Solar 101

We’re huge advocates for solar energy, but we recognize it isn’t the right solution for everyone. While solar is sustainable and ultimately cheaper than municipal or utility power in the long run, it also requires a significant up-front investment and doesn’t work for every property/roof type.
The ultimate question is whether the advantages of solar power outweigh the disadvantages. In this article, we’ll present the pros and cons of solar energy so that you can decide if going solar makes sense for you.

Advantages of Solar Energy


Traditionally, most people depend on Eskom or their local municipality to supply them with power. When the grid goes down, going without power for an extended period of time such as load shedding, can be a helpless feeling.

If you own a solar system with energy storage (batteries), you can keep generating power during these periods. That peace of mind is invaluable. Eskom or municipal power also restricts people who want to live off the grid. Solar can generate energy where it would be too expensive to run power lines.

It’s liberating to have complete control over where and how you produce energy. And with electricity costs rising, it also feels great to lock in a fixed rate for your electricity over the next few decades.


Who doesn’t love one less bill coming out of their paycheck? With a properly sized system, you can drastically reduce or completely eliminate your electricity bill. Even if you extend your payback period by taking out a loan to finance your project, you still enjoy reduced electricity costs from the moment you flip the switch on your PV system. This is the most exciting part of solar for many people: bringing the system online and watching their power bill disappear.


If you buy a grid-tie system (the type of system you build if you have access to power lines), you can expect your investment into solar to turn a
profit in the long run. Assuming the national average for cost of electricity, it would take about 4-5 years to recoup your investment on a R120 000.00 system. Beyond that point, you start to generate a profit from your system.


The investment into solar becomes even more appealing when you take government incentives into account. SARS income tax clauses are in place
to encourage people to invest in renewable energy. Claiming these can put a ton of cash back in your pocket. 

The main incentive is the 100% tax credit for your solar system (section 12B). Under this clause, you are eligible to receive 100% of the total installed cost of your system as a tax credit at the end of the year of installation.

While the SARS income tax credit is the largest solar incentive, don’t skip out on local incentives, either. Depending on where you live, certain
municipalities offer local incentives that can be claimed as well.


A sustainable energy source is one that we can use without depleting the source of power. Oil, coal and gas are not sustainable, because we consume those resources as we use them.

In contrast, solar is sustainable because the source of energy (sunlight) is constantly replenished. We can use solar energy without worrying about whether we will deplete the Earth’s natural resources for future generations.


Solar systems don’t have a lot of moving parts. As a result, they rarely break down or require maintenance to keep them running optimally.
Panels are warrantied to last 25 years, but many have a much longer lifespan. You rarely, if ever, need to fix or replace panels. It’s common to replace your inverter at least once over the life of your system, as inverters are typically warrantied for 5-10 years. But that’s about the only scheduled maintenance you will encounter for grid-tied systems.

Off-grid systems are a bit more complex because they must include batteries, which often require routine maintenance. Specifically, flooded lead-acid batteries (the cheapest option available) must be checked and refilled with water regularly to keep them functioning properly. However, building a grid-tied system eliminates the need for batteries, so most people will rarely need to check in on their system for maintenance or replacements.


Studies of the real estate market have proven that homes equipped with a solar power system sell for more than their non-solar counterparts.
It’s no question that solar power systems substantially increase property value. Home buyers see solar as a major selling point, and they’re willing to pay a premium to move into a solar-powered home.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy


Solar is expensive – at least up front. To build a system that would power the average home (which uses 30 kWh of electricity every month), you might pay R50 000.00-R120 000.00 depending on the products you choose.

Of course, you’re paying for at least 25 years of energy production up front. In the long term, you break even on the investment and start to make
money, but that doesn’t change the fact that not everyone has thousands of Rands in their pocket to get their solar dreams off the ground.
The up-front cost is the main barrier to going solar. Financing options are available, and the payback period is quite favourable even when you take
interest into account. However, not everyone wants to be on the hook for loan payments.


Standard solar panels measure 99.06cm wide by either 167.64cm to 182.88cm tall (for 60-cell and 72-cell panels, respectively). To offset the national average of 30 kWh of electricity per month, you’d need at least 15 x 450W panels. In a 3×5 configuration, that system will be 3m wide by 9m tall. That’s going to take up a lot of room on your roof or in your yard.

Most people opt for a roof mount because it takes advantage of space that would otherwise go unused. If you need to design around odd angles and obstructions, you can always split the panels into sub-arrays. the switch on your PV system. This is the most exciting part of solar for many people: bringing the system online and watching their power bill disappear.


Batteries are the single most expensive component of a solar power system. Not all systems require batteries, but they become mandatory when you go off the grid. They are also required if you need to supply backup power to your grid-tied property.

(Grid-tied systems don’t automatically provide backup power during outages. That’s a common misconception. For backup power, you need a grid-tie system with energy storage or a hybrid system). Expect to pay a lot more money when you add batteries to a system. Battery banks cost at least a few thousand rands, and if you buy high-end lithium batteries for a full-scale off-grid system, that’s easily a 5 figure investment into the batteries alone.

Furthermore, batteries don’t last as long as the other parts of your system. Lead-acid battery warranties range from 1 to 7 years, meaning you’ll replace them 4 or 5 times before the panel warranty is up. Lithium batteries justify their high price tag by lasting 10-15 years, but you’re still in for at least one replacement over the life of your system.


Not every property is a good fit for solar power.

Some properties are simply too cramped to find any space to build a system. Others are covered in shade and wouldn’t get the sunlight required to generate enough energy. While there are technologies like shade optimizers and custom racking to mitigate these concerns, they only accomplish so much. If you don’t have anywhere to put your panels, it’s going to be a real challenge to make solar work for your home. 


Solar can be a profitable investment, but the payback math assumes you’ll be living in the same property for the full duration of the 25-year warranty.

It takes several years to break even on the initial cost of the system before you start to pocket the savings from your electricity bill. Solar makes a lot less sense if you don’t own your home, or have the urge to move within the next few years. The good news is that because solar increases property values, you are likely to recoup your investment into the system when you go to sell your home. But most people who go solar do it because they want to be self-sufficient and generate their own (less expensive) electricity for the next few decades.

Think about whether you’ll stick around for a while in your current property before you make the long-term investment into solar.


Still not sure if the advantages of solar outweigh the disadvantages? You can always schedule a consultation with one of our expert designers. We’ll answer questions, clear any design hurdles, and help you decide if solar is right for you

Solar Resource Centre

Our Solar Resource Centre is a place for all prospective and current clients to access information about Solar Energy, Solar Energy products, Installations and any other information or assistance they may need.

Guide to DIY Solar

Solar Energy is such a versatile market, ranging from simple portable systems to complex off-grid systems. This means that there is a solar solution applicable to everyone of all skill levels. DIY Solar is a cost-effective way to help you save on solar installation costs and improve your current knowledge on Solar Energy Systems. Here at Joule Energy, we want you to succeed; our DIY Solar Guides will help you step-by-step on your journey to a sustainable lifestyle. With product videos, wiring diagrams and any FAQ’s we will be able to assist you.


Getting Started with Solar

Getting started with solar can be a daunting decision, but don’t forget it is an investment.

Not only will it allow you to have a sense of freedom knowing that you have control over your power supply, but it will also reduce your carbon footprint and save you a few bucks in the process!

Once you have decided that you want to delve into the Solar Energy market, we will help you choose the best system or product for you, with our wide product range and technical team, getting started cannot be any easier. Just get in touch with us and your journey to Energy Efficiency will begin!

Tanzanite West, c/o Plattekloof Road & Tanzanite Street, Montague Park, Montague Gardens 7441


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Solar 101
Advantages of Solar Energy
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Solar Resource Centre
Guide to DIY Solar
Getting Started with Solar


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