The government has started many different projects to end load shedding. However, due to financial constraints or unavailability of equipment, the projects have been... Ownership Costs of Solar System versus Generator versus UPS

The government has started many different projects to end load shedding. However, due to financial constraints or unavailability of equipment, the projects have been delayed with their completion date being pushed further and further. The government has acknowledged that these projects won’t be completed anytime soon and load shedding would continue till 2018, when the current government’s term finishes. This will result in excessive load shedding during summers because the demand of electricity is much more than the supply. The best way to handle load-shedding during summer or any other time is by installing a UPS, generator or a solar system. Each system has its benefits, and choosing one depends upon the requirements and finances.

UPS is the basic solution to handle load shedding. It is cost effective and easy to maintain. The only disadvantage is that it can’t handle heavy voltage items like a refrigerator or air conditioner.

Generator is a better solution since it can handle high voltage items. Its disadvantage is that it requires lots of maintenance, causes pollution, and is very noisy.

Solar system is a relatively new way to handle load shedding. It saves on electricity bill and its disadvantage is that it requires a lot of money upfront.

The following table summarizes the load handling capacity of each system of equal wattage.

Items Supported UPS

750 Watts

Generator  750 VA Solar System

750 VA

UPS

1000

Watts

Generator 1 kVA Solar System

1 kVA

UPS

2000

Watts

Generator 2 kVA Solar System

2 kVA

Energy Saver 6 4 4 8 10 4 14 14 10
Fan 3 3 3 4 6 3 8 8 6
Tube light 1 3 1 5 5 2
Water Dispenser 1 1
Laptop 1 1 2
LCD TV 1 1 1 1 2
Water pump 1

0.75HP

1

1.5 HP

The following table summarizes the equipment required for each system and the cost of it.

Additional Items Required UPS

750 Watts

Generator  750 VA Solar System

750 VA

UPS

1000

Watts

Generator 1 kVA Solar System

1 kVA

UPS

2000

Watts

Generator 2 kVA Solar System

2 kVA

Battery 9000 72,000 9000 144,000 18,000 144,000
Solar Panel 86,250 115,000 230,000
Hybrid Inverter 85,000 85,000 85,000
Installation + Cabling 52,000 52,000 52,000
Solar Panel Stand 7000 7000 7000
Total Cost (main equipment + additional items) in Rs 17,000 23,000 302,250 20,000 28,000 403,000 32,000 35,000 460,500

Maintenance –

UPS: A UPS’s battery water level needs to be regularly checked. In most cases, batteries need to be replaced after a year, 1 ½ years or even 2 years. If a battery is well maintained, it can last up to 3 years. Some consumers, who maintained their battery well, didn’t need to replace it for 3 ½ years thus it depends on how well it is maintained.

Regularly checking the water level and cleaning the connectors increases the battery’s life. Every year the battery connectors and the Ups connectors should be cleaned to ensure maximum utilization of the battery. The battery needs to recharge, and clean connectors will help it to recharge quickly. A good battery will charge in less time than a slightly old battery which will take a relatively longer time to recharge. The amount of time a battery takes to charge is equivalent to the electricity consumed by a 100W bulb. An average recharge time of a battery is about 75-90 minutes. The longer it recharges, the more electricity it will consume and higher the bill will be.

Some imported UPS, especially from China, are made from low quality materials. They are named disposable UPS by technicians. If any part malfunctions, the UPS can’t be repaired, but needs to be replaced. This increases ownership costs of UPS. If you plan to buy a UPS, then buy a reputable company’s UPS.

Generators: Most people install generators because of their load capacity. A powerful generator can support the entire house including refrigerator, television, and air conditioner. It is much cheaper than a solar system, but requires more maintenance.

A generator will be either petrol or diesel or a gas generator. Since the price of petrol fluctuates, the amount of money spent on petrol or diesel depends upon the latest price. Similarly, during winter there is gas load-shedding which will hinder the use of the generator.

Oil needs to be changed regularly in a generator. For a petrol or diesel generator, oil needs to be changed after 100 hours, while for a gas generator it needs to change after 70 hours. The cost of oil change is between Rs 1000-1500 for a 1.5kVA to 2 KVA generator. As the VA increases, the cost of oil change increases too.

A generator also needs to be tuned up. Tune up is done after every 2 to 3 oil changes. The cost of a tune up is between Rs 300-400 for a 1.5kVA to 2 KVA generator. As the VA increases, the cost of tune up increases too.

Solar System: A solar system is maintenance free and doesn’t require any tune up or oil change. It consists of dry batteries which don’t have water; hence the batteries don’t need to be checked for water level. The batteries need to be replaced every 4 years.

The only maintenance, suggested by us, is to regularly check the solar panel. You should make sure that the glass of the panel is clean and not dirty. The cleaner the glass, the more sun it will absorb. Another thing to check is the condition of the glass. Make sure the glass isn’t cracked or damaged. This could result from hail storm damage or kids playing cricket and the ball accidently hitting the solar panels.

 

In summary, you should install the system that you can afford. A UPS is affordable and easy to maintain system. A generator is a little expensive and requires maintenance. It is dangerous too since its smoke can suffocate people. A solar system doesn’t require any maintenance and saves on electricity bill, but its upfront high cost forces the people away. These are the choices available in the market today, and with load shedding to continue, a system needs to be installed.

  • Munir Raza Waris

    Nice comparison between different energy sources, would like to make one comment that UPS does not have a high upfront cost but if you compare it with Solar Solution , the break even is reached in 3-4 years as the cost of charging batteries from the grid ( in the case of UPS ) is high . after this period ( 3-4 years ) Solar becomes cheaper.

    • loadsheddingpk

      Thanks Munir sb. Valid points.

  • We must know that VA is not equal to Watts, or KVA is not equal to KW.

  • After doing some web reading, I have concluded that residential PV systems are NOT cost effective. Pure solar PV KWh (units) currently cost in excess of Rs.20 per unit, which is much higher than the units charged to residential properties. Yes life is unaffected by loadshedding, but one has to pay a lot for this comfort. Net metering does not help, at current repurchase rates. Large residential and commercial societies can install a solar power project to provide uninterrupted low cost electricity, due to scale economies. Any expert comments????