Load-shedding is back: generate your own clean power.

Load Shedding

After a short-lived respite, load-shedding is now back, making emergency back-up power more relevant than ever. For the thousands of people working and studying from home during this cold winter season, this could not come at a worse moment.

Although the power utility managed to carry out important short-term maintenance of generation infrastructure last April while the Covid-19 national lockdown was in full effect, its ageing fleet of coal-fired power stations requires serious repair to avoid the frequent breakdowns. The reality is such that in a recent article published by Reuters, the power utility’s spokesperson said: “We don’t know which of the coal units are going to fail on any given day, that is true for both the old and the new units”. As blackouts leave many communities in darkness & the worst of winter is yet to come, South Africans have been asking what can be done to keep the lights on. The answer to this question is simple: make your power, cleanly.

Grid power primarily comes from coal, which is not as environmentally friendly, but it is cheap.  For those who can afford it, going completely off-grid with solar and batteries is a great option, but even that system will require a back-up generator of some sort, since the system cannot be guaranteed to always be enough to charge the batteries.  For others, living with coal-fired grid is the right decision, but that shouldn’t mean their back-up solution must also be environmentally hazardous, especially if is as expensive as diesel.  This is where gas-fired generators enter the picture.

Benefits of gas engines

LPG produces 33% less CO2 emissions than petrol and 45% less CO2 than diesel. LPG engines would produce in average up to 82% less Nitrogen Oxide pollutants than petrol and 99% better than diesel! 63% less Carbon Monoxide. 40% less Hydrocarbons than petrol and 70% less than diesel. But that is not all: they will also produce 50% less particulates than petrol and 98% less than diesel.  With natural gas (Methane) the case gets even better. Aside from the environmental concerns, when one considers the noise, mess, and hassle that comes with dealing with liquid-fueled engines, the choice of a gas-fueled generator becomes an easy one.

Gas generators

So here you are, ready to commit to making your own clean power using a gas generator, either as a back-up to your off-grid home solar and battery system, or a back-up to your grid-tied home, business, and these days, your home office & home school. Gas generators are an excellent alternative to petrol and diesel generators. They are quieter, more efficient, low maintenance and environment friendly. Now how do you decide on the size? We are going to help you with that.

Determining the right generator size

One thing is sure, before purchasing a generator, one should find out how much power he/she needs. This is actually very simple to do. If you like numbers and are willing to add together the power (in Watts) needed to run each of your electrical appliances, then go on and divide the total by 1000 to get value in kilowatts (kW).

Another thing would be to consider the startup power or startup wattage required by all appliances composed of an electric motor. In this case, this applies only to the fridge. The startup wattage is required for our fridge here is 1500 W and is found in the manual. This gives you a total of 5500W (5.5kW), meaning you can buy a generator of at least 6kW.

A simpler way to find out how much power you need would be looking at your monthly electricity bill. Using your total monthly electricity consumption or your total amount spent, a generator salesman will be able to determine the appropriate generator size that will suit your needs.

How to tell what phase power you have?

Single or three-phase power refers to the power supply coming into your property by way of underground or overhead power from the street. Most houses would generally have single-phase power. Three-phase power is typically used in commercial or industrial locations and large homes with multiple large electric appliances drawing larger currents of electricity. If your property is drawing a lot of power, three-phase power would be installed to avoid power fluctuation.

  1. Simply locate the switchboard, normally located close to the front of the house or internally in a linen cupboard.
  2. In the switchboard, there will be multiple circuit breakers. The circuit break named ‘Main Switch’ is how you could identify what phase power is available.
  3. If there is a single circuit breaker you are using a single (1) phase power. If there are three circuit breakers joined by one switch you are using a three (3) phase power.

Once you have completed this pre-purchase homework, you can now buy your preferred generator.

For existing gas users, it is a no brainer; installing a gas genset rather than a petrol or a diesel genset is both convenient and cost-effective. Thanks to its partnership with PRAMAC, power generation market-leader, SustainPower can provide greener alternatives to petrol and diesel generators to South Africans, and supply both domestic and industrial clients with reliable and eco-friendly LPG and natural gas generators for emergency power, and ranging from 3 kW to 1.2MW. Contact us today for a quote.

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