While South African homes and businesses are now trending towards alternative solutions like solar, battery storage, and portable power stations, traditional generators remain hugely popular in South Africa.
“Generators are still the go-to in many instances,” SolarAfrica commercial head Brandon Horn told MyBroadband.
This is a problem, as generators are designed for backup purposes but are now being used to deliver a constant power supply due to increased load-shedding volumes.
“This carries an immense diesel cost together with ongoing maintenance and breakdown costs,” said Horn.
An EcoFlow spokesperson agreed that these challenges are a big problem in South Africa for those using fuel generators.
They added that these generators tend to be “heavy giant bricks that require cumbersome operation and routine maintenance before and after generating power.”
The alternative for homes
EcoFlow said in a household context, there is increased demand for portable power stations due to their “versatility, ease-of-use, and clean energy capabilities.”
“These power stations are compact and lightweight, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use,” said EcoFlow.
“Their plug-and-play design requires minimal operation and maintenance, and they are equipped with high-capacity batteries that can be charged in a variety of ways — allowing users to power essential appliances and devices during load shedding or power outages.”
When buying a portable power station, EcoFlow said that South African businesses should keep the following four things in mind:
- Higher capacities keep your devices powered for longer.
- Higher output powers more devices at one time.
- A higher lifespan is measured by battery cycles and provides increased battery longevity.
- Faster charging speeds will help you prepare your battery for the next load-shedding period.
The alternative for businesses
In a business context, SolarAfrica is seeing more organisations lean towards implementing integrated solar panels and battery storage systems.
“Businesses are pairing their solar energy systems with battery backup — using solar energy to charge their operations during the day, and storing the excess energy for later use or to charge the battery,” said Horn.
Horn said there is also a clear shift away from lead acid batteries and towards lithium-ion batteries. This is “due to their favourable longevity and depth of discharge.”
Businesses implementing one of these solutions must avoid being caught out by “fly-by-night suppliers” who deliver undersized or oversized systems.
“If you undersize the system, you won’t have enough power. If you oversize the system, you end up paying for something you don’t truly need,” said Horn.
Businesses also needn’t prioritise the battery over the inverter, as the switchover period is as important to business continuity as battery capacity.
“If your machines need to switch over in 10 milliseconds, your inverter must be able to accommodate that or else you risk a complete standstill,” said Horn.