Home energy-saving unit launched


South Africa’s first locally developed integrated battery and inverter solution is punted as having “the potential to minimise the residential users’ dependence on the national energy grid”.

Created by the Bellville-based company, Energy Partners Home Solutions, the unit was launched in mid-April at Inner City Ideas Cartel on Waterkant Street.

The Icon Home Energy Hub allows residential users to improve efficiency in their overall energy usage, generate their own energy and store extra solar electricity for everyday use or for back-up electricity.

Alan Matthews, managing director of Energy Partners Home Solutions, said: “We believe it is going to revolutionise how South Africans manage and store their energy at home.”

Mr Matthews added that the company embarked on developing the product to assist South African homeowners with a solution for controlling their energy use, 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,” he said.

With the increased electricity costs, the unit appears to be a well-timed offering to residents looking to switch to living off the grid.

The hub is made up 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,” said Mr Matthews.

“The Energy Partners 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.”

While the long-term costs savings might seem appealing, the reality is that, at a starting price of R167 000 for the entire unit, the initial financial outlay is beyond the capabilities of most South Africans.

Commenting on this, however, Mr Matthews said: “The system is designed to be modular, so homeowners can start by purchasing one or two components and then build up to a full system.”

Adamant that the unit is, despite the hefty initial cost, ideal for the South African market, Mr Matthews said: “The system is made to include batteries. In overseas markets there is no loadshedding and homeowners can feed energy back into the grid at attractive tariffs – so batteries are not needed. As a result, batteries are seen as an optional add-on and often aren’t designed as part of the system. Our energy system comes with the latest battery technology included, or it can be installed ‘battery ready’ so that batteries can be easily added later.” The 18-month process creating the unit came, according to Mr Matthews, with a unique set of challenges.

“Some of the challenges experienced, were finding the right combination of products so that we could combine energy efficiency and solar power into a single system, local regulations as well as managing the cost of the system with the exchange rate fluctuations.”

Commenting on why he felt it important for South Africans to start looking into adopting alternative means of energy generation as well as saving energy, Mr Matthews said: “It is crucial because homeowners can save a lot of money through energy efficiency and renewable energy. These savings will continue to increase with the steep electricity tariffs as electricity becomes more expensive over the coming years. Being more energy independent will reduce the impact of load shedding on homeowners. It is also vital for us to consider our environmental impact.”