Around South Africa and the world, electrical energy prices continue to see a constant increase. In response to this constant rise, the installations of solar panels continue to rise. After all, who doesn’t want to make use of a renewable energy system that’s clean, affordable, and environmentally-friendly? Let’s take a look at the knowledge you need to have before you install the solar panels on the top of your house.

Read more on solar power

What are solar panels and how do they work?

The photovoltaic effect is simply the ability of certain materials and surfaces to produce electricity from the exposure of light. This is the process that occurs in a solar panel.

solar panels in western capeSolar panels take this process a couple steps deeper and convert this electricity into a usable form of DC or Direct Current electricity. This is done through the means of an inverter.

If the panels have an excess of produced electricity, a couple of things could happen, based on the type of solar panel system you have. You could be paid an agreed feed-in tariff, or the energy may be stored in a battery or generator system to be used in emergency situations.

There are optimal conditions for solar panels in South Africa. They function at their peak when they’re pointed north, facing the sun directly, and at an angle that’s not shadowed or sheltered by trees. The climate and geographic area also affect the working ability of solar panels.

Read more on our 500Wh Solar Power Kit or our 120W solar panel

What are solar panels made of?

Solar cells are primarily composed of silicon. Another word for a solar panel is a module, which is made up of multiple solar cells combined and placed in between a defensive glass coating and a sturdy backing plate. The entire solar panel is usually encased within an aluminum border. The typical cell count of a solar panel is 60 and the average weight ranges from roughly 18-19kg a piece. An array of panels is the most common form of installation.

Read more on how to clean the panels


Types of solar panels in South Africa

  • Monocrystalline panels: Typically black in colour, these panels are more efficient that multi-crystalline models of panels. Multi-crystalline panels, however, do have a higher heat tolerance. The main differences in efficiency are primarily based on the specific way each panel is processed. There are, however, many more components which account for this difference in efficiency.
  • Interdigitated back contact solar cells (IBC): These solar cells are a different take on a standard module. Efficiency is higher because of the way that they’re designed; every electrical contact is at the rear of the cell, preventing the metal contact strips at the front barring light from getting to the cell surface.
  • Thin film: These types of panels are composed of a slim layer of photovoltaic material. The material is often amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, or copper-indium-gallium-selenide. This slim layer of material sits on top of a base plate of glass or metal. Although it’s still a work in progress as far as its technology goes. It’s overall less efficient than other types of panels. It’s rarely used, because of this is and is often used in smaller devices, such as garden lamps and solar-powered calculators.

Efficiency of solar panels in South Africa

The efficiency of a panel can be measured by the panel’s electricity output compared to its surface area. If you have a higher efficiency you’ll have an increase in the amount of power generated. This may also lead to lower installation costs as well. If you have a large amount of roof space, however, you might benefit from simply buying a large amount of low-cost and low-efficiency solar panels.

Here’s something that may be surprising! Solar panels lose efficiency as they’re heated. This may seem illogical, seeing as they’re supposed to sit on the roof. It’s simply due to physics. You’ll get less power from your panels on a hot day than you would on a mild day. The power rating and efficiency of a panel are based on regular temperature conditions. Some perform much better under more intense temperatures. To prevent loss of efficiency, in hot environments especially. Panel needs to be installed in a way that allows cool air to circulate beneath and around it. This is a crucial way to keep them cooler and more efficient!

Read more on living off the grid

Checklist for buying solar panels in South Africa

  • Save almost 30% on your energy bills by doing little things. This can include turning off kitchen appliances and sparingly using dish washing and washing machines.
  • Think about your energy usage and how it relates to a number of panels you’ll need
  • Check the direction of your roof!
  • Assess whether or not your roof has adequate sun exposure. Trees are no good!
  • Figure out if there are any government ordinances regarding solar panel usage.
  • Assess what the best type of payback time is
  • Think about whether or not you’re going to want to install a storage battery.
  • Ask around about prices.
  • Consider financing options, if the upfront cost is a little too much.
  • Verify that the installer you choose is an accredited installer.

Deciding on a solar panel installer

You’re going to want to pay attention to whether or not the company you’re choosing is an accredited company. One that’s signed to the code of conduct. You’ll also want to consider how long the company has been in business for. As well as how good of a business record they have. There are many South African solar panel installers available for you to choose from. Do your research and you will find a professional installer in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Western Cape at a reasonable price.

What standards does the solar PV meet?

You’re going to want to make sure that any solar panel system you’re considering installing is compliant. It must be compliant with the South African and international standards. You’re going to want to verify this before your installer begins the installation!

What type of solar panel capacity do you need?

You won’t save much money if your excess energy goes into the grid! You’ll want to reduce this occurrence. Maximize the energy usage and minimize grid transfer.

Figure out precisely how much energy your home goes through. Before considering what type of solar panel system to install. You don’t want to be feeding energy back into the grid unless you have a good or well-paying reason to. An easy way to figure out how much energy you use. Would be to consult your energy bills from the previous year.

You’ll need a larger system if your home or business uses more energy during the day. If not, consider installing a smaller system. Although it seems to make sense that a panel with a higher rated output would be ideal. You’ll need to consider more than this. Another important factor to take into account is the amount of space available on your roof.

Battery storage and solar energy in South Africa

The battery storage function of a solar panel system is unique. It enables you to store excess energy generated from your panels during the daytime. You’ll be able to use this stored energy at night.