How much does a home solar system cost?

Thinking of going solar? The upfront cost can be scary, but the benefits are clear.

Finding the right home solar solution can be a time-consuming and confusing exercise. Considering the cost involved, this is not something you want to get wrong. If the system’s too small, it won’t power your home when needed, and if it’s too big you’re spending too much to produce more electricity than you can use.

We’ve compared the general costs of 3 different options you can use to generate your own power at home and reduce your reliance on the national grid – or end it completely.

For the purpose of this exercise, we’re going to compare the cost of 5kW solar photovoltaic systems used as a grid-tied, hybrid or fully off-grid installation. A system of this size should be enough for a household that pays around R1,400 for electricity every month, using roughly 960kWh.

If you have a smaller home and use less electricity, your costs would be a little lower. If you have a larger home, you’re going to need a bigger budget.

The prices used in these examples have been taken from a reputable supplier that offers home solar kits, including all the components, brackets and connectors you’ll need to install a solar system. Costs exclude installation, electrical certificate of compliance and any other service charges.

The cost of a grid-tied solar system

A grid-tied system is one that produces energy whenever you have enough sunlight, but also draws power from the grid when your system isn’t generating enough electricity. This is the cheapest option because it excludes the most expensive component in any solar power system – the batteries. For this installation, 6 solar panels and an inverter (to convert the direct current from the panels into the alternating current used in your home) should be enough to produce the power you need during the day.

In our example, this solution should cost you between R55,000 and R60,000, but you will be using less grid electricity during the day, so the cost will be offset to an extent by savings on your electricity bill.

The cost of hybrid solar system

The advantage of a hybrid system is that it can generate and store electricity most of the time and draw power from the electricity grid only when needed. A hybrid system adds battery storage between the solar panels and your inverter.

Generating twice as much power as you consume is a wide safety margin for your off-grid system

But as mentioned, the price increases sharply when you add batteries to the system. For a hybrid system as described, you might want to install 2 batteries to have enough power stored when long periods of cloudy weather cause your system to produce less electricity than usual.

Our chosen hybrid solution with 8 solar panels and 2 batteries will cost you between R115,000 and R120,000.

The cost of an off-grid solar system

Being free of the electricity grid and constant power outages comes at a cost. Yes, you have your own power source, but you’re also totally reliant on it working as it should. If it doesn’t, you'll be left without any electricity and no easy access to an alternative.

That’s why a totally off-grid system needs more solar panels to feed the much bigger bank of batteries to ensure you have enough electricity to run everything in your home and enough stored to keep everything running until the batteries can be recharged by solar power alone.

For this scenario, we considered using as many as 5 batteries, giving you storage capacity of about 18kWh, and needing 8 solar panels to recharge your batteries fully every day. This is not a very big margin of safety, so we also looked at a 9-battery solution that needs 14 solar panels but can store up to 33kWh, double your daily average.

Generating twice as much power as you consume is a wide safety margin for your off-grid system, but it comes at a cost – close to R250,000, to be exact.

Counting the cost of going off the grid

At first glance, these numbers might seem a little scary. It’s a big investment and a big decision to choose a system and how you’re going to finance it. But if you break down the numbers, you could well justify such a big outlay of money.

We offer specialised home solar financing options to clients as a cost-effective way to reap the benefits of a home solar system.

We have also partnered with Hohm Energy, a company that brings homeowners together with installers and solar suppliers to simplify and streamline the process. This partnership allows you to get an indicative proposal for your home after a brief virtual consultation to discuss your house and your needs.