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What if you could evade load shedding entirely?

What if you could evade load shedding entirely?

Feb 18, 2015

Unfortunately, load shedding is a reality that South Africans are loathe to accept but powerless to stop. Or are we? The Dreckmeyrs, a Pretoria-based family, have been living completely off the Eskom grid for the past seven years and have never had a power cut.

Inus Dreckmeyr is an electrical engineer and CEO of WestconGroup’s electronic technological research and development company, Netshield South Africa. He and his wife Marien made the decision to investigate renewable energy resources seven years ago after they discovered that it would be a costly exercise to run a City Council feed into the property because they would have to pay for the installation up to a certain point.

Speaking to the media recently Dreckmeyr says: “I looked at this whole process, and my wife and I made a decision that we wanted to be off the grid and we wanted to see if it’s possible to live that way.”

“Based on that we made the decision and went ahead and did it. We’ve done upgrades in the installations as we planned from the original architectural layout, initially it was a building site so we needed a bit of power, so we started off with a couple of panels and a small battery bank and since then we have expanded that to a 5 kilowatt per hour array and we have a 2 kilowatt, vertical axis wind turbine that we combined with that.”

Inus stresses that the household is just like any other, running normal appliances like fridges, TVs, hair dryers, Play Stations and washing machines, but they use energy in a more sustainable way thanks to smart choices like LED lights (370 throughout the house), a wood stove for cooking, a fireplace for warmth and gas usage for cooking and water heating.

“A stable solar setup or renewable energy setup is normally a combination of things, most people like to think of it as only solar panels, but wind is also a renewable resource. And when you start combining these technologies you get a better result,” says Dreckmeyr.

“Obviously, the storage of energies is always an issue and an expensive part of any of these types of installations. One tries to limit the storage, and that’s the only thing with a real expiry on [it], you have to replace your batteries at a point in time and they are rather expensive.”

Wind turbines are advantageous because they can operate around the clock, taking over from the solar panels when there is rainy weather. The Dreckmeyrs have a solar panel array that tracks the sun, which increases energy collection by about 40% and warns of any problems remotely.

Dreckmeyr advises that South Africans go off the grid as soon as possible and stresses that they have a responsibility to take some of the load off of Eskom because the institution “simply isn’t coping”.

But he warns South Africans to be wary of quick fixes and cheap equipment. Although implementing these systems is a fairly simple process and much of the equipment can be bought online, failure to plan correctly could lead to wasted money and below par equipment.

“You need to plan your facility to last ten years at least, so make sure of the quality of the things that you buy. Rather pay the extra money and get something with a warranty that is proper system,” says Dreckmeyr.

South Africans that want to get off the grid should involve the experts from the get go to assist in the planning process, reducing the risk of selecting the wrong equipment. Another important step in the beginning stages is to have an analysis of the environment that covers what getting off the grid will cost and the specifications, right from purchase to installation.

Contact WestconGroup and speak to the team about Netshield’s renewable energy solutions that include getting off the grid, hybrid or Eskom Tie-In Systems.

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