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Renting our own little piece of the sun

I have been sitting on this news for a few weeks now because I was worried that if it seemed too good to be true, it probably was. But now that our (rented) solar panels, inverter and battery are fully fitted and operational, I feel like shouting it from the rooftops!

We have been spared a whole lot of irritating (and often income-destroying) darkness and disconnection these few weeks. So now I am going to say that sometimes even if it seems too good to be true, it may not necessarily be.

We did it: We went solar with GoSolr

One small continuing glitch is that the monitoring tool, the Solarman app, is not yet providing me with full sight of how much power is being generated by the panels and how much is being pulled from Eskom at any given time. A small dongle inserted into the inverter seems to be malfunctioning and I am waiting for a technician to come fix it. It seems that I can get all the info I need to monitor the power supply from a panel on the inverter anyway.

UPDATE: glitch fixed. I can easily monitor from my phone how much we are generating and how much we are pulling from Eskom at any given time.

The Process

After quotes from two solar companies came in at close to R200k, I silenced my inner cynic and looked into the rental option.

What was The Cynic’s issue, I hear you wonder …

It was not clear to me why a company in what is surely a seller’s market would rent out equipment for a tiny fraction of its market value. It is still not clear to me now but I have stopped worrying about it since I am not one of GoSolr’s creditors.

Since you asked: why would they rent it out when they could sell it for R200k?

The people selling it probably make a 30% margin (buy for R150k and sell for R200k).

This company looked at it and said instead of making 30% once off decided to make 14% every year for the next 10 years+ (R1740x12/R150k = 14% return)

(Feedback from a friend)

I registered my interest on GoSolr’s website and received a call (within a day or two) from Ziphiwo, a patient and knowledgeable guy who talked me through it all. He assured me that there was no catch and no hidden costs (no matter how many ways I asked the question).

He told me there is no minimum contract term, but should you stop paying your monthly fee, or want the panels removed, you will be charged R22k. This seems reasonable since the market value of the eight panels and other equipment is close to R200k.

So I filled in the forms and paid the once-off set-up fee (for installation, certificate of compliance and municipal registration) of R1,740. I was told I would hear from the local supplier tasked with the installation within a few weeks. I heard from them (Nonstop Solar) a week later, and we agreed a date for installation a few weeks hence. A couple of days before that date they called and asked if I could receive a team for fitting earlier than scheduled (the next day). Great, I said.

The next day was rainy so only the internal electrics and installation of battery and inverter was completed. Everyone on the team was friendly and professional. I can’t help but smile when I say ‘everyone’ because there really did seem to be a lot of men through the house that day, about 12 of them in all. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe some of them were inside to keep warm on a cold and wet day when they couldn’t do their work on the roof.

It was another couple of weeks before the weather cleared enough for the panels to be fitted. Having an inverter and battery installed for that time meant that we were not dependent on Eskom so we weren’t terribly bothered. 

It is amazing how quickly one forgets. The added, short-term expense of drawing electricity from Eskom to keep a back-up battery powered was totally worth not suffering through loadshedding.

The clouds finally cleared and four guys spent most of a day installing the frames and then the eight solar panels went up. We were hooked up, and Eureka! we have a reliable power supply!

Total cost: R1,710 upfront and a monthly installment of R1,740.

GoSolar does all the ongoing support and optimisation, and promises uninterrupted power. I would love to hear from anyone who can explain how they can make these numbers stack up. R1740 x 12 = R20,880 (a year) x 5 years (I am guessing the lifespan of the panels) = R104,400.

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24th June 2023 9:40 am

Sounds worth investigating- thank you for the heads up. What does the fine print say in terms of buy back options?

3rd July 2023 4:45 pm

To answer your maths question, solar panels can last up to 20 or 30 years. Sunsynk inverters and batteries carry a 10 year warranty, so I’m pretty sure they will last longer than that.
My issue with rental is the price. Say you are paying R1750, you are still not off the grid. Even though drastically reduced, you will still have an eskom bill. Say it’s only R500, you’ll be paying R2250. I’d say bite the bullet, put it on your bond (if you work from home it might even be tax deductible) and at least it’s yours. Muuuuuuch better for resale appeal of your home if you sell it.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x