A year ago, this column warned that Eskom was not going to solve its problems for most of this decade, and we would have to invest in many solutions for plugging the power gaps. It provides no satisfaction to have been proved correct.
Once again, here is the best of the tech I have found and used over the past year not only to cope with loadshedding, but also to ensure that my most important activities are not disrupted:
Best fixed solar solution
GoSolr rental (starts at R1399 a month, from www.gosolr.co.za)
Solar power by subscription sounds strange, since sunshine is free. The problem is that the equipment needed to harness the energy of the sun can be hideously expensive. A typical installation of solar panels, storage batteries and inverter for a medium-sized house can cost well above R200,000. The most cost-effective solution is a solar “rental” option, such as Gosolr, It took solar installation company Sparki a day to install fully, neatly and efficiently. The next day, the sun was feeding in power. We only check on loadshedding or power outages when we want to use an oven or kettle – the rest can be handled seamlessly by solar. A further plus is that GoSolr will handle all maintenance and upgrade issues as part of the contract.
Best portable solar solution
EcoFlow 220W Bifacial Solar Panel (R10,684 at Geewiz and R11,499 from EcoFlow at za.ecoflow.com)
The EcoFlow Solar Panel is a fold-up unit that feels like fabric rather than glass, and can be carried around in the back of a car, or on foot, thanks to a useful carry case. It plugs into most EcoFlow portable power stations, making it a solution for anything from a small flat or apartment to a temporary power outage in an office to a camping trip. It is made from high-quality materials and construction, making it durable and weather-resistant. An IP68 rating means it is both rain- and dust-proof, and it can withstand fairly harsh outdoor conditions. It is made of tempered glass, while the solar cells are made of monocrystalline silicon, a photovoltaic, light-absorbing material. All of that brings its weight to 9.5kg. That’s not light, but it is portable. We were able to fully charge the River 2 Max, a 500W portable power station weighing 6.2kg, in less than 2 hours.
Best large portable power station
EcoFlow Delta Pro (R59,999 from EcoFlow)
EcoFlow Delta Pro is one of the most powerful portable power stations on the market, providing a reliable source of backup power for off-grid living, emergency preparedness, or home backup. Whether the cost is justified depends on individual needs and budget. With a capacity of 3.6kWh, output of 3600W and surge output of 7200W, there is little it cannot power. It runs on a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery, and it can be paired with an additional battery to double its capacity. A wide range of outlet and input ports, from AC/DC to car battery to USB, provide the kind of versatility demanded by emergencies and unstable power supply. In combination, all these inlets and outlets tell a story, and that is a tale of off-grid living. Add a portable solar panel, and one can almost say goodbye to Eskom or any other power utility.
Best medium portable power station
EcoFlow Delta 2 (R17,999 from EcoFlow)
EcoFlow Delta 2 is a portable power station, meaning that it can provide electrical power for various devices and appliances at times and in places where a traditional power source may not be available or is unreliable. Not only is it portable, and can be easily transported and used in a variety of settings, but it is a self-contained device that has a built-in battery, inverter, and charging ports. It can be charged from wall outlets solar panels, wall outlets, or even car adapters. It can then, in turn, provide power for anything from a smartphone and laptop to a small fridge and TV.
The unit has a 1024Wh capacity and 1800W output, which translates into charging a laptop computer 16 times, or running a coffee maker for more than three-quarters of an hour, among other. However, it has an additional feature called X-Boost that allows for devices with a rating of 2400W to be powered up.
Best small portable power station
Anker PowerHouse 521 (R5,999 at Takealot)
The Anker PowerHouse 521 can quickly be attached to any needed low-power device in a home, office and mobile environment, like taking it along for a ride in a car. It is a 256Wh capacity device with an output of a mere 200W, meaning it cannot charge your heater or kettle – those much-needed appliances taken out by loadshedding. But it is good enough for a laptop, a low-power TV like many of the current large-screen OLED units and charging any number of smartphones. Its biggest plus is its range of charging sockets: aside from a three-pin socket, it also has a fast-charging USB-C and two fast-charging USB-A ports, along with a car-charger socket.
A unibody drop-proof design makes it solid, and rugged enough for outdoor use. It is made from an automotive-grade aluminium alloy that is both corrosion and temperature-resistant. Think camping and parties – and it is compatible with portable solar charging panels, so the prepared outdoors person can keep appliances going for days out in the wild.