, your selection of installer and retailer is also important. It’s best to choose an installation company that is a service agent for solar panel warranty work for the particular manufacturer you select. This is because if you do strike a problem, the turnaround time to a resolution will be far faster.

Size And Watts Capacity

The capacity of the solar panel in Watts will directly affect the cost, as solar panels are usually priced (and compared) in dollars per Watt.  Watts are related to the output of each module; meaning a 100 Watt panel installed and operating under ideal conditions will generate 100 watt-hours of electricity each hour and a 200 Watt panel will generate 200 watt-hours each hour. Therefore, expect to pay up to double the price for the 200 Watt panel, compared to the purchase cost of a 100 Watt module.

The output of a panel also affects the physical size of the panel, meaning the 200 watt panel will be larger in size to the 100 Watt module. The type of solar cells used in its production also determines the size of the solar panel. They key issue to consider is that your system sizing is enough to power your appliances, and that the solar panels will physically fit in the area you wish to install them.

Your northerly facing roof space (and increasingly, west) is very valuable solar power real estate, so you’ll need to consider carefully your future plans. If you believe at some stage you will wish to install more solar panels, you need to ensure you’ll have the space to do so, otherwise you may find you’ll need to replace existing modules well before the end of their serviceable life.
Types of solar cells used

There are 3 main types of solar cells used in modules and the best type for you will vary depending on the installation application.

  • Monocrystalline silicon offers high efficiency and good heat tolerance characteristics in a small footprint.
  • Polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline) silicon cell based solar panels are now the most popular choice in residential installs. Recent improvements in polycrystalline panel technology have resulted in the development of modules equal to or better than many monocrystalline brands in terms of size, efficiency and heat tolerance. Two examples of leading polycrystalline modules are REC and JA Solar panels.
  • Amorphous (or thin-film) silicon uses the least amount of silicon. Thin film panels are generally less efficient than other solar cell types.

Solar Panel Shopping Checklist

In summary, these are the major points you should bear in mind when buying solar panels aside from cost:

  • Consider how the module is manufactured and the materials used.
  • Carefully research how the panels perform in real world situations – including positive tolerance, temperature co-efficient rating, PID and LID resistance and efficiency.
  • Compare the warranty details of the solar panels you are considering buying.
  • Learn more about the company that manufactures the modules

Our 2 main suppliers are Canadian Solar and JA Solar.

Canadian Solar

What separates Canadian Solar from its domestic peers is mostly driven by a downstream project business segment that must be the envy of all other legacy ingot-to-module suppliers that sought to copy the company’s move to diversify its revenue stream outside of pure-play manufacturing.

Manufacturing capex in 2016 is guided to be well above US$300 million with no shortage of overseas capacity additions, still however weighted mainly to modules. In this respect, Canadian Solar’s recent moves are less likely to be impactful at the technology side, confirmed further by the company still having to outsource more than 1GW of cells and modules, simply to hit module shipment targets.

JA Solar

Multi-GW expansions remain planned for 2016, spread largely across China and Southeast Asia, with capex guided well above US$300 million, putting JA Solar in the top bracket for equipment spending.

In contrast to JinkoSolar, JA Solar’s growth plans have the scope to impact on technology changes in a more profound way. This is due to the company being one of the main drivers in advanced cell technology, such as PERC, but also as an early mover in shifting from wet-etch to dry-etch for front-end texturing during cell processing: more on this as we reveal the agenda shortly for the PV CellTech 2017 conference in Penang, Malaysia, 14-15 March 2017.

However, more than JinkoSolar and some other leading Chinese module suppliers, JA Solar is potentially at risk from any downturn in 2H’16 coming from weakness in its domestic market. The lack of strong market-share in the US and Europe during 1H’16 may simply leave India as the low-cost overflow channel for China produced cells and modules over the next few months, something that will only drive down blended ASPs

Choosing the right battery for your project

How To Choose The Right Battery For Your Solar Project?

Maximize your battery life, avoid common mistakes and reduce costs by learning how to select the right battery for your system every time.

By John Connell, Special To Solar Power World (

Did you know that batteries, even with nearly identical specifications, may have unequal life and performance? It’s true. Choosing the right model for your system can mean the difference between long project life, low maintenance and high performance — or frustrating downtime and early failure.

All batteries are made differently. Some manufacturers use heavier grids and more lead, robotic assembly and automated quality control, and exhaustive performance testing. Other manufacturers make batteries using manual assembly and outdated materials that can compromise performance. Low-price batteries seem like a bargain, but they often require more maintenance, fail earlier and cost more in the long run.

By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to identify differences in design, materials, manufacturing and quality control to choose the best battery for you.

Understand Different Battery Types

The first step is to select the right type. Lead-acid batteries are made for specific applications, and some aren’t a good fit for renewable energy (RE) systems. Automotive and commercial starter batteries deliver short bursts of power and stay at full charge most of the time, making them unsuited for such applications. Uninterruptable power supply (UPS) batteries are designed to provide backup electricity during power outages but will not tolerate continuous discharge and charge cycles.

Deep-cycle batteries deliver electricity for a long time, even multiple days, because they’re designed for constant discharge and charge cycles. The difference between deep-cycle and RE-specific batteries is that RE batteries’ basic design accounts for the specific requirements of renewable energy applications.

Flooded batteries are the most commonly used batteries in RE and grid-backup systems, because they’re affordable, easy to maintain, long-lasting and reliable. Valve-regulated lead–acid (VRLA) batteries, such as absorbent glass mat (AGM) and gel, are maintenance-free but typically more expensive. Whatever type of battery you choose, know which materials, construction methods and quality control systems translate into affordable, reliable power for your system.

Materials And Manufacturing Matter

A battery produces electrical current through a reaction that converts its stored chemical energy into electrical energy. This process starts in the lead itself. Most manufacturers in the North American battery industry use recycled lead, so the performance and lifespan differences between lead in the batteries come from the amount of lead, additive formulation, lead-oxide production methods and quality controls employed by producers.

Metal grids that hold lead paste make energy storage possible. Thicker, heavier plates withstand corrosion longer and hold more lead for chemical reactions, so they increase battery life. But raw lead prices have skyrocketed since 2006, and since lead comprises 60 to 80% of a battery’s cost, there’s pressure to cut corners to offset raw material price hikes.

Manufacturers that understand the importance of quality still produce a superior product. They do not try to cut costs through cutting back on key materials like lead, but by improving manufacturing efficiency and using of active lead materials. Ultimately, more lead and advanced manufacturing save customers money because they don’t have to replace their batteries as often.

Even grid production methods affect life. Some manufacturers use expanded metal and stamped grid production because they’re quicker, but these methods embed impurities and porosity into grid wires. In contrast, grids produced by gravity casting contain no impurities and near-zero porosity. Gravity-cast plates extend life and improve reliability.

Active lead material is applied to plates in a process called pasting, and dozens of variables in paste mixing significantly affect battery performance. In conventional systems, these variables are adjusted by hand and paste is only as good as its operator. Computerized paste mixing alleviates these problems by instantly adjusting variables.

Once grids are pasted, they’re cured (dried in specialized “curing ovens” at a particular temperature and humidity) to bond active lead materials to the grid for better performance and longer life. Look for batteries built with plates prepared in curing ovens, which optimize important variables such as temperature and humidity at every stage of the curing cycle to ensure all plates deliver optimal capacity and service life.

After curing, battery plates are stacked in groups and connected by fusing the plates together with a lead strap that creates a parallel circuit between the plates. Many companies still use strap-assembly processes that originated in the first half of the 20th century because they’re economical. Workers manually attach lead lugs to a strap and burn them together one-by-one using a torch and lead stick or by manually pouring molten lead around a jig. Manually welded straps have weaker connection points.

Other companies use cast-on-strap (COS) assembly systems that fuse battery plates together simultaneously at the optimal temperature. Because COS allows for 4,000 adjustments versus only 40 for hand welding, it ensures consistent, low electrical-resistance welds that strengthen connections, resist cracking and improve battery life. Robotic COS assembly also prevent failure modes that are common with manually-assembled batteries, such as “lead run-down” between plates, and allow for features that reduce corrosion, increase current and reduce maintenance costs.

Properly integrating the COS process can be expensive and time-consuming. Make sure your battery manufacturer has had time to refine its COS system. If a company advertises using COS, make sure to ask if it produces 100% of its offerings using COS manufacturing.

Following assembly, batteries are charged for the first time in a process called formation that converts lead sulfate and ensures maximum capacity. Some companies “speed up” formation using higher currents, which cut production time at the expense of active (usable) material and lifespan. In contrast, lower current over a longer time always results in longer life.

Recognize Quality

Quality control should be built into all stages of production to improve product quality and consistency. In more advanced plants, this includes machine testing for short circuits, along with computerized welding and heat sealing. Some battery companies even use vision systems (image capturing and advanced software that automatically inspect parts) to spot defects humans can miss.

When you know what to look for — and what to avoid — in a renewable energy battery, it’s much easier to find the best model for your needs. To compare manufacturing techniques and materials and get a better idea of which batteries will perform better and last longer, visit your RE battery manufacturer’s website or call the manufacturer or your distributor.

John Connell is the vice president of Crown Battery’s SLI Products Group.

Preparing to go Solar?

So, you’re planning on going solar?

This is a great option for a number of reasons. After all, solar is an amazing renewable resource that is very effective at powering a home. As more and more people make the transition from traditional power sources to greener options such as solar and wind power, there is a great deal more information out there to help one prepare. Although the choice in itself is one that will pay off in great rewards both environmentally and financially, there is a learning curve involved.

It is this learning curve for which you need to prepare your family. When you do go solar, you will need the cooperation and understanding of the whole family to make it work best.

People turn to solar energy for several reasons. A little preparation will go a long way to make your transition from conventional energy to solar energy as trouble-free and worthwhile as possible. How you should prepare for it depends on your goals and expectations.

Going solar out of environmental consciousness

A large percent of people who convert to total solar energy are motivated by their commitment to use an environmentally friendly solution for their energy needs. One common characteristic of this group may be that they would have already taken measures to reduce overall energy consumption. That puts them at an advantage when shifting to solar energy, as they know their optimum energy use and can invest accordingly. If you and your family belong in here, you may need only the minimum of preparation.

Investing in solar power to reduce dependency on grid

Some people invest in solar energy because they want an alternate power source. In uncertain times like this, having a single source of energy, and being completely dependent on it, can be a bit unwise, if not downright scary. They may not be looking at solar power systems as their primary provider. They probably want it as just a standby, and the system they invest in may be barely able to cover their actual needs.

Going solar to reduce energy costs

Those who are attracted to solar energy because of its cost effectiveness alone may be a minority. They might want to use solar power as their main source of energy, and expect it to meet all their needs, while being connected to the grid for the benefit of the trade-off.

Before they shift to solar power systems, it is essential that their actual energy requirement be calculated. Otherwise, a mismatch between the investment and the return on that investment may become a major concern later. Unless other measures to cut energy consumption drastically are not adopted simultaneously, their initial investment on a system equipped to meet all their power needs could be very high. And it might take years to realize the high initial cost by way of reduction in utility bills.

For example, if energy efficient appliances are not used along with solar power, your initial investment going solar could be unaffordable. By investing in changing power hungry appliances to more economical alternatives will reduce your initial outlay in going solar. It is cheaper to reduce power usage by using more efficient power appliances than to try and store sufficient power to run them. To store extra energy requires more PV panels, bigger battery chargers, bigger battery capacity and bigger inverters which often then makes a solar system uneconomical.
So, what steps can you take to economize the energy use of your home, thus reducing the upfront investment required to go solar?

Changes to your house in general

Replace all lights with the LED alternative, inside your house and outside. LED lights do cost more than incandescent bulbs but the lifespan of good quality LED’s could be as much as 50 000 hours compared to 1000 hours. Not only would you save on power required to get the same amount of light (60W = 4W LED) you will also be spending far less time replacing globes around the house when the old style bulbs pop at generally inconvenient times.

IF you leave a room, turn off the lights, don’t leave a light on in a room that you are not using. You can install motion detector lights in corridors as you only need the passage illuminated when you are passing through. Replacing incandescent lights with LED has a payoff of typically less than 12 months and reduces your houses light power consumption by 90%.

Make sure your house is well insulated. In roof insulation can be achieved at very little expense. With proper insulation you will need to use heaters and air conditioners far less. Make sure your windows and doors have little to no gaps when shut, reducing drafts. If you have the luxury of having a fireplace in your home, start using it, if not you can install a free standing wood burning fireplace, this would help to keep your house warm without using any electricity, not only do they look amazing in your home they are very effective.

Wood is the most efficient form of heat generation. If you have to use a heater in other rooms that don’t have a fireplace, a gas heater is a cost effective alternative to one that utilises oil or an energy hungry element. If you plan to install a new Air-con, make sure you choose an inverter type as they are far less power hungry as they ramp the compressor up slowly to avoid spikes and surges of energy usage.

Water Heating

For a small household a gas geyser works well for all your water heating needs. A household of 2-3 people could get by utilising a 16 or 20 litre gas geyser for all water heating needs. For larger households with multiple geysers an option would be to retro fit your current geyser to utilise a flat plate collector, negating the use of the built in element during sunlight hours.

Otherwise you can replace your current geyser with a full solar geyser or heat pump. Closely coupled heat pumps and retrofitted geysers with insulated pipes and geysers work much more efficiently than a heat pump that is a long way from a retrofitted geyser due to the heat losses as the water transfers between the 2 units.

If you opt to keep your water heating as is there are ways of making your element geyser more efficient. Wrap all the in-roof and outside pipes with insulation and wrap the geyser with a geyser blanket, these steps will reduce the amount of time the element is activated and heat dissipation is reduced.

Electric geysers can typically consume about 40% of your power. Changing to solar geysers, hybrid solar geysers with gas supplementation, hybrid solar geysers with small electric elements and heat pumps can save a huge amount of power.

Formula for calculating kwh to heat water:

Volume in litres x 4 x temperature rise in degrees centigrade / 3412

Let’s assume we need to heat 200l of water from 20 degrees to 60 degrees:

e.g. 200l x 4 x 40 /3412 = 9.4kwh

Using a 1kw element will heat the water in 9.4 hours and using a 3kw element will take 3.1 hours.
Heat pumps are 2 to 3 times more efficient than electric element geysers, which is a huge saving in power consumption. It is very important to have a heat pump that combines the tank and compressor in the same unit or to have the tank and compressor coupled as closely as possible with the pipes and tank insulated especially if retro-fitting a heat pump. If a heat pump is installed too far from the tank then the heat loss in the pipes to and from the tank can be so significant that it defeats the purpose of installing a heat pump.

Electric geysers typically cost about R6,000 and can consume about R3,500 to R,5000 per annum and heat pumps (compressor and heat pump combined in one unit) typically cost about R20,000 and consume about R1,500 of power with a saving of about R3,500 per annum meaning it pays for itself in about 6 to 8 years.

Solar water heating with assisted water heating with a small element will be about 10 times more efficient that an electric geyser. Solar water heating units typically cost about R10,000 and will pay for itself within 2 to 3 years. Solar water heating with assisted water heating using gas will cost about R18,000 and will pay for itself in about 4 to 6 years excluding the cost of gas.

These figures do not include how much you would save due to the reduction of the size of the solar system required.

Kitchen Options

Change electric stove and oven to gas
Install an inline gas geyser 
Inline gas geysers can be used to supply hot water for washing up
Change your dishwasher to one with a hot water inlet
Boil water with a whistling kettle on a gas burner
Use microwaves sparingly
Toast can be made with the gas grill in the oven or using a gas toast rack placed on a gas burner
Use energy efficient fridges
and freezers, the best would be an A++ energy efficient unit

The trick is to replace as many appliances that utilise elements as possible

Lounge/ Dining room Options

As above – Fireplace and LEDs. Certain new LED TV’s use very little power. Make sure you look at the energy rating when purchasing a new television set.

Bedroom Options

Good quality hair straighteners don’t use a lot of power. GHD’s element requires less than 100 watts depending on size.

Instead of electric blankets, during winter use winter sheets and duvet covers.
Hairdryers are seen as an essential item, not easy to replace with an alternative. They just need to be used sparingly.
A gas heater would also be very effective in bedrooms.

Patio's and Garden Options

Replace your outside lights with LED’s.

Pool pumps will use about 10kwh or more per day in summer. There are options to change your pool pump to be powered directly by its own solar system, they are however fairly expensive as they use 3 phase motors. In winter it is not necessary to have you pump on for more than 3 hours a day. You can heat you pool with a well-designed set of flat plate collectors.

Use petrol mowers, edge-trimmers and brush cutters.