South Africans have suffered from load shedding since 2007 and, 14 years later, Eskom recently reminded everyone we are likely facing an onslaught of power outages this winter due to high demand.
This is despite the construction of two new power plants and an overall generating capacity that should in theory satisfy the country’s consumption requirements.
According to Candice Jenkins. owner of Maiden Electronics in Kyalami, growing numbers of people are making the grudge purchase of either a generator or inverter to keep the lights on at home.
[WATCH] Candice Jenkins of Maiden Electronics talks about load shedding and what do to about it.
“We started the company in Zimbabwe to help people cope with the dire power situation,” says Jenkins, “and in about 2007 we saw that Eskom’s future looked pretty grey, so decided to expand to South Africa.”
She says that inverters are becoming a popular solution given they are silent and have lower maintenance.
“It basically delivers maintenance-free electricity reserves for around three years before batteries need replacement,” she says. Generators, like any fuel-powered engine, require more maintenance.
According to the informational website, bestgenerator.org generators can deliver more power, dependent on the size of machine that you purchase, but it is not clean electricity. This has nothing to do with environmental factors but rather a reference to the stability of the electrical output, where the current can fluctuate.
It reads that “one of the main disadvantages of most fuel-powered portable generators is the machine cannot maintain a steady 3,600rpm”.
This means the voltage and Hertz also fluctuates. The fluctuations are referred to as harmonic distortion. The constant changes in electrical output or high harmonic distortion is why fuel-powered portable generators don’t provide what is called clean electricity.
It explains that “clean energy is preferred for electrical devices that are sensitive like laptops, DSLR cameras, mobile phones etc”. Purchasing a generator is generally a bit more affordable in terms of upfront cost when compared to an inverter system.
“Inverters are a little less efficient,” says Jenkins, noting that one has to load it with a bit more power than it outputs at a later stage. But bestgenerator.org notes “there is less harmonic distortion which is why inverter generators are said to produce clean electricity. The quality of electricity produced by inverter generators is comparable to the quality of electricity you receive from the mains electrical supplier.”
To power a few lights, internet, laptop, TV and a decoder for example will set you back about R 7-10,000 for an inverter that will last through load shedding while a fuel generator will cost around the same these days, with online pricing guides showing a similar price range to inverters available general retail.
“To get totally off the grid,” says Jenkins, “a solar solution costs R60,000 upwards while smaller solar-power charged units are around R20,000 plus.”