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Musk’s Powerwall has SA competitor

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Now there is a homegrown alternative to the Tesla Powerwall, but at a price.

The Tesla Powerwall unveiled in the USA by Elon Musk last year as a solution to home energy storage now has South African competition.

Energy Partners Home Solutions, a division of PSG subsidiary Energy Partners, has announced the launch of what it calls South Africa’s “first-of-its-kind residential energy solution” – the Icon Home Energy Hub. The solution allows residential users to improve efficiency in their overall energy usage, generate their own energy and also to store extra solar electricity for everyday use or for backup/electricity security.

However, it comes at a high cost. The full system starts at R167 000, excluding VAT. Systems can also be financed over 5 years. The Tesla Powerwall version with solar panels included starts at R169 000 excluding VAT.

That means it will come down to the exact specifications as well as services available.

According to Alan Matthews, Managing Director of Energy Partners Home Solutions, this product is the country’s first integrated battery and inverter solution specifically for the South African home market and has the potential to minimise the user’s dependence on the national energy grid.

“We believe it is going to revolutionise how South Africans manage and store their energy at home.”

He says that the company embarked on developing the product to assist South African home owners with a solution for controlling their energy spend, especially when subjected to unreliable supply during load shedding by Eskom.

“Like our corporate clients, they too were at the mercy of tariff increases. But, unlike corporate clients, they did not have teams of engineers and strong financial skills to draw on.

“This is why we spent the last 18 months creating this unique solution for homeowners,” he says. “Our solution enables home owners to take control of their energy, by supplying a set of reliable products that form a full home energy solution which combines lighting, water heating and renewable energy.”

The Energy Partner’s solution enables a family sized home to save up to 70% of its electricity bill and earn from a 16% return on their investment.

“That is twice the saving a standard solar solution would provide,” says Matthews.

The Icon Home Energy Hub consists of two components: the Energy Hub Inverter and the Lithium Ion Phosphate Battery.

“The inverter is a critical component in any solar energy solution. Its main function is to take the electricity generated (DC) from the solar panels and convert it into an energy form that can be utilised in the home (AC). The inverter also integrates with the battery to allow all excess generated energy to be stored in the batteries for later usage.”

The full household solution includes: the Icon hybrid inverter; 3.1 kWp poly crystalline panels; Icon 3.6 kWh LiFePO4 battery; 300 litre tank with a total average storage capacity 16 kWh; a 4.7 kW heat pump; mounting structure to mount the panels on the roof and the balance of the system.

The most recognisable global competitor to the Icon is the Tesla Powerwall battery, paired with a Solar edge inverter, he says.

“When this product was launched in South Africa recently it received a lot of attention, but the Tesla solution is focussed around the battery – which is 6.4 kWh. Our solution includes a smaller battery, but also includes a heat pump and an extra-large hot water tank. This means that it delivers almost double the saving and costs less.”

He says that besides the energy bill reduction benefit, the solution also reduces the homeowner’s carbon footprint and environmental impact and makes the user independent of the grid.

“The user can power essential loads for several hours, even if the grid is off, a feature that is simply not possible with grid-tied inverters.”

The solution is extremely flexible; for example, it can be installed without batteries and then 3.6 kWh or 6 kWh of battery capacity can be added as needed. It also includes a remote monitoring platform allowing the user to monitor the status of their system directly on their mobile app.

“The system can be ordered directly from us and we have our own installation capacity. Our consultants are also happy to come and visit those interested at their homes. We are currently only installing in the Western Cape, but plan to launch in Gauteng before the end of 2016. We are currently accepting orders and our first products will ship in June 2016,” says Matthews.

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Samsung unfolds the future

At the #Unpacked launch, Samsung delivered the world’s first foldable phone from a major brand. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tried it out.

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Everything that could be known about the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range, launched on Wednesday in San Francisco, seems to have been known before the event.

Most predictions were spot-on, including those in Gadget (see our preview here), thanks to a series of leaks so large, they competed with the hole an iceberg made in the Titanic.

The big surprise was that there was a big surprise. While it was widely expected that Samsung would announce a foldable phone, few predicted what would emerge from that announcement. About the only thing that was guessed right was the name: Galaxy Fold.

The real surprise was the versatility of the foldable phone, and the fact that units were available at the launch. During the Johannesburg event, at which the San Francisco launch was streamed live, small groups of media took turns to enter a private Fold viewing area where photos were banned, personal phones had to be handed in, and the Fold could be tried out under close supervision.

The first impression is of a compact smartphone with a relatively small screen on the front – it measures 4.6-inches – and a second layer of phone at the back. With a click of a button, the phone folds out to reveal a 7.3-inch inside screen – the equivalent of a mini tablet.

The fold itself is based on a sophisticated hinge design that probably took more engineering than the foldable display. The result is a large screen with no visible seam.

The device introduces the concept of “app continuity”, which means an app can be opened on the front and, in mid-use, if the handset is folded open, continue on the inside from where the user left off on the front. The difference is that the app will the have far more space for viewing or other activity.

Click here to read about the app experience on the inside of the Fold.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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