My solar solution: Take that, Eskom!


My solar solution: Take that, Eskom!

When his uninterrupted power supply system from the pandemic packed up, and the inverter with which he replaced it lasted only three months, THEUNS VENTER set out to find a more permanent answer to load-shedding.


MY first experience of “life with load-shedding” was during the Covid lockdown when we were all forced to work from home. At that time I was still with Media24, and the company had to spend quite a bit of money to provide uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) for its staff. It was a workable solution. At least for a while.

Last October, my UPS reached the end of its lifespan, and with load-shedding becoming more frequent, I decided to get an inverter. I wanted an affordable system that would allow our family to watch TV, because we love sport. Some weekends, we had to go to the homes of friends with electricity to watch Test rugby.

I phoned my brother, who knows about inverters, and he suggested I buy a Mecer 1 ,200VA 720W 12V inverter (R3,599) and a 12V 100AH gel battery for R3,299 from Takealot. I followed his advice and made the purchase. During stage 6 load-shedding, the inverter lasted exactly 3hr 50min! I was overjoyed.

But what I didn't know was that there are rules to follow to preserve the inverter and battery life. I didn't know that I had to unplug everything connected to the inverter every time the power came back on; otherwise the battery would quickly wear out. After three months, it lasted barely two hours.

We continued to struggle. During the kids' exams, I bought Magneto LED lanterns for every room (R250 each at Builder's Warehouse) so there would at least be light. But it wasn't a perfect solution because everyone kept “forgetting" to charge their lanterns.

My frustration began to build, and with the mention of stage 8 load-shedding, I wanted to find a more permanent solution. I started researching a system with lithium batteries.

Initially, I didn't even consider solar panels because I thought they would be too expensive. Besides, I knew very little about them and had heard numerous stories of fly-by-night companies taking advantage of people. Out of curiosity, I requested two quotes. One was around R65,000, the other R80,000.

Then one evening (at my daughter's netball game, of all places), one of my friends asked why I didn't consider renting a system. I didn't know it was an option. The next day, my friend sent me the link to

The questions I wanted answered were:

  • How reliable are the people who own the business?
  • Do I know anyone who has already used GoSolr's services?
  • Are there any hidden costs? I don't want to install something and end up paying twice as much as I initially expected.
  • What happens if there are issues with the system, and who is responsible for paying for them?

GoSolr is partly owned by Patrice Motsepe's African Rainbow Capital (ARC). This reassured me, because Motsepe is anything but a fly-by-night operator. The person who told me about GoSolr also told me he was an approved installer for GoSolr. He also mentioned that they were quite busy with installations, so I should be patient. Nevertheless, the process turned out to be super-fast.

The next day, I received the application forms, and it took me less than 10 minutes to complete them. They assessed my creditworthiness within seconds after I submitted the forms online. The same day, I received a call confirming they would do the installation within a week.

There were several options, but for those of us living in a complex (townhouse or similar), they suggested a 5KW inverter and 5KW lithium battery. The price of R1,740 a month also included eight solar panels, which meant I would save on the monthly costs of my prepaid electricity, which used to be about R2,000.

The installation took a day and was neatly done in my garage, right next to my distribution board. The only challenge the installation team encountered was due to our high roof.

I was a bit disappointed that we had almost no load-shedding in Cape Town for two weeks after the installation.

But Eskom never disappoints for long, and in my excitement on our first day of load-shedding, I made sure to turn on the TV and a few lights. The transition worked seamlessly, and now we don't even know when there is load-shedding.

What one should know, though, is that not all appliances can be connected to your solar power installation. Geysers, ovens and swimming pool pumps use too much power. But our air-conditioner works well, and we have a gas stove, so cooking is not a problem.

The basic system costs R1,740 a month and includes the following:

  • 8 solar panels
  • 1 x 5KW inverter
  • 1 x 5KW lithium battery

However, I didn't want to struggle if we were to experience stage 9 load-shedding, so I had a second 5KW lithium battery installed for an extra R690 a month. Therefore, my total monthly cost is R2,430.

Similar to a cellphone contract, you sign for two years, then you rent on a month-to-month basis.

In the first month, we saved about R1,000 on our electricity bill. Keep in mind that you need to insure the system as part of your home insurance in case your property catches fire or gets damaged. That was the only “hidden cost" in my case, about R214.

♦ VWB ♦

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