What to consider when choosing a power backup plan

Issue 4 2022 Products, Smart Home Automation

In April this year, Eskom warned that South Africans would continue to experience power outages this winter. In the extreme scenario, this could mean 101 days of load-shedding in the coming months, as the state power utility tries to ease the strain on its floundering grid, which has seen many left in the dark for days.

With experts predicting that electricity is set to double in price in the next five years and that load-shedding will be an ongoing occurrence for at least the next decade – due to the mismatch of electricity supply and demand, among other deep-seated issues at Eskom – it is no wonder that consumers are seeking out alternative power solutions to keep their lights on.

Matthew Hall.

Fortunately, the likes of solar panels, inverters and batteries have progressed significantly in terms of efficiency and cost over the past few years, but deciding how to implement these solutions is dependent on your needs and budget. To make things easier, we have answered some common queries on how to minimise the effects of load-shedding and implement alternative power solutions.

How difficult is it to install a solar system?

Solar technology has become more accessible and as electrical appliances continue to be designed based on energy savings, installing a solar system to supplement your electricity supply has never been more appealing and easier to do.

The current generation of solar inverters allow users to install a solar system without the need for backup batteries, which significantly reduces the overall cost. This type of solar solution is ideal for households or offices that consume more power during the day, allowing the user to maximise the electricity generated in the daytime because the power is unable to be stored. A pure solar generation allows the user to generate solar power with much lower capital investment and will supplement existing available power, rather than replacing it.

In comparison, a photovoltaic system converts the sun's radiation into usable electricity and, with a solar power storage unit, can both store and allow the use of solar electricity during times of load-shedding. This is preferred as a long-term backup solution or for moving to an off-grid solution.

As it is hard to match electricity consumption to the solar power that is being produced, battery backup allows users to store power for a later stage, but this will lead to higher capital investment, taking various considerations into account.

Over and above the benefit of lower electricity bills, a solar power system makes a home more environmentally friendly and limits reliance on the national grid.

What is a UPS and how is it used?

Uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems can be plugged directly into your devices and electrical systems, such as servers and networks, to provide emergency power. UPS are suitable for industries, offices and homes that need a constant power supply and cannot afford to switch off their devices or electrical equipment.

UPS systems come in a variety of sizes and capacities, allowing you to run some of your basic electronic equipment such as routers, cellphone chargers, point-of-sale devices, computers, tills and more.

What are some other affordable backup solutions?

An alternative option that will minimise the effects of load-shedding are inverters. An inverter’s role is not to provide power, but to convert power to compatible forms. It converts the direct current (DC) electricity that comes from off-grid sources into alternative current (AC) electricity.

When investigating inverter systems, it is important to look at how many electronic devices you would want to run at the same time, rather than how big or small your house or business is.

For example, RCT T-1000s and RCT T-2000s Megapower Trolleys from Rectron are focused on households or businesses looking to minimise disruptions and remain productive during unexpected or longer-than-expected power outages. With a 12 V and 24 V inverter battery, respectively, these alternative power solutions can connect multiple devices at once and can keep laptops, mobile routers, smartphones and TVs on and charged several times over.

RCT Megapower AC power banks are also effective for on-the-go power requirements. These lithium battery-based power banks allow users to connect directly to an AC power adaptor, serving as a portable AC power source. With up to 250 W output, they can connect a home router for up to eight hours, or a work-from-home setup (laptop, monitor and router) for up to six hours.

The impact of power surges

Equipment such as cellphones, laptops, desktop computers, servers and LCD screens can be damaged by sudden power surges. Protect these devices by turning them off and unplugging them from electrical wall sockets during an outage. Wait until the power has been restored BEFORE you switch the plugs back on.

It is advisable to install surge protection equipment on sensitive electronic devices to avoid unwanted damage. An online double-conversion UPS, like the RCT Winner Pro online range, can also provide some degree of protection against power surges, as there is no direct connection between the equipment and the main power supply, and the effect of a power surge is isolated to the AC input of the UPS. In the event of a major power surge, the UPS might get damaged, but the connected equipment will likely survive due to the double-conversion of the UPS.

Lightning can also affect electrical equipment, so unplugging devices during a storm can help to protect them from large surges.

Every environment has a different set of requirements, and how you use your technology will also affect the amount of backup power you need.

As an example, if you're working from home during the day, you might consider the plug-and-play RCT MegaPower power bank solution, which will power your router for a few hours. On the other hand, if you're looking to power your mission-critical data centre that runs your business applications, you'll then need to consider an installed inverter solution with enough batteries to keep you going.

For more information go to www.rctzone.co.za

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