Your questions about photo-voltaic electricity answered

Your questions about photo-voltaic electricity answered

It’s the ultimate dream for every homeowner—being able to produce enough electricity to run your home without ever relying on the grid. The benefits to homeowners are twofold. First, it can significantly reduce your monthly electricity bill. Second, you’ll never be without power. Even if the grid goes down, your appliances and lights will carry on working.

Existing homes can also be retro-fitted with a photo-voltaic system, although this may incur some additional costs. We’ll look at what’s involved, how the system works and what costs and saving you can expect from using such solar power.

What is a photo-voltaic system?

Essentially, photo-voltaic means harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into electricity that can be used to power your home. The system can be independent or work in conjunction with your existing electricity supply. It consists of the following components:

  • Solar panels
  • An inverter (which converts direct current (DC) power from the solar panels into alternating current (AC) for powering appliances
  • Batteries to store electricity which is not used immediately (these are for when the sun isn’t shining)

While there are currently no incentives offered to homeowners who install such a system, this may change in the future. And it may be possible that local councils will purchase electricity back from homeowners as more people install these systems in their homes. In other words, installing a photo-voltaic system in your home will not just save you money, but earn you money too.

What do you need and how does it work?

These are the main components of any photo-voltaic system:

  • Solar panels

The solar panels are made up of a series of cells that convert the power of the sun into electricity you can use in your home. They are often installed on the roof where they can capture the most sunlight during daylight hours. They are made from semi-conductor materials such as silicon. When light strikes the surface of the panel, the energy penetrates the cells and dislodges electrons from the material’s surface. Chemicals added to the surface of the panel help to create a path for the electrons to travel down. And this is what creates an electrical current.

  • DC-AC inverter: This device converts the electrical current into one that can be used to power the appliances in your home.
  • Solar storage batteries: Considering our sunny climate it is possible to generate more electricity than you need during the day. In this case, batteries can be used to store the excess electricity generated, ensuring that you have an uninterrupted and constant supply of power whenever you need it.
  • Charge controller/regulator: These prevent excessive discharge or overcharging which may damage the storage battery.

The system is a simple but effective way on powering your home for free.  But there are two different systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Solar Power Systems

Either of these systems is suitable for the home or office. Which one you chose will depend on your needs. They are:

The stand-alone solar power system

This system only consists of two components: the solar panels and the DC/AC converter. It’s a popular choice for powering ventilation fans, water pumps and with small circulation pumps with solar water heating systems.

Because it doesn’t include batteries, there is no way to store the power generated for use when there is no direct sunlight. So it’s worth considering adding batteries to your solar panel that will allow you to store energy for use during periods of insufficient sunlight.

The grid-connected hybrid power system

This kind of system works hand-in-hand with your regular supply of grid power. Because the inverter changes the current of the photo-voltaic solar panels from DC to AC, the electricity is consistent with the voltage and power quality requirements of the grid. Therefore the self-generated electricity is automatically either supplied to the home, the batteries or the grid.

When it generates more electricity than the home needs, and the batteries are fully loaded, the system feeds power back into the grid. It also means that you will still have a supply of power, from the batteries to your home when your panels aren’t producing power due to lack of sunlight, or if it has been disabled to carry out repairs or is being serviced, in which case it either draws power from the batteries or the grid; based on the lower threshold of the batteries, or which part of the system is being repaired or serviced.

The automation ensures optimal use of the self-generated and grid electricity of the hybrid system.

Determining the size of the system you require

A photo-voltaic system can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. The first step in determining whether the long term savings it offers are worth it, is to figure out how much energy you need to run your home comfortably. This is how you should go about it:

  • Make a list of all the electrical appliances you use, how many watts they need to work and how many hours you use them every day.
  • Now multiply the number of watts by hours of use to get the total needed for each appliance.
  • Add these figures together and you’ll have the total number of watts your system needs to generate on a daily basis.
  • Work out how many hours of daylight you get every day.
  • Finally, divide the total watts you require by the number of daylight hours and you’ll have a figure that indicates how many watts your system needs to produce on a daily basis.

Let’s use your TV as an example. Say you watch about 2 hours of TV every evening, and it uses about 14 Watts, multiply that by 2 and you end up with 28 Watts to run your TV. You’ll need to do this calculation for every appliance in your home.

And let’s say that you work out your home needs an average of 3000 Watts a day to keep all these appliances working. If you get an average of 4.3 hours of daylight, then divide the 3000 Watts by 4.3 and you’ll need a solar panel system that can deliver at least 698 Watts to power your home without relying on the national grid.

Remember, if you use your solar panels in conjunction with the main grid, you can start small and add more panels as you can afford them. This way you can start reaping the benefits of solar power without spending a large amount of money.

And if you consider how much a photo-voltaic system will save on your monthly electricity bill, it won’t be long before you can afford to increase your system to cope with your demands.

Photo-voltaic Solar Panel Installation

If you don’t have the required technical skills, it is best to leave the installation of your solar panel system to the experts. A company that is properly accredited will be able to install the system correctly and safely.

You have three different options when it comes to installing the solar panels:

  • Ground mounted solar panels
  • Roof mounted solar panels
  • Thin film solar panels

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Whether you are buying a green home with this feature or retro-fitting an existing home, you’ll need to consider the cost and practicality of each system before you make a decision. Here is some more information about each kind of installation to help you:

  • Ground mounted solar panels

In this case the solar panels are fastened to the ground, and you have a few more options to choose from:

  • Static Mounted System:This is the most cost-effective type of installation, provided you have the space for it. The panels are mounted in a position to capture the maximum amount of sunlight.
  • Active Solar Tracker:These panels actively track the sun during the day to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.
  • Passive Solar Tracker:This system uses heat from the sun to move a liquid inside the tracker from side to side. So gravity does the work of moving the panels and it eliminates the need for motors, gears and controls. This makes it slightly cheaper than an active solar tracker.

Ground mounted solar panels are ideal if you have a large area of unused land. You can install more panels and enjoy higher savings. And you don’t have to make any changes to rooftop to accommodate the panels.

  • Roof mounted solar panels

You can mount photo-voltaic solar panels on just about any kind of roof, although tiled roofs can present a bit of a challenge. The panels are mounted directly on the roof and will not interfere with the aesthetics of your home.

They don’t take up any space on land that you may want to use for other projects and they offer additional protection from the weather and general wear and tear. This increases the value of your property. They’re also faster and easier to install than ground mounted systems.

  • Thin film solar panels

Although these aren’t more efficient at collecting sunlight than other solar panels, they have some attractive advantages. They are literally glued onto the roof which eliminates the risk of damage to your roof. They’re lighter than other panels too and in very hot climates they tend to work better than conventional panels.

The size of your property, the position of your roof, how much energy you need to generate and the installation costs all need to be taken into consideration. You should also work out how much you’ll save to determine your return on investment. You might be surprised to find that solar panels are not that expensive to install.

The benefits of a photovoltaic system

The energy generated from solar panels is a renewable resource. Unlike coal and gas it will never run out and you’ll enjoy free electricity for at least 25 – 30 years (this is the average lifespan of a solar panel).

Solar panels provide a safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly form of power for your home. It doesn’t produce any harmful emissions and you’ll never have to suffer the inconvenience of a power blackout again. With the savings it generates, you’ll have more money to spend down the line as the cost of electricity continues to rise.

Light, heat and power have become a part of our modern lives. Without a steady supply of electricity we cannot work, cook, communicate or play. Unfortunately, increasing demand from businesses and individuals is placing a strain on our national grid. Not only can the national supplier not cope with this demand, but it is also forcing the price of electricity up all the time.

There has never been a better time to invest in this green technology. You will quickly recover your initial costs in the form of regular savings on your monthly running costs. And you can always start small and increase the number of panels as you can afford them. 

Your DIY home energy audit checklist

Your DIY home energy audit checklist

Do you know how much money you could save by going green? You may be aware that eco-friendly houses are cheaper to run. Retrofitting your existing home or buying a new eco-friendly home can be pricey. How can you be sure that the money you save will help to pay for such an expensive investment? You’ll only be able to calculate the return on your investment if you know exactly how much you’re spending to run your home now.

An energy audit will help you understand where and how you use energy in your home. Once you know that, you’ll be able to work out how much you can save by switching to green living. Or, at the very least you can identify areas where you can reduce your consumption and costs.

Although a professional energy audit will be more thorough, doing it yourself will give a rough idea of the costs and the opportunity to understand your energy consumption better. Keep this checklist handy and make notes as you go through every room in your house.

Calculating the costs of your appliances and devices

Kitchens are filled with appliances that rely on electricity, so it’s a good idea to start your energy audit here. To begin with, you’ll need to determine the wattage of your machines. You can find this information on the wattage label or check the user manual. Once you have that information, work out how many hours a day you use the appliance. For example, your fridge runs all day while your washing machine may only work for 2 – 3 hours at a time.

These are the other appliances that you should take note of:

  • Oven and stove
  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
  • Microwave
  • Kettle
  • Coffee maker
  • Toaster

Now you can start to calculate your energy consumption. For example, let’s take a washing machine with a wattage of 350 that works around 3 hours a day:

Step 1:  Multiply the unit’s wattage by the number of hours you use it to find the number of watt-hours consumed per day.

350 x 3 = 1050 watt-hours per day

Step 2:  The electricity on your monthly bill is measured in kilowatts, so you’ll need to convert your watts-per day figure. All you have to do is divide this figure by 1000.

1050/1000 = 1.05kWh per day

Step 3:  Now you need to calculate how much power your washing machine uses in a month. Just take the previous figure and multiply it by 30.

1.05 x 30 = 31.5 kWh per month

Step 4:  Use your last electricity bill to see how much you were charged per kWh. For the sake of this example, let’s use the figure of R1 per kWh.

31.5 kWh per month x R1 = R31.50 per month.

There you have it; you’ll have to perform this calculation for every appliance in the kitchen, and once you’re done you’ll have a clearer idea of how much each one contributes to your monthly energy bill.

Once you’ve finished in the kitchen, move on to your living room and work out the costs for the following items:

  • TV and decoder
  • DVD player
  • Game consoles
  • Ceiling fan
  • Music centre

If you have a study or home office, work out the costs of your equipment such as:

  • Computer
  • Laptop
  • Tablet
  • Cell phone
  • Printer
  • Fax machine

You’ll be amazed at just how many of the gadgets you own use power once you start adding them up.  These will only account for a percentage of your energy bill. You also have to account for seasonal differences. In winter, your power bill surges because you rely on heaters to keep your home warm and cosy. Don’t forget to work out the power consumption for these:

  • Heaters
  • Electric blankets

Aside from your electronic devices, there are other ways you use power that contribute to your final bill. We’ll look at these next.

Adding up the costs of lighting and heating water

Energy for lighting accounts for around 10% of your energy bill. You can work out exactly how much you spend on keeping the lights on using the same calculation as you did for your appliances. Find out the wattage of your globes and average how many hours they on every day.

When it comes to heating water for bathing and cleaning, you’ll need to work things out a little differently. The most difficult part is calculating how much hot water you use in a day. As an example, let’s assume that you shower every day.

A standard shower uses 16 – 20 litres of water a minute. If you shower for 5 minutes that means you use a total of 80 – 100 litres of water. Now you should know that it takes 1kWh to heat 36 litres of water to a temperature of 40°. So a five minute shower would use about 2.5kWh of power.

To work out the total cost of your shower we’ll assume that 1kWh costs R1—remember to check your account to see how much you pay per kWh in your area. The final calculation will look like this:

2.5KWh x R1 = R2.50 per shower

If you shower every day, multiply R2.50 by 30 to get your total for a month which would come to R75. Now multiply that number by how many people in the house shower every day.

Keep in mind that your geyser doesn’t only use electricity when you turn on the hot water tap. It uses power throughout the day so that warm water is always available. Calculating how much energy it uses when not in use gets tricky. Refer to the rating on your geyser to give you a rough idea.

Size (Litres) 25 50 75 100 150 200 250
Category Standing losses: kWh per day
A 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.9 1.0 1.0
B 0.6 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3
C 1.0 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.6 1.8 1.9
D 1.3 1.5 1.7 1.9 2.1 2.3 2.5
E 1.6 1.9 2.2 2.4 2.7 3.0 3.2
F 2.0 2.4 2.7 3.0 3.4 3.7 4.0
G 2.2 2.7 3.0 3.3 3.7 4.1 4.4

Let’s assume you have a 200 litre capacity geyser with an E energy rating. Your geyser will use approximately 3kWh per day to keep warm. Add this to the total kilowatt hours you use for showering in a month and you’ll have a total of 165kWh. At R1 per kWh your total for the month is R165.

Adding up the costs

It may take you a bit of time to work out all the costs; once you have the final figures you’ll be glad you made the effort. You’ll be able to compare the running costs of a traditional home against those offered by eco-friendly homes and see just how quickly you could recoup your investment. You’ll get tp know why greener living saves you money.

Making the change to living green

With a clear picture of your energy consumption start making small changes to your home. Try some of the following tips and then watch what a difference it will make to your next electricity bill.

  • Turn down the thermostat on your geyser: You can drop the temperature of your hot water by a few degrees and save a lot of money. You won’t really notice the difference, but you will see the results on your monthly bills.
  • Invest in a geyser blanket: They’re not that expensive and they make your geyser more efficient at retaining heat without gobbling up power.
  • Install low-flow shower heads: You’ll still get clean and enjoy your showers, and save precious water and electricity.
  • Replace your incandescent light bulbs: Switch your old-fashioned light bulbs out for energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). They last longer too.
  • Wait for a full load: Before you turn on the dishwasher or washing machine, making sure you have a full load of dishes or laundry. Don’t waste power and water on small loads; rather do them by hand if you can’t wait.
  • Skip the pre-rinse cycle: Again, this applies to your dishwasher and your washing machine. Unless your dishes or clothes are heavily soiled, there’s no need to rinse them before you wash them.
  • Don’t make your fridge too cold: Though you need to stop your food from spoiling, you don’t have to set your fridge to the coldest temperature available. That will only increase its power consumption.
  • Don’t waste cold water: Collect the cold water when you run the hot tap and use it for your kettle or watering your garden.
  • Switch off at the plug: Don’t leave your electronic devices plugged in when you aren’t using them or charging them. Even in standby mode they’ll use small amounts of electricity. This contributes to your bill at the end of the month.
  • Insulate your home: To reduce your heating costs in the colder months, make sure your house is properly insulated. Seal up the gaps in window and door frames to keep the heat inside.

All it really takes is being mindful about the way you use power in your home. Once you know the true costs, it will be easier to adopt habits that can help you save. Green living isn’t just for the eco-conscious. Saving resources and money benefits everyone, even the planet.

The benefits of eco-friendly houses

If you’re serious about reducing your living expenses you’ll find that it’s worth investing in eco-friendly homes. They are purpose built to make the most of natural resources such as sunlight and rainwater. They take greener living to the next level with features such as photovoltaic solar panels and rainwater harvesting tanks. They make living green just as comfortable because they’re fully insulated and use a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.

Eco-friendly homes require less maintenance and are cheaper to run. Your initial investment is much higher, though with the money you save on monthly costs, paying it off won’t be as long as you may think. If you try out some of the tips above, you’ll see immediately that greener living makes a difference to your pocket. And with eco-friendly homes, you save even more.

Another advantage of green living that you rely less on the grid for power and water. When load shedding or water restrictions happen—your impact will be less. That’s something people don’t always factor in about green living. It is more cost effective, mot comfortable and more convenient than living in a traditional home.

Try the home energy audit for yourself. Though it takes a little effort, you’ll be glad you did it. Even if you’re not ready to make the move to an eco-friendly house just yet, you’ll find ways to save on energy while still living comfortably. Going green isn’t about making sacrifices. It’s about finding ways to use resources wisely. Get the most out of your electricity supply and save! 

Which features should we look for in a green smart home?

Which features should we look for in a green smart home?

A green smart home is one that combines both eco-friendly features and technologies with smart home technologies. The concept is still new to the South African market, and offers various benefits for savvy homebuyers. Not only is a green smart home energy efficient and cost-effective, the addition of a smart home technology system makes it easy to monitor and efficiently manage the green smart home feature’s resource consumption to maximise the monthly savings.

With only a few of these homes on the market, here are some cost-effective features making them sound investments.

Energy Efficiency

We would expect an eco-friendly home to be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels. Energy-efficiency is at the top of the list when shopping for a green home. It’s not essential for all of our power needs to be provided for by a photovoltaic solar system. Research concluded that a grid-tied system is the most practical solution. A grid-tied system provides the homeowner with a balance of energy-efficiency and energy-reliability.

Although the technology has come a long way, photovoltaic systems are still pricey. To install a fully off-the-grid system would require a hefty initial investment. That’s partly due to the fact that we would need to add either more photovoltaic panels or more batteries. Either of these require installation space. Batteries are used to store the power generated by the panels during the day to power the home at night. And also power the home when the sun is blocked out for extended periods. It’s these additional photovoltaic and specialised batteries that are pricey.

A grid-tied system is recommended. During the day, the photovoltaic solar panels provide free electricity. Once the sun sets, the system automatically switches over to the backup batteries. When the batteries reach the lower threshold, the system, again automatically switches over to the municipal supply. To make provision for when tiered electricity tariffs are introduced, the system design especially caters for using the home’s own energy during peak periods – approx. 05h00 to 08h00 and 17h30 to 19h30, so we enjoy an uninterrupted supply of power, for free, or at the lowest service provider tiered prices. Furthermore, another design feature is to feedback into the grid the excess self-generated power.

Combining a heat pump and the linked-loop hotwater system, enables you to have hot water throughout the home immediately on tap. Heat pumps are remarkably efficient. They require very little energy to heat up the water in the tank. Producing hot water is a large part of the electricity consumption. Using an alternative, such as a heat pump dramatically reduces energy consumption and thus the home’s monthly running costs.

Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling

Traditional homes rely on energy-hungry appliances to maintain the temperature inside the home at a comfortable level. In winter we drag out heaters and electric blankets while in summer we switch on air-conditioners to provide relief from the soaring temperatures. Or possibly use air-conditioners all year round. Installing a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system consists of a network of pipes which is used to take hot or cold water to maintain desired temperatures. [The heat pump also produces the cold water.]

We’re able to monitor and manage the system by setting a comfortable temperature, as and when required.. Each of the home’s zone’s temperature is individually adjustable to provide their required temperature and comfort. The system is energy-efficient and effective. In winter, it’s possible to walk barefoot on the warm tiles. This simply isn’t possible in a traditional home without resorting to expensive underfloor heating or air-conditioning that uses a significant amount of electricity.

Once again, this demonstrates luxurious green living, which focusses on comfort while using resource efficiently, thereby reducing monthly running costs. Eco-friendly homes are designed to use resources efficiently. Such homes are more expensive to purchase, though over the long-term, the benefit of momentous monthly savings on power make green smart homes sound investments. This is particularly attractive when considering that prices for these basic services will continue to rise.

Water saving

With South Africa currently experiencing its worst drought in 23 years, saving water ia a priority. Having access to fresh, clean water is a large part of what makes our modern lives comfortable. Take a moment to consider how many different ways we use water in our home every day; for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning.

Eco-friendly homes use a variety of methods to reduce water consumption. This includes the use of low-flow shower heads and taps to rainwater harvesting used to flush toilets, for the washing machine, and garden irrigation. These features improve comfort or convenience.

The rainwater harvesting tanks cab be installed underground so that it doesn’t take up valuable space. The tank is well-constructed and not prone to damage or leaking. The roof gutters and slab downpipes channel water to the tank. The design maximises the collection and storing of rainfall in the area. This is an example of how eco-friendly homes work with the environment.

The tank itself requires almost no maintenance as it is equipped with self-cleaning filters. The rainwater management system is connected to the municipal supply to ensure a constant supply of water. The rainwater management system switches over automatically, from rainwater to municipal water and vice versa..

It’s always a good idea to increase water savings by completing your home with a water-wise garden. A water-wise garden is one that uses indigenous plants that are accustomed to local weather conditions. These native plants are able to withstand dry periods and local insects as opposed to foreign plants. The garden has almost no lawn, instead it contains well designed walkways, reducing the amount of water needed to maintain the garden. Aforementioned makes for a garden that is easier to maintain and to care for.

Smart home technology

While the green features are effective on their own, the addition of a smart home technology system serves to enhance them. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, the heat pump, the rainwater harvesting and the water pump can be connected to the software. This provides you with two important abilities:

  • The ability to monitor consumption

Information is a powerful tool and with smart technology we have instant access to the home’s data. The system constantly collects information about power consumption and the level in the water tank. These are available at a glance – how much electricity and water is being using. This is available for right now, and back over time, for the current day, weeks, months and years

Without a smart home technology system, it is impossible to gather this type of information manually. And it provides us with an accurate, up-to-minute picture of how much electricity and rainwater we’re using. With this information, we’re able to make important decisions.

For example, though the effects of adjusting the Hydronics temperature is completed within 24-72 hours, we’ll immediately see the effect that reducing or increasing the temperature inside the home has on the power consumption. This enables us to adjust the temperature with a half or full degree to balance the comfort with the power consumption, instead of waiting for 24 – 72 hours. Imagine how useful this is when working out how much energy and money it takes to run our home? Not only does it increase our monthly savings, it also makes our home energy-efficient.

  • The ability to manage our home remotely

The beauty of the smart home technology is that it comes with an app. With the ability  to monitor and manage your home from within the home and remotely. You are able to install and run the app from your smartphones, tablets, and computers.

In an age where we’re increasingly using our smart devices and laptops, it stands to reason this convenience is extended to our homes. And with further customisation, the green smart technology is able to provide other conveniences.

It is possible to extend the system to include some of the other features too which include security and convenience. It is flexible, powerful and focused on reducing the monthly running costs. Simply being able to monitor and manage adjusting various aspects of the home makes it easy for homeowners to efficiently manage their home. As aforementioned, like having the ability to balance electricity consumption comfort and cost.

It is best to seamlessly blend the best of both green technologies and smart home technology and work with the environment to create a space that is eco-friendly and luxurious.

The grid-tied solar panels with the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system and the underground rainwater harvesting tank maximises the use the available resources. And the smart home technology system adds an extra layer of monitoring, managing and customisation creating a home that is eco-friendly and ahead of its time.

Investing in a green smart home provides us with instant savings on our monthly running costs and additional savings in the future as costs rise. It’s a home that increases in value as more people realise the benefit of living in a green smart home.

Jex Energy Photovoltaic Electricity Transcript

Jex Energy Photovoltaic Electricity Transcript

Jex Energy

Title: Transcript of Interview with Jonathan Harf, CEO of Jex Energy
Presented by: Emmanuel van der Meulen
Guest Speaker: Jonathan Harf
Date: 9 May 2017
Number of Speakers: 2
File Duration: 11:48
Transcriptionist: Jacqui Jonk

Links are at the end of the transcript.

Transcript Breakdown:
00:01 Introduction to Radio Live Green Smart
00:54 Introduction to alternative energy sources
01:57 What is solar energy?
02:33 Start of interview with Jonathan Harf
06:36 Three options for solar power
08:43 Benefits of solar power to the domestic user
11:43 Wrap Up

00:01 Beginning of recorded material, Introduction to Radio Live Green Smart:

Emmanuel:

[Righto] so I’m just going to give a short introduction and then I’ll come back to you.

Jonathan: Ok

Emmanuel: Welcome to Radio Live Green Smart and to our interview this evening with Jonathan Harf, of Jex Energy. I’m the presenter Emmanuel, and a little bit of background on Radio Live Green Smart: it’s a forum to discuss green living and eco-friendly living and importantly a forum to discuss where you see any disrespect for the environment first hand. Bring such disrespect to us, we’ll assist to expose that environmental disrespect, use the contact us form to send the details of the disrespect, please provide comprehensive information.

00:54 Introduction to alternative energy sources.

Tonight’s talk is about alternative energy sources, most of the worlds current [electric] electricity supply is produced from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. These traditional energy sources have various challenges including but not [limit] limited to rising prices, growing environmental concerns over the climate changes and limited supply of fossil fuels. As a result, governments, businesses and consumers are increasingly supporting the development of alternative energy sources. [Renewed] renewable energy sources such as solar, biomass, geo thermal, hydroelectric and wind power generation have emerged as potential alternatives which address some of these concerns. Top

01:57 What is solar energy?

What is solar energy? Solar energy refers to energy from the sun. The sun has produced energy for billions of years [it is most] it is the most important source of energy for life forms. Solar energy technologies use the suns energy to light our homes, produce hot water, heat homes as shown in solar tankless water heater reviews and electricity. Top

02:33 Start of interview with Jonathan Harf.

Emmanuel: Jonathan is joining us

Jonathan: Yes

Emmanuel: and he’ll be talking about Jex Energy and how they look at renewable solutions. Jonathan my first question is tell us about yourself and Jex Energy and what do you do? Top

Jonathan: Ok sure, well what we do exactly is pretty much what you were going on about there, is we supply and [insall] install renewable solutions, renewable energy solutions predominantly for residential and commercial, [um] as the need is arising we moving more into the industrial sector too. What our aim [is] is to really reduce the carbon footprint and have people less reliant on the normal utilities, fossil fuels what not.

Emmanuel: Ok, [what um]what would be interesting [um] especially from our point of view as well: why should people switch to solar power?

Jonathan: Well it’s a very good question [um] very simple answer. The people are using up the fossil fuels at a dramatic rate and it is really destroying our planet. That would-be option [well] reason number 1 to kind of go green. [um] reason 2 [inaudible] the growth of the solar market worldwide has seen a huge reduction in the price of solar panels, solar grid tie inverters, it is really becoming a cost-effective way to move over. You must remember that in South Africa [um] our electricity price is still relatively low compared to a lot of the rest of the world, so the quicker people here can move over to solar energy the better for them from a cost saving point.

Emmanuel: Yeah, just before we move on, I’m curious, are you finding traction? Are you finding a little bit of resistance? Is the market buying into this still in a small way or in a big way? How do you find the market?

Jonathan: I’ll tell you something, we’ve been doing this now for 6 years, for the first 4 years there was a lot of resistance[um] people were very hesitant, the prices were high, which did cause this obviously.

Emmanuel: OK

Jonathan: In the last 2 years, this industry has literally boomed, [it’s um] we are just getting requests from every sector in the market which is brilliant.

Emmanuel: Ok, even domestic dwellings?

Jonathan: Even domestic, and that now has also come down to the fact of the drop in the prices of batteries as well as the technology increasing [um] Tesler have released their Powerwall 2 which we are installers and suppliers of,  and that battery is really changing the way people can live.

Emmanuel: Ok, is that the life of the battery or is that the cost or both? [inaudible]

Jonathan: It’s the life and the cost. They’ve been able to increase the life and reduce the cost.

Emmanuel: Ok I understand [righto]. [uh] Jonathan and then what are the different solar power solutions available either in the market or from your company?

Jonathan: Sure, so and in the market at the moment you would look at 3 different options. Top

6:10 cuts out

Emmanuel: Hello are you there? Hello?

Jonathan: There’s obviously [inaudible] hello can you hear me?

Emmanuel: You were out a little bit, just give [inaudible] please Jonathan.

Jonathan: Ok

Emmanuel: Jonathan sorry, suddenly something has gone wonky, [um] you come and go. Shall we just try again?

Jonathan: Can you hear me now?

Emmanuel: Yes, I hear you well. Top

06:36 Three options for solar power.

Jonathan: Ok, alright, so your first option would be a grid tied system, this is have solar panels and a grid tied inverter, there’s no backup or battery storage with this system [uh] typically this is a cost saving system. The only drawback obviously is that you don’t get any benefit at night time. We find this system typically used in commercial situations where they are using most of their power during the day; that being said there is space for it in the domestic area.

The next system would be what you would call your hybrid system, this would be a system typically where you would have a battery bank as well as solar panels and an inverter. The solar panels would feed the house or the offices during the day, the inverter then would change some of that solar power into storable energy into your batteries. This would be then either used on a daily or nightly basis, just a small amount not to drain the batteries or used as a backup, say for example there’s load shedding or a power outage.

And the last system is a complete off-grid system this is where you do not have any grid, any Eskom grid or any power grid and we design a system around that. We’ve done quite a lot of systems for game parks and those sorts of situations where it’s too expensive for [inaudible] Eskom line [inaudible] completely off solar energy and batteries.

Emmanuel: OK and that must be the expensive one?

Jonathan: [ah] yes that is quite pricey, although as I said as technology increases, these systems are really becoming a reality. [um] Elon Musk with Tesler, they’ve set up an entire island, one of the islands of Hawaii, that are running completely off  grid.

Emmanuel: OK, so it’s not impossible?

Jonathan: No, not at all.

Emmanuel: OK, [righto] thank you for those insights.

Jonathan: Sure.

Emmanuel: Then if we can take it a step further and maybe you can cover the domestic [uh] dwellings as well [uh] as well as the industry but also let’s look at the [indus, uh] the domestic user. What are the benefits of the solar power? Top

08:43 Benefits of solar power to the domestic user.

Jonathan: Well firstly obviously, it’s the cost saving, so [um] although the pay back is still relatively long, [um] if you factor in Eskom increases, as you know are quite ridiculous sometimes there is definitely a cost saving. Another big thing is that you no so reliant on one sort of power source, the utility, whoever it is.

Emmanuel: Yeah

Jonathan: So, it really lets you be a bit more free if you will [uh] obviously we also a green company so we believe in reducing your carbon footprint and all those sort of things.

Emmanuel: [inaudible] yeah OK. Just on the [the] grid tied that you mentioned a moment ago.

Jonathan: Yes

Emmanuel: What happens if the system produces more electricity than the house or the office dwelling actually uses.

Jonathan: Very [very] good question. So, at the moment is South Africa there’s only 1 or about 3 or 4 municipalities that allow for feedback into the grid and you get [you get] a credit in your account. There is a push now, Tshwane municipality have sort of passed it through legislation, so it will just take a bit of time and they are also going to allow for it. It [it] is a reality that it has to happen especially as our grid is under so much strain this would allow for energy to becoming back to them, even if we not getting paid the full amount you’ll still get a credit. All over the world they allow for feedback into the grid, however in places where it’s not allowed yet we do put something on called a grid tie limiter which just prevents that feedback for now but in the near future hopefully all the municipalities will follow suit.

Emmanuel: Ok so there is uptake? I take it when you started your business [inaudible] that there were no municipalities buying back?

Jonathan: None

Emmanuel: Now there are. OK

Jonathan: Yes

Emmanuel: OK so there is a growth but slow. [uh] are you there Jonathan?

Jonathan: I’m here yes [yes].

Emmanuel: The other question is, what are your most popular solutions?

Jonathan: Our most popular solutions right now I would say in the domestic market would be our hybrid solution, as I mentioned it has solar panels as well as a battery bank so you are getting the best of both worlds [um] we set up these systems in such a way that we try get people say 80-90% off grid with them.

Emmanuel: OK

Jonathan: So, it can be quiet a big saving to a lot of people. On the commercial side its definitely our grid tied system where companies are now looking at a 3-year payback on their system.

Emmanuel: As quick as that? Wow.

Jonathan: As quick as that yes. Top

11:43 Wrap Up

Emmanuel: [inaudible] OK righty [um] Is there maybe anything else you want to cover? I’m drawing towards the end of…

Links:

www.livegreensmart.com

www.free-the-grid.co.za/

End of Transcript Top

Do green smart homes offer a sound return on investment?

Do green smart homes offer a sound return on investment?

When owning an eco-friendly home we’ll command a premium when the time comes to sell. Investing in a green home will not only save money while living in it, it will increase in value with each years. Future buyers will be better educated about the benefits of greener living and actively seek out homes that already have green features. Even seek out purpose built eco-friendly homes. And with the added benefits of smart home technology, the value increases even further. Buyers will come to expect eco-friendly homes combined with smart home technology.

What is smart home technology?

Smart home technology refers to the use of computers to manage functions and features of a green home such as the electricity consumption, heating, cooling and the water usage. Such homes are referred to green smart homes. The smart technology infrastructure includes that the home’s data is easily accessed from a smartphone app or computer. The smart technology enables the monitoring and managing of a smart home from our smartphone or computer.

This enables that we efficiently manage our green smart home from within the home or from remotely. It makes running our home convenient and adds an extra layer of security to our property. With some systems, it is even possible to set schedules for lighting and the home’s temperature. Or, we’re able to rely on sensors to automate certain features. For example, before leaving the office, we’re able to turn on the lights so we arrive home to a bright house. Or, a sensor could detect the morning sun and automatically open the blinds and curtains, and the converse in the evening.

What is a green smart home?

Smart technology infrastructure is the foundation of a green smart home. Because, along with making it convenient to manage the green features, the smart system enables us to monitor various main features, like the energy and water consumption. Smart home technology continuously collects data of the home. This data is used to maximise the efficiency of all the features of the home. The efficiency translates to increased savings of the monthly running costs. And as the cost of basic services continues to rise, we enjoy greater savings without having to change our lifestyle. In addition, with a green smart home, luxury features are implemented in the most cost effective way. For instance, such a home is constructed taking many things into account. The green smart home being fully temperature controlled throughout the year with the electrical costs even multiple times lower than the traditional home equivalent, while sporting the luxury of being fully temperature controlled.

How do green smart homes increase our return on investment?

Eco-friendly homes are more expensive than traditional ones. That’s because they include features that cost more to implement during the building phase. And, the value of a green home lies in the fact that our monthly utility costs are significantly reduced. The money that we save every month on electricity and water is available to, for instance, put towards paying off our home.

And this is how green smart homes increase our monthly savings:

  • Tracking our power consumption

The smart home system can be connected to a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system and heat pump. Both of these features use electricity efficiently. And because we can track our energy consumption over days, weeks, months and years, we have a clearer picture of exactly how much energy our home uses.

If we raise the temperature of our home in winter, within minutes, we are able to see the impact this has on our costs. We then have the option to make an informed decisions about our comfort level versus the costs involved. With a smartphone app, we are able to log in to the system at any time and make adjustments to the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. Though reducing the temperature by half a degree or by one degree would not make much difference to our comfort levels, it would in fact make a significant difference to the cost of running the system.

The same applies to the heat pump. Hot water accounts for a significant portion of our monthly electricity bill. A heat pump uses electricity efficiently, so it already saves us money. When adding a linked-loop system, we have hot water on tap, which saves on water. Instead of running the tap for what feels like minutes while waiting for the hot water to reach the required temperature, the water is instead at the temperature you need within seconds.

With traditional geysers, adjusting the thermostat is cumbersome, which is why most people set it and forget it. We’re able to reduce our electricity usage by adjusting the temperature every season. We don’t need the water to be as hot in summer as in winter. And with a green smart home, it’s easy to adjust the temperature from our smartphone. Plus, we’ll be able to see immediately how dialing the temperature down a few degrees impacts our electricity consumption.

Once again, we’re able to monitor and manage our power consumption while maintaining our comfort. People generally don’t realise that greener living is luxury living. Imagine, living luxuriously, while saving money. Having full access to monitor every element and every feature of our home empowers to make choices and to manage our home efficiently, and to maximise the savings of our monthly running costs.

As we use the smart home technology to track our power consumption, we increase our understanding of how our lifestyle impacts our home’s running costs. Over time, we’re able to identify patterns and budget accordingly. Or, find new ways to reduce our consumption and be able to track the results. Simply being aware of our energy consumption makes a big difference to the way we live. It encourages us to use energy wisely, save money, while incidentally easing the strain on the municipal supply and the planet. It’s all about balance.

Smart home technology adds value

The features discussed above have already been implemented in some green homes. The aforementioned are some of the benefits of smart home technology. Expanding the system is possible and includes other features and benefits of the green smart homes such as:

  • Security: Add an alarm to the system which works with motion sensors. When the alarm is set off, it triggers the blinds to open, switches on lights and play loud music. This takes the intruder by surprise. Having an alarm system will also lower our insurance premiums and again we save money.
  • Setting schedules: By developing the smart home technology system further, to set schedules for the lighting and blinds. For example, turning the lights on shortly before arriving home at night. Although a new technology, we’re able to add many features to the smart home system.
  • Remote control: By adding additional sensors to appliances, we’re able to set the washing machine or dishwasher to run while out of peak period. Smart home technology offers us the ability to interact with our home, even when we aren’t there.

When selling our green smart home, we’ll have more to offer potential buyers than what a traditional home offers. The green features alone already add tremendous value to our home. Future buyers will be more aware of how much they’ll save while living in a green home. From a cost-effective Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, to underground rainwater harvesting tanks, buyers will appreciate that a green smart home saves them money from the moment they move in.

Combined with the smart home technology, we’re offering buyers a modern, luxurious lifestyle that contributes to their saving from when they move in. We have already become dependent on our smartphones for access to information, and smart home technology does the same for our green homes. Tech savvy buyers will appreciate this added levels of information that the system offers. And once we’ve experienced it for ourselves, we’ll be able to show them why it’s valuable.

Save now and increase our return on investment

By combining green living and smart home technology, we push the energy-efficiency of our homes. We’ll gain a deeper understanding of our power consumption, and have at our finger tips features that make our lives comfortable. With the knowledge, it’s easy to implement other features to further increase our comfort and savings. That’s money to put towards paying off our home faster, thereby investing for our children’s future and for our retirement.

After experiencing all the benefits of living in a green smart home, we’ll get a good return on our investment when selling our green smart home on. Green homes are not common in South Africa. Studies in the USA have already shown that green home owners command a higher price for their property. And by adding smart home technology to the mix, we increase the value of our homes even more.

With that in mind, it certainly makes sense to consider investing in a green smart home. Property has always been considered a sound investment. We’re able to maximise the value of that investment by looking at green smart homes.

South Africans are already aware of the benefits of greener living. Some new residential developments have added green features. That’s because they know they’ll save on monthly running costs and are less dependent on the utility service providers. The rising costs of electricity and water have contributed to this and it’s likely that costs of these basic services will continue to increase.

Buying any property will be the biggest financial decision we ever make. By choosing wisely, and investing in a green smart home, we’ll save money now and reap the rewards of a good return on our investment in time to come. Green smart homes offer us more financial benefits than traditional properties ever will.