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Got solar? Now get energy efficiency

Solar energy is a solution, but not the complete answer if appliances are not chosen carefully, writes TREVOR BREWER, director of Solenco.

As Eskom continues to struggle to provide South Africa with a consistent, reliable power supply, the use of solar energy is sky-rocketing. In 2023, the output of rooftop solar systems increased from 983 MW in March to 4,412 MW in June – an increase of 349%. 

The value of solar panels imported to SA between January and August 2023 stands at R12-billion. And South Africa imported five times as many lithium batteries in the first quarter of 2023, as it did in the whole of 2022.

Solar and inverter energy is a solution, but it is not the complete answer. Power-hungry appliances can quickly deplete a home solar or inverter system, and consumers who are serious about energy efficiency should look to their appliances next. 

Energy efficient products are becoming the norm alongside alternative energy. The use of appliances like tumble driers and toasters isn’t really an option on an alternative energy installation. Luckily, there are now many alternatives that will dry laundry, keep homes cool, and make tea and toast, in an energy-efficient manner.

A traditional tumble drier uses, on average 3,150W of electricity per load – more than double what a washing machine uses. Running a tumble dryer on a battery- or solar-powered inverter will likely draw the bulk of the available power, possibly meaning that your investment into alternative energy isn’t going to power your whole home when you need it most. 

A dehumidifier, on the other hand, will draw between 151W and 267W per six-hour laundry-drying cycle, making it inverter-friendly and compatible with inverter batteries as small as 500kVa. Dehumidifiers, like those in the MeacoDry Arete range, are capable of drying laundry even in cool weather, and make humid and damp conditions easier to live in, by extracting excess moisture from the air in your home.

In the gripping South African summer heat, many are relying on aircons to cool their homes. But, aircons draw as much as 150 times more energy than fans; around 900W in average conditions of 26.7°C and relative humidity of 60%. Even if you’ve switched to fans that are inverter-friendly or run on battery power, you could still be using five times more energy than necessary. Cheaper fans draw energy in the range of 40W to 50W, where a quality fan, built with energy efficiency in mind draws just 6W. 

Keeping your home cool is one thing. Keeping it clean is another thing entirely. Vacuum cleaners draw anything from 500W all the way up to 3000W, so if you want to stop worrying about scheduling your home vacuuming in between loadshedding hours, opt for rechargeable and energy efficient battery operated cleaners like the cordless Hizero hard floor cleaner. 

It sweeps and mops at the same time, while using less water and power to do so, with a run-time of around an hour before a recharge is necessary. For a completely hands-free energy-efficient cleaning experience, the Hobot Legee robotic vacuum cleaner range does it all. Programmable modes take care of different cleaning challenges and requirements, from quieter and lower suction in Eco Mode to Stain Removal mode, so that no power is consumed unnecessarily.

And now for the tea and toast: the Zwilling Enfinigy Pro kettle will keep you in hot water using the lowest-possible wattage, by matching the temperature of the water to your beverage of choice. No more scalding your tongue on too-hot tea, or using power unnecessarily to heat the water to the standard 100-degree boiling point. And for toast (and a whole lot more) there’s the energy-efficient Cosori Pro 4.7L Air Fryer. It’s big enough for two main dishes or four side dishes, much quicker than an oven, and has health benefits too.

While finance institutions and rental companies have made access to alternative energy systems easier than ever before, consumers will need to find ways to drive better usage of these systems to realise the value of their long-term investments in the face of the high cost of living. And, even if you don’t have alternative energy at home, you should be looking to your appliances to drive energy efficiency and keep your household’s power costs down.

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