The bare basics of solar energy for beginners

The bare basics of solar energy for beginners

Spend 10 minutes with a tech whiz, ask them a question…or two, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another planet that speaks a completely foreign language!

Much the same can be said about understanding solar energy, especially for those of us who simply don’t speak the language, at all.

Because of the growing affordability of solar panels and the escalating costs of Eskom power, more and more South Africans are opting to move to solar energy.

We’re going to take as basic a look as possible to make understanding solar energy a little bit easier in preparation for your meeting with your choice of solar energy expert.

Where to start:

Choose a reputable solar company

Once you’ve managed to wrap your head around some of the basics of solar energy, be very careful about who you approach for quotes.

You need to check the credentials and reputation of your solar energy installer, especially because you don’t speak the language, so that you’ll know you won’t be led around the bush to an expensive mistake.

Ask as many questions as you need to. Any solar energy, solar geyser or solar hot water system installer worth his or her salt will be more than happy to answer them clearly, in a language you can understand.

The 4 main components of solar energy systems:

Solar panels

The main components of solar energy systems are made up of solar panels.  The panels available today are either monocryststalline or polycrystalline; okay, they’re pretty big words, to say the least, but the good news is that if you buy a reputable brand you don’t need to stress about poly or mono panels, since both work just as well in South Africa.

Solar panel brands

There are good brands on the market your solar panels a lifespan of 25 plus years.

There are brands that are budget friendly and those that are in the higher budget bracket, just make sure that you don’t choose cheap ‘no name’ panels that’ll last a tiny fraction of the 25 years that good quality solar panels will give you.

Speak to the team at Renaissance Solar in Cape Town about the brands available in South Africa, they’ll be more than happy to give you the best advice, since they’re planning to stick around a very long time and don’t want to ruin an already awesome reputation!

The bottom line is that, as with anything else you buy, you get what you pay for.  A good investment earns you excellent returns, where a not-so-good investment is going to end up costing you more than you should be paying for the foreseeable future.



The next main component used in a solar energy system is the inverter. Inverters convert the DC (Direct Current) electricity that solar panels are able to produce into 240V AC electricity.

Because the inverter has to work very hard on a daily basis, they are the one component that will need replacing in the solar energy system somewhere between the first 10 to 15 years, making it well worth investing in a high quality inverter.



Here is where you can make the most important decision of your system. There are batteries that are ‘cheap’ last 600 cycles and cant go below 50% discharge. Some of these are deep cycle batteries a little like car batteries.

Then there are Lithium batteries – can go to 80% or more discharge and can go to around 6000 cycles. Warranted for 10 years they are likely to last much longer and will make all the difference to a system working well for you or working ‘just ok’.



Next up in the four main components of a solar energy system installation is the mounting. This is what will be installed securely on your roof for the mounting of your solar panels. And most importantly to be connected correctly to your Distribution Board. Any installers fall down on that one.


Things to think about in general

You need to know just how much electricity is used in your home and when it is used most.  You’ll also want to know how many panels you’ll need, which will be determined by usage and time of usage. The panels and inverter and batteries all need to be matched together to give you the optimum system for your requirement.

A last word

If you are still feeling dizzy about this ‘basic’ information, that’s okay, there are some pretty big words thrown around here and there.

Best idea? Take your questions to Renaissance Solar in Cape Town and they’ll draw the mental pictures you need to put your solar system puzzle together, before you make the investment of a lifetime!

This is a team that speaks about solar energy in a language far more easily understood and they’re more than happy to make making the transition to solar energy a lot less stressful!

Contact this team passionate about seeing solar panels become the norm in Cape Town; they’re waiting to do all they can to make the change a lot easier than it may seem at the moment.