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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT :

SOLAR SYSTEMS

BACKUP SYSTEMS

INVERTERS

BATTERIES


Q: What is a PV Solar system?
A: A Photo Voltaic (PV) Solar system consists of : a solar array (panels), a solar panel combiner, a solar regulator, an inverter and a storage battery bank (if the system is not a grid tie system, a grid tie system is normally installed without backup or battery banks). The system can convert solar rays into AC power 230V/ 50Hz.

Q: I want a solar system to feed electricity back into the Eskom grid and earn money from it.
A: Apart from some areas under the Cape Town Municipality and some other exeptions, this is still ileagal in South Africa unless you want to start a solar farm with >1MW output.

Q: Why do professional Solar Companies charge for Solar Systems designs?
A: As with any professional, they are sharing their knowledge, experience and time to provide good advice which will save you time, money and avoid making costly mistakes. It is very easy to make costly mistakes in solar designs and therefore we recommend you use a professional solar design service. In the end it will save you money and you will have a system that works for many years hassle free.

Q: What type of battery must I use in a solar system?
A: Preferably a deep cycle, high cycle AGM gel battery e.g. Omnipower OPS and the Hoppecke OPzs solar series available from Sinetech. A deep cycle gel battery must be used in this application as it has a much higher cycle life than standard backup batteries and these batteries are therefore normally more expensive than standby batteries. Standard batteries can be use but have a much shorter cycle life.

Q: My neighbour was told by a so called “Solar company” that they can change his entire house to PV solar for less than R30 000?
A: I hope your neighbour has been given a comprehensive quotation stating exactly how much power the solar system will provide, a list of the components being provided and whether hardware and installation is included or not. He/she should also check the quality of the panels and batteries being supplied as there are a lot of cheap, unreliable products being offered.

Q: What is the cost of replacing Eskom with a PV solar system for my house?
A: This will depend on many factors such as Peak KW and the Kw/h in 24hr period used, size of system, reserve power in days, location, environment, quality of components used, etc. But to give you a realistic but rough indication a small house can cost from R100 000 - R250 000, a medium sized house from R250 000 - R500 000 and a larger house from R500 000 – >R1 million.

Q: What is a Backup System?
A: A Backup system consist normally of an Inverter, a Battery Charger, a Changeover Switch and a Battery set. For computers and more sensitive equipment a UPS ( Uninterruptible Power Supply ) is normally used, which combines all components above in one container. A online and good quality UPS system also offers total protection. Your equipment is always powered via an electronically produced sinewave output and is not directly connected to the utility. An inverter system is normally only used for long backup situations, where protection is not required. Inverter long backup systems are ideal for home applications.

Q: What is an Inverter?
A: An inverter is an electronic device which converts DC power (from a battery) into AC 230V/ 50Hz power.

Q: What is the difference between a “SINEWAVE” and “SQUAREWAVE / MODIFIED SINEWAVE” Inverter?

MODIFIED SINEWAVE INVERTER :

A:The Modified Sinewave / Quasi or Squarewave Inverters (which are technically very simular) are a cost-effective way to produce some sort of AC power but they also come with some major limitations. The output waveform creates high harmonics and are not suitable for high crest factor loads such as high inductive loads (motors, transformers, transformer driven appliances) or high capacitive power factor loads (switch mode power supplies, battery chargers, etc.). They often also lack on any overload capability and it is very difficult to protect these inverters electronically, normally a fuse has to do. It also can produce noise which is sometimes audible in radios and visible in television sets. Some equipment such as fans can make additional noise and they can overheat.

These are some of the appliances that may experience problems when running off Modified Sinewave inverters:

  • Laser printers, photocopiers, magneto-optical hard drives
  • Some fluorescent lights with standard inductive ballasts
  • Power tools employing "solid state" power or variable speed control
  • Some battery chargers for cordless tools
  • Some computer equipment
  • Sometimes produces interference in some radios and television sets
  • Digital clocks with radios
  • Sewing machines with speed/microprocessor control
  • Medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators
  • Modified sinewave inverters are usually only protected by standard fuses which, under normal circumstances, are not always fast enough, therefore they are by far more vulnerable to failure.

These types of inverters are normally used on small and simple loads such as camping sites to connect some lights and TV and run other light loads for a short times. We do not recommend to use this type of inverters for permanent installations or for Domestic Applications. Recommended Brand Names for standard applications are OMNIPOWER AND POWERMASTER.

PURE SINEWAVE INVERTER :

This is the best output waveform you can get out of an inverter and most appliances are able to run off them without interference or overheating. Sinewave inverters are by far more complex structures and vary substantially from manufacturer to manufacturer. They would incorporate some simple or many sophisticated protection circuitry (depending on model and brand name). Therefore, this type of inverter is also much more expensive but has a much better performance and it is much more reliable. Many inverters are designed for certain application, please ask our Technical Consultants to assist you to choose the right Model and power level for your application.

Some of its advantages are :

  • Output voltage waveform is pure sine wave with very low harmonic distortion and the same or better than the Eskom supply
  • Inductive loads like microwave ovens and motors run correctly, quieter and cooler
  • Reduces audible and electrical noise in fans, fluorescent lights, audio amplifiers, TV, Game consoles, Fax, and answering machines
  • Prevents crashes in computers, unreadable print outs, and glitches and noise in monitors
  • It can be efficiently electronically protected in overload, overvoltage, undervoltage and over temperature conditions
  • The recommended brand names for this application could be Studer, Outback, Omnipower, Cotek or SMA Inverter/Charger

Q: What type of battery must I use in a standby system?
A: A standby battery is normally a semi sealed or sealed lead acid or lead calcium battery. You would use batteries such as CSB sealed or ROYAL 1150 series, and Deltec 1150, or the Varta BV series available from Sinetech. A deep cycle battery can be used in this application but is not necessary. A deep cycle battery in a standby application would probably not perform better or would not last longer, deep cycle batteries are normally more expensive.

Q: What type of battery must I use in a solar system?
A: A deep cycle battery. These can be an open, semi sealed or sealed batteries for small and medium sized installations e.g the Omnipower OPS and Hoppecke OPzs solar series available from Sinetech. A deep cycle battery must be used in this application as it has a much higher cycle life than standard backup batteries. These batteries are normally more expensive than standby batteries.


 

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