How to Run Your House with Solar Power

Can I run my home with solar power and be independent from grid electricity (ESKOM)?

More and more people are beginning to ask this question. The answer is “Yes” but unless you have $20K (US) or more to invest, running a typical household “off grid” is not possible.

Photo by hatch + ulland owen architectsBrowse exterior home photos

ESKOM supplied electricity is relatively cheap with in comparison to the cost of alternative energy sources such as solar or gas etc. For this reason it is difficult to justify a high cost in order to create the same power facilities as those offered by ESKOM.

Air conditioners and refrigerators are huge energy-sucking monsters and to run an average sized home completely on solar power thus needs some energy or power consumption changes to make the whole project more feasible. There are a number of variables that have to be considered when establishing a home solar system. Latitude, insulation, system size, installation costs; each of these will have an effect on the cost of a system.

Building a solar home from the ground is many times more affordable than retrofitting an existing home. However, even if you live in a home that is tied in to the electric grid, you can use solar power, too.

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1. Firstly all incandescent globes must be replaced with CFL – low watt fluorescents and even LED lighting.

2. Passive solar power. When you are building a new home, build a passive solar home. Collect free energy and delegate most of your heating and cooling costs to the sun. Simply design a space that makes the most use of the sunlight that falls on your property.

An architect can advise you how to design to site your home in the ideal orientation to the sun to ensure maximum solar benefits or to incorporate thermal mass into your home design, such as concrete floors and stone hearths. Passive solar design creates a balance where the sun is encouraged into areas for daytime comfort and is stored in dense materials, such as masonry and floor tiles, for nighttime comfort in cool climates.

Thoughtful placement of greenery and breezeways keep summer temperatures from soaring in hot climates.

3. Active solar power. Install a solar photovoltaic, or PV – system for an active solar power system to run your home. Even if you live in an existing home, you can retrofit your home with a solar PV system that allows you to run your home from solar power.

There are two solutions:

a) You can set up a solar PV system with a battery bank to store power
b) You can remain tied to the electric grid. On days where you produce more power than you need, your electric meter runs backwards, and the electric company pays you. On days when you use more power than you generate, your system switches back to the electric grid.


8x80W PV Solar Panels
6x102A 12V batteries
4x20A solar regulators
1 x 6000VA power inverter
Cables and connectors
Bracket mountings

Convert an existing gas, oil or electric hot water heater to a solar hot water heater. Hot water consumes an enormous amount of energy.

4. Today, many household appliances are becoming more and more energy efficient, such as:

  • LCD TVs; Laptop computers
  • Solar fridges and freezers
  • Evaporative air conditioners

Find devices that will run directly from 12VDC. Upgrade your appliances to energy-efficient 12-volt models. Super energy-efficient washers, dryers, refrigerators and freezers are available in 12-volt models that require a fraction of the energy traditional models do, making them ideal options to run on solar power.