As persistent loadshedding continues to dampen South Africans’ mood, demand for solar has continued to heat up, to satisfy their energy needs – and recent incentives will increase this further.

But when it comes to installing solar solutions, one key question remains: how big is big enough?

“Size really does matter when it comes to panels, but it all comes down to your specific energy needs and desires. In terms of surface area, a larger solar panel will obviously produce much more energy than a smaller one, these range at a 395kwh and 460kwh mark,” says Rein Snoeck Henkemans, MD of Alumo Energy.

“But the size of the panels is not the only factor influencing your system’s overall performance. The azimuth angle and environmental factors also play a major role, as they determine the amount of sunlight you’ll receive.”

He points out that a typical residential solar panel is around 2m x 1m. This size panel can generate around 405 watts of power. If you’ve got a bigger house with higher energy consumption needs, you will need multiple panels to meet your energy needs.

Snoeck Henkemans explains that any calculation should also consider the home’s size, the number of occupants, and the energy consumption habits.

“Generally, the size of a solar system increases with the package size, which means that the larger the solar package, the more power you can generate and sweat up. This means that if you opt for a bigger package with more panels, you could potentially generate enough energy to power larger appliances or electronics in your home or business, which could lead to even greater savings on your electricity bill over time.

“It’s also important to remember that your solar system is not just a temporary or short-term fix to bridge your power gap – it should be seen as a long-term partnership that adds value to your home. And like any partnership, you can scale up and invest more in your system as you go along.”


How many solar panels do you need to stay switched on?

If you install a high-quality 5kW inverter and 3,6kWh battery, the numbers determine how your number of solar panels would impact your power’s running time. The calculation assumes you wish to power a CCTV camera and security system; a computer; one fridge or freezer; a kettle; 10 LED lights; a microwave; and a TV.  For this size system to be efficient, panels should range from eight 395kWh panels.

Snoeck Henkemans adds that it’s not just the size of the solar panel that counts, but also on how consumers use it, and make behavioural lifestyle changes to maximise its benefits.

“Higher demands on the system will obviously impact running times, so if you want to power more appliances and devices, you may need a greater number of solar panels and greater battery capacity.”

Finally, he notes that he does not usually recommend clients go completely off-grid, as this could require as many as 20 solar panels or even more, dependent on the size of the household and its energy needs.

To sum up, he concludes that size really does matter – but it’s not the only thing that counts.