While load shedding has become a daily reality for South Africans in 2015, a family in Pretoria claims to be living completely off Eskom’s power grid.
The Dreckmeyrs have been living Eskom free for the past seven years.
Inus Dreckmeyr is an electrical engineer and CEO of WestconGroup’s electronic technological research and development company, Netshield South Africa.
The Dreckmeyrs investigated renewable energy resources after discovering the hefty costs involved in running a City Council feed into the property because they would have to pay for the installation up to a certain point.
“I looked at this whole process, and my wife and I made a decision that we wanted to be off the grid and we wanted to see if it’s possible to live that way,” Dreckmeyr said.
“Based on that we made the decision and went ahead and did it. We’ve done upgrades in the installations as we planned from the original architectural layout, initially it was a building site so we needed a bit of power, so we started off with a couple of panels and a small battery bank and since then we have expanded that to a 5 kilowatt per hour array and we have a 2 kilowatt, vertical axis wind turbine that we combined with that.”
The family maintains that it runs a household similar to any other in the country, using appliances like fridges, TVs, hair dryers, Play Stations and washing machines, but they use energy in a more sustainable way including LED lights (370 throughout the house), a wood stove for cooking, a fireplace for warmth and gas usage for cooking and water heating.
“A stable solar setup or renewable energy setup is normally a combination of things, most people like to think of it as only solar panels, but wind is also a renewable resource. And when you start combining these technologies you get a better result,” said Dreckmeyr.
“Obviously, the storage of energies is always an issue and an expensive part of any of these types of installations. One tries to limit the storage, and that’s the only thing with a real expiry on [it], you have to replace your batteries at a point in time and they are rather expensive.”
The Dreckmeyrs have a solar panel array that tracks the sun, which increases energy collection by about 40% and warns of any problems remotely.
“You need to plan your facility to last ten years at least, so make sure of the quality of the things that you buy. Rather pay the extra money and get something with a warranty that is proper system,” said Dreckmeyr.