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Cal
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I have been fortunate in that my suburb never had loadshedding, however this has just changed. I have absolutely no clue where to start  and even reading the posts is like trying to understand a foreign language. I’m a single woman so my priority is ensuring my alarm stays on, my electric gates and garage work and some lights in the house. I also need a system that is extremely user friendly. Ideally I shouldn’t have to do anything or worry about anything blowing up. As I cannot foresee that loadshedding is ever going to stop I don’t mind spending the money if I know everything will work and I won’t have to maintain anything. Please could you suggest what route I should go. Solar? Invertor?  I live in PE so if you have any recommendations of companies I could trust to work with that would be great. 

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I am a novice but let me try and explain the physical work from my point of view.

Any inverter and battery system is basically a UPS.  A battery backup system in case of power failure.
If you add solar then you have a second power source (grid or solar or both). Use solar power and reduce eskom usage.

1) A basic system or loose standing system is a UPS that plugs into the wall and the emergency items are plugged into the UPS (Don't think this is feasible in your case)

2) The UPS or inverter/batteries connected to your house electrical DB. The required backup circuits will be relocated to a new DB downstream from the inverter and these will remain powered during loadshedding (same as UPS). You can also increase the size of such a system to include more circuits such as tv, computers, fridges, mobile phone charging, etc. Or decide how big you want to go.  The heavy load items such as geyser, oven, etc remain upstream of the inverter in the main DB and lose power in case of loadshedding.

3) Same as 2 above but add some solar panels.  This will reduce your electrical bill proportional to how many circuits you put in the backup DB or on the inverter .

4) Go with a hybrid inverter. If you decide on installing solar panels then a hybrid can push power downstream to the backup circuits and also upstream to the normal DB or grid connected circuits. Make use of the most of the solar power or maximize saving on electricity savings.  Such a system is normally over R100k

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8 hours ago, Cal said:

 my alarm stays on, my electric gates and garage work and some lights in the house. I also need a system that is extremely user friendly. Ideally I shouldn’t have to do anything or worry about anything blowing up.

You can approach this issue quite simply by identifying what facilities you need to keep running during power outages.

Your alarm, gates and garage door probably have a battery backup already so they should work (limited) during power outages. If not let us know what isn't working..

This forum unfortunately focuses on big and expensive systems. This is not necessary most of the time. What you need to identify is what needs to kept running during outages and tackle that list one by one. It amazes me how (intelligent) people can't get this right. If you're not sure wait until there's an outage and write down what bugs you the most! 

Edited by Richard Mackay
grammar!
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7 hours ago, Pietpower said:

Any inverter and battery system is basically a UPS.

UPS: Uninterruptable Power Supply; a box with a power outlet for your computer or whatever, a source of power (usually a normal plug but it might be wired in specially), and it has a battery inside to keep the power flowing to the outlet if the power source fails. Of course, if the power source is interrupted for too long, then the battery runs out and the power outlet does get interrupted, but it's a great marketing term.

I just thought that when trying to explain things to a beginner, you should not use an unexplained acronym in the first sentence 👩‍🎓

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31 minutes ago, Richard Mackay said:

You can approach this issue quite simply by identifying what facilities you need to keep running during power outages.

Yes it is a start although the user requirements and system design goes hand in hand and the user don't know till they get quotes.

Many list what they want and then receive a quote way more expensive than they anticipated and then reduce their requirements.
Sometimes it is the opposite. User wants the basics and then realise they can do a bit more than they expected for the same budget.

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Hi Cal

I understand where you are coming from. I have a wife that knows nothing about electrical systems and wants everything essential to work during load shedding.

For the things to work as you have mentioned unfortunately there is no simple quick fix. I will only suggest the route to take as you have no knowledge on the systems.

1. Make a list of all the essentials needed during load shedding or power outage. As stated in earlier post your gate motor, alarm, and garage door open should have battery backup which should be sufficient.

2. That does not leave you with a whole lot of essentials. I would suggest you add or split 1 separate plug circuit to run a microwave which can cook food and boil water etc which runs at 1kw or less. You can also run a tv, computer, dstv, phone charger and modem together from this circuit (not to be used for kettle or any other heating devices). Add a separate circuit for lights. All of these together should add up to less than 3kw.

3. For the above you would need a 3kw off grid inverter with backup batteries. The amount of batteries depend on the time needed and load. ( 2 x 200ahr 12v batteries for a 24v system)

The db board would need to be split for this to make it easy to use. This would have to be done by a qualified electrician. 

The system can be wired in such a way that the system automatically switches over during load shedding.

4. You can get quotes from different companies. I cannot suggest any as I am not from PE.

5. You could also run off a generator which is less expensive however this would be not as simple to use and will not be automatic switchover. 

I hope this will help you.

 

Edited by Peter Topp
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My experience with battery backups for gate motors, garage doors and alarm systems are that they are never sufficient.  They are often designed to just last long enough and charge slowly.  This often means they drain too far and after a year or two you need to replace them. Several batteries in different systems becomes a hassle when you have call out a technician each time a battery fails.

Increasing battery capacity for each might solve the problem but not keeping the light on.  Adding an inverter system and centralised batteries for lights then you might as well add these battery backup systems to the new inverter system.

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Plenty of people I know (myself included) started off with small little UPS systems to power their essentials. These little systems work great and are fully automatic.

Here is the perfect starter kit.

https://www.geewiz.co.za/long-run-ups-inverter-battery/93614-mecer-axpert-type-3000va-pure-sine-inverter-2x-100ah-battery-8-hour-battery-life-kit-3000w.html

 

mecer-axpert-type-3000va-pure-sine-inverter-2x-100ah-battery-8-hour-battery-life-kit-3000w.jpg

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30 minutes ago, Peter Topp said:

As stated in earlier post your gate motor, alarm, and garage door open should have battery backup which should be sufficient.

I need to say something about this. Backup batteries on these things are great, but some use cases are not great for making them last. I will use some examples from my personal situation.

I have a garage door opener with a 24V backup battery. This thing has a proper power supply and is extremely kind to the battery. The battery lasts a really long time. Which is good as it is not the cheapest one in the shop.

I also have a Centurion gate opener with a 12V battery. This thing is HARD on a battery, even when there is grid power. The power supply of the unit (unlike the garage door opener) cannot run the motor on its own, so each and every time you open/close the gate (even when there is grid power), the battery is used to supply the shortfall, and then recharged afterwards. A battery lasts maybe a year when there are no outages, and can fail every few months when there are many outages.

Also, I hear there is a shortage of 12V 7Ah batteries (or the larger 9Ah ones) in the country right now, because everyone and their canary is buying them for gates/UPSes/whatever. So if the gate motor fails tomorrow... I have trouble.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, because I want to point out that while you can get a heck of a long way with the backup battery in these things, it can still be frustrating and work out expensive in the long run, or leave you in the lurch.

So in my opinion... I may leave the garage door motor off the backup (or rely on the backup battery), BUT... I would back up the gate motor in some manner. If backing up the gate motor is not feasible, then replace the battery in the gate motor with one of BlueNova's drop in LFP replacements. And bolt the motor down so the battery is not stolen.

And with alarm system batteries you guys are spot on. They charge too slowly. Back them up.

Seriously, I both agree and disagree with Richard every time he says "this can be solved without an inverter". Yes it can... but do you think the manufacturers care to do it properly?

OKAY... end rant.

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10 hours ago, Cal said:

I have been fortunate in that my suburb never had loadshedding, however this has just changed. I have absolutely no clue where to start  and even reading the posts is like trying to understand a foreign language. I’m a single woman so my priority is ensuring my alarm stays on, my electric gates and garage work and some lights in the house. I also need a system that is extremely user friendly. Ideally I shouldn’t have to do anything or worry about anything blowing up. As I cannot foresee that loadshedding is ever going to stop I don’t mind spending the money if I know everything will work and I won’t have to maintain anything. Please could you suggest what route I should go. Solar? Invertor?  I live in PE so if you have any recommendations of companies I could trust to work with that would be great. 

If you're in one of the lucky areas that's  been kept powered up in case an old suspect substation blows, or if you've been on the same grid as the hospital or a major industry, then welcome to the New South Africa. We no longer hate you.

Maybe try QDM (Quality Demand Management) to give you a quote if you're looking for a long-term solution beyond Eskom's current two-year maintenance catch-up plan, if you wonder how long they can run with 40-year old power stations before they cave in. Since you're living in PE, you can give serious thought to a grid-tied inverter of the hybrid type and export power to the grid as well as keep your home independently powered. But that's if you want to go big(-ish), beyond just covering the regular 2hr outages.

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Wow! Thank you all such great info and certainly helps me get started. Although it is just me I do have my son and fiancé in a flat off the house and I forgot to mention a dreaded pool. So although I may only have a few needs for myself I’m sure they would love me to include them in the mix. I don’t mind if I have to spend money for a proper system if it means less stress and DIY type stuff for the next 10 years or so. 
Now that you’ve provided info (that I can actually wrap my head around) I will try and find a decent service provider who can give options - then perhaps I could check back in for further input before I decide?

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11 hours ago, plonkster said:

Seriously, I both agree and disagree with Richard every time he says "this can be solved without an inverter". Yes it can... but do you think the manufacturers care to do it properly?

OKAY... end rant.

Agreed about their design shortcomings!

With battery backup for equipment for world markets they must design for a power outage of 5min maximum. It's only here in Africa that the power goes off for hours. And even the locally designed (but maybe not made) gate and door operators haven't done any better. However they did move off 220V motors so they could provide some backup capacity. (But those silly SLA batteries in the Centurion door operators are a joke!)  

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On 2020/03/13 at 8:20 PM, Richard Mackay said:

locally designed (but maybe not made) gate and door operators haven't done any better

Both the ET DC motors, and recently I discovered the "Dominator" is basically the same design, are very well made. The power supply is strong enough to power the motor on its own, and in fact I ran my DC blue motor at the previous house for years without a battery... why bother when you have backup for the house. The 24V battery has enough capacity to open and close the door several times and since most doors are balanced and don't need a lot of force this is an application where the locally made units in the market don't disappoint.

The Centurion gate motors are great. They last for years, the gearboxes are strong, no problem there. But the power supply is weak and the battery works really hard when the grid is down. By the 5th time you've opened and closed the gate, you're in danger of damaging it.

Edited by plonkster
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11 hours ago, plonkster said:

Both the ET DC motors, and recently I discovered the "Dominator" is basically the same design, are very well made.

Thanks for this info! I wasn't aware of Dominator but now I am.

I reckon that manufacturers get a design of a particular gate/door operator right and their reputation rides on that. However there's a big difference between a sliding gate motor and a sectional door operator. One should be circumspect when buying the 'other' product.

I still have a Digi Door door operator. I like the design: a rugged extruded aluminium frame and a screw. They were good at that but I don't even know if they did any other operators. They lost it somehow perhaps by not embracing DC motors & battery backup soon enough..  

 

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OK... I don't have the technical chops of some posters here, but I have walked the same path as you. 

Firstly, a couple of things that will influence the sort of system you buy. How long are load sheds where you live? (Most of the country it is 2 hours, JHB is 4). Does the power come back on timeously or do things sometimes blow up and delay reinstatement? This goes to for how long you will need back up power.

How much electricity do you use a month? This only gives an average use per day (not peak at any given time) but it does help you and the installer to get a handle on things. If necessary, take your own meter readings.

Then figure out what is essential (must work when there is load shedding) and what is not. Your installer will address these issues anyway, but do some homework and figure it out otherwise you may get what the installer thinks is best and find it doesn't quite fit. As an example, we have long had a heat pump connected to a geyser. This draws substantially less than a regular geyser element. By default the installer would not have backed this up, but we discussed and it's now on the backed up circuits.

OK... so the route I went was this
1) Got a battery pack and inverter of the type that has been discussed here already. We found that with that and some extension leads we could keep on wifi, DSTV, some standard lamps and one fridge during a load shed. In fact (because I had really over bought on the batteries) it could go 8 or 9 hours easy (but it took a long time to charge again). The nice thing about this was that it kicked in pretty much instantaneously when the power went down. The TV set would not flicker.

2) Tried to keep tabs on when power outages occurred and how long other things stayed up and found that our alarm system would last about 2 hours running off battery and the electric fence 3.5 to 4 hours.

3) Got a new garage motor with battery backup. This is only going to open the door so many times, but it let us get in and out during a load shed.

4) Started finding out that all these lead acid batteries didn't last and had to be replaced. And would fail at different times and with little warning. So at this point (I work out of town) I could not be as sure as I'd like that people in the house had easy access/egress or decent security.

5) Last year when Eskom started load shedding again I figured that this wasn't going to go away soon, that electricity was going to go up at least 10% PA, and I did some sums and saw that a solar system would not be an outright extravagance. I also factored in things like being able to keep a deep freeze stocked because it was unlikely to every lose power.

6) So now I have the system described in my signature. 3 day installation. DB split into essential (backed up) and non-essential loads. So when there's a load shed nothing changes in the house. On the property we lose the outbuildings (nobody lives in them) and the pool pump and geyser in the guest room. So we can't use the washing machine (which actually doesn't draw much on a cold cycle). The system can still access the grid. As long as there is grid power it will not let the battery discharge below 40%, so we still have more than we used to have in that battery pack. Most sunny days, the battery pack is charged by 11:30 and after that the whole property (including the non-essentials) is run off of solar. If there is a load shed during the day then the solar will back up all the essential services. At night the house is pretty much running off of battery anyway so a night load shed makes not much difference (again, we lose those non-essential circuits).

For any solar solution (even a solar geyser) you need to adjust your routines to make the most of it. EG I never run the pool pump at night any more. It will deplete the battery too quickly. So it runs in the day, on a timer set for a period when I likely have plenty of solar. In our previous house which had a solar geyser we had to discipline ourselves to use hot water during the day and in the early evening. 

The system is not cheap. Generators are cheaper in the short run at least. A UPS too, but you may find that the batteries (the most expensive bit) need changing every 2 to 3 years.

Also try to get a handle on what the various loads in your house are. An electric stove obviously is a big load. So is a geyser with an element. A Microwave can draw a lot of power, but usually not for long. Your kettle may surprise you.

Try to be disciplined in the way you use power. EG switch off lights in rooms you're not using. Get energy saver lights. Don't do this

  1. Get up
  2. Turn on the kettle
  3. Have a shower
  4. Turn on the kettle
  5. Eat breakfast
  6. Turn on the kettle
  7. Brush your teeth and feed the dog
  8. Turn on the kettle
  9. Make a cup of coffee.

The discipline aspect will save you some money if you make no changes, and if you have backup power will help you stretch that further. But get a gas kettle if you can, and try not to use things like the hair dryer when you're relying on your backup system during load shedding.

A point I always make. If there is any change to the wiring in your house get a fresh COC or at least an amendment and give your insurers a copy. Otherwise if the worst happens, a lost adjuster may notice the changes to the wiring, rule that you did not accurately describe the risk or had illegal wiring, and you may then have no claim.

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On 2020/03/20 at 5:26 PM, Cal said:

@bobster. This is great! I want your solar system. I can’t see your signature? But I’m reading from my phone? Can you give details and Company used. 

Oh dear!
System is 12 * Risen panels, Goodwe ES inverter (4.6kw), 10kw/h of revov batteries.

The guys who did my install are local to me and would charge extra for an install in PE. 

Most modern inverters can function in like manner. 
 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 2020/03/20 at 8:09 AM, Bobster said:

The discipline aspect will save you some money if you make no changes, and if you have backup power will help you stretch that further. But get a gas kettle if you can

Is there any gas/electric combo kettle available anywhere? We have one kettle standing on the gas stove gathering dust and right next to it the electic one. When I have time on my hands, sometimes I use the gas kettle but I than feel like giving it a bit of a electric boost while the battery’s are just sleeping it off in the back ground.

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Now that I've been in the new place long enough to have finished a 48kg bottle of gas, I'm beginning to get the idea that my monthly energy bill has actually gone up a bit. It is difficult to say, since it is a different place, but it's the same family with the same habits. My electricity bill has come down a bit (probably about 100 kWh), but I run through 48kg of gas (for cooking and water heating) in a little under two months... and it is almost 1.5k for a replacement bottle.

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Hi 

I also have the same setup and found my gas use quite high at 2.5 months on a 48kg bottle. I used to set my water temp at 60 degrees and now have turned it down to 50 degrees at the lowest setting. This is ideal for me as I do not need to add any cold water to shower.  The 10 degrees in gas saving if you do the calculations should be a substantial saving for me on the water heating side. I now get more than 3mths out of my 48kg bottle. I know this only works if you have geyser that can be adjusted for temp.

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1 hour ago, Peter Topp said:

turned it down

I have two Bosch water heaters, and I think they have an adjustment dial on the front. Actually not a bad idea, I will certainly try it. Thanks for the hint!

(I'm still getting to grips as to how things were done here... or not done. Nothing is balanced in this house. Surprisingly the mixers in the bathrooms work okay, but the one in the kitchen gives you either cold water or scalding hot water with maybe a small bit of adjustment if you have a steady hand. Lowering the temperature will help with that too... (though at some point I need to fix it of course).

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