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Yes, unfortunately load shedding looks to be part of life in our rainbow nation. And the situation doesn't look like it will be improving soon. This weekend was wet and cold, and Eskom still implemented stage 2 rolling blackouts nationwide. The crisis stricken utility had earlier assured South Africa it would not load shed during winter. Right now, the parastatal's promises are as unstable as the power grid.

We South African's are a resilient bunch though. You know the saying - A Boer maak a plan! So there's plenty of solutions around. From solar power to battery inverters, to generators. Each solution has pros and cons.

Solar Panels

The sun is the most amazing and abundant source of energy. So it makes sense to harness some of its freely available energy. Solar power is a clean renewable source of energy. The cost and lifespan of solar panels is improving rapidly. The batteries needed to store the power, traditionally have not lasted more than a year or two, which increases the cost factor and made it less attractive. This is changing. There is huge investment around the world in battery technology. Popularised by Tesla in the US, which uses Lithium Ion batteries to power its cars and home battery system called Powerwall.


An inverter is also an option for backup power. Very similar to the UPS used for computers, an inverter will keep a battery bank charged through the regular electrical supply, and when power is down, converts the 12v battery voltage into 220v for home and business use. A huge advantage of inverters is the silent operation. This makes it attractive for home use and places where noise is frowned upon. But like solar panels, batteries do need to be maintained every few years or the backup time deteriorates drastically.


Generators, whether petrol or diesel powered, have been around for longer than most other backup power systems. It remains one of the easiest and cost effective ways of combatting load shedding. Yes, burning diesel releases harmful gas into the atmosphere. But keep in mind, that a generator is not intended to run 24/7. It serves merely to keep your business or home running for the hours when Eskom cuts your supply, usually 2 ½ to 3 hours. In this timeframe, the environmental damage done by running your generator is minimal in the broader picture.

There are of course a few points to consider when deciding on a generaor.

1) Not all generators are equal. Especially in our current energy crisis, there are a growing number of new generator suppliers and brands flooding our market. You should check out the supplier’s track record. Ask for references. Even Google their brands. You don’t want to find out later, that your shiny new Samsung HD plasma has been fried by a surging generator.

2) Ensure you get an ECA (Electrical Contractors’ Association) accredited installer to wire up your generator. Fitting a generator is not a simple plug and play procedure. You want to ensure that the correct standards are followed. Unfortunately, electrical contractors are notorious for taking short cuts at times. We’ve seen our fair share of dodgy wiring.

3) If you opt for a portable generator, ensure that the unit is waterproof when in use. It could be a simple shelter constructed for this purpose.

4) Very important to have adequate ventilation for the exhaust fumes. The combustion engine produces toxic carbon monoxide and can be lethal in an enclosed area.

5) Lastly, if you store extra fuel for your generator, please use an approved jerry can made specifically for fuel. Keeping fuel in regular plastic containers or Coke bottles is dangerous, as the plastic degrades and will leak fumes.

That’s it for now. Let us know if we’ve missed any tips. And don’t forget, we’ve been doing this kind of work for 35 years, so send us a message if you require a backup generator for your business or home.


Published in Power News