Thursday, February 10, 2011

Conventional Genset or Solar Panels?

The supply side is rapidly evolving and even every month, there are new technologies. The decision to install solar power in a home depends on several factors, of course including 'for the love of the environment'. The primary concern is the cost, which I would say has gone down dramatically in the past few years. And if we are choosing between conventional gensets and solar power systems for your home, it would perhaps be useful to do a comparative analysis. Offhand, it would look like this (on a scoring scale of 1-3, with 3 being the highest positive score):

Upfront Cost:
Conventional Genset - 3 (a 2.5KVa system can be as cheap as 15,000 pesos)
Solar - 1 (a 2.5KVa system will cost you over 50,000 pesos)

Long-term Running Cost:
Genset - 1 (Every time you need it, you'll need gasoline or diesel)
Solar - 3 (you can forget about it and it will generate electricity as long as there's sunlight)

Genset - 1 (you would only use it for emergencies)
Solar - 3 (you can use it everyday!)

Genset - 1 (needs to be in a place where the fumes cannot harm humans and should be connected to the mains)
Solar - 2 (needs to be installed on the roof, with maximum solar exposure, can be integrated into the house wiring)

Ease of Use/Convenience:
Genset - 1 (you need to buy fuel and crank it up and connect it to the mains)
Solar - 3 (you can practically forget it is there because it can be on auto-standby)

Energy Storage (for evening use):
Genset - 2 (as long as there's fuel, you're ok)
Solar - 2 (you need batteries if you need to use the electricity at night)

Genset - 1 (obviously, fossil fuel)
Solar - 3 (benevolent power from the sun)

Total Score:
Genset : 10
Solar: 17

After you've decided that you want to install a solar power system, then you'll have to choose how far you'd want to go. It can be as simple as powering just one light bulb or a cellphone charger, or as grand as being autonomous from Meralco. Everything is possible. Of course the more ambitious it is, the more expensive it becomes. but then again, since you are choosing between genset or solar, then I'd assume you wish to use solar as a backup - which makes a lot of sense because in times of power failures/brown outs, the genset is usually used for lighting, TV or radio, some ventilation (electric fan). For this purpose, you'd need around 50,000 pesos, which includes:
- 200 wp solar panel (1 piece, approx. 0.8m x 1.2m dimension)
- 2 12-volt 65Kva batteries
- a 2.5KVa inverter (to convert the DC to AC)
- solar charge controller (to prevent over-charging of batteries and backflow of current to the solar panel)
- wiring

You can opt to have the system directly wired to just a selected number of lights or outlets in your house or you can choose to have a sort of "power backup kit" where you just use extension cords every time there's a brownout. The former is preferable because the batteries need constant 'cycling' just like cellphone batteries and so you want them constantly recharged and drained. This also means you use the solar power every day - without you noticing it because the system can be automatic. One thing though - you do need to change batteries in about 3 years.

I'll be glad to point you to suppliers if you decide to pursue this.


  1. Can you help me in setting up solar for my home

  2. I would like to set up a solar source of energy for my home. Where would be the best source for this and which suppliers offer the best service? Thanks!