Month: February 2015
There are 4 ways to get power today in Nigeria. The grid (NEPA/PHCN/DICO), a generator, an Inverter or a solar generator. While each has its strength, there are clear advantages some hold over the other. We will review them in Numerical order and then you can decide which is the best solution for you.
1. The grid NEPA/PHCN/DISCO. In most countries this is your first choice. It should be reliable, quick to deploy, low cost of ownership and requires no maintenance. In Nigeria and most of Sub Saharan Africa the grid is unreliable. You can go days without power. When the power is delivered it can be epileptic, too low or too high. Can be destructive to appliances and sensitive electronics. You can’t plan because there is no time table for when you will have power. Expensive to deploy in ares that don’t have access to the grid.
2. A Generator: Inexpensive to buy, very quick to deploy, very easy to purchase and it is a mature solution. Easy to deploy in remote areas Generators are noisy, they pollute, they require expensive fuel frequently, need service and require a ventilated area for installation. High risk of injury from burns or asphyxiation. The cost of fueling a generator can be high if you run them daily. Most small generators are designed as back up and they can’t run for extended periods of time without breaking down or service. Low quality generators can be destructive to sensitive electronics. The running costs are higher than an other solution available.
3. The Inverter: They cost more than a generator per Kw to buy and requires professional installation. They require very little maintenance, make no noise, don’t pollute, can be installed indoors. The require little to no maintenance. Inverters have an automatic transfer switch and UPS function built in. The Inverter needs the grid or a generator to recharge the batteries. They were not designed as permanent solutions, so they get hot during extended use and eventually will suffer failure from excessive heat. The battery chargers on most Inverters lack the proper charge logic, resulting in premature battery failure.
4. Solar power Generator: Has the most initial upfront cost per Kw. Requires installation by an experienced solar professional. Can be designed to meet the budgets and needs of a client. Can be a back up or permanent solution. Makes no noise, does not pollute, designed as a permanent solution, equipment is more robust and will last longer. Comes with a UPS and an automatic transfer switch built in. The batteries will charge with the sun, NEPA/PHCN or a generator. If the system is properly sized you can completely avoid using a generator. Some customers in remote areas have gone completely off the grid. Has running costs that are close to grid power per watt hour. Lowest after the grid. It takes a few days to as much as one month to tailor your usage to your installed capacity. Solar power requires that the panels be cleaned during the dry season.
What you decide to use will be determined by your budget, the amount of power you receive from the grid and how much space you have. We hope this helps you decide on a solution that will help you manage the poor supply coming from the grid.
I read a post on my friends Facebook page and it was about someone who died as a result of a generator fire. He was a younger brother to a commissioner in his home state and this happened in December. He went to refuel his generator while it was still running, this caused an explosion that resulted in burns on over 80% of his body.
I mention his brother to let you know that even those in high places make the mistake this young man made. So what is the safest way to use a generator? Follow these simple tips and you should be relatively safe.
1. Have it installed by a qualified individual. I have seen connections that blow the mind. Exposed wires, wires that are not covered. Generators produce 230 Volts and the cables touching your skin, or any bare metal can be deadly. The same wires are at ground level. Not a good idea during the rainy season.
2. Install your generator away from the house. Generators produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of burning gasoline. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that has no smell. There are more deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning than from electrocution yearly. Store the generator in an area away from your living quarters.
3. Never refuel a hot generator. When your generator has run for a while, the engine and exhaust get very hot. All it takes is a drop of fuel on the exhaust or hot engine parts to ignite it. Please allow the engine to cool down before you refuel your generator.
4, Never refuel from an open container. I see people pour fuel from an improperly designed plastic container. I also see the same people not use a funnel or siphon. Please purchase a siphon. They are inexpensive and minimize fuel spills and accidental ignition.
5. Don’t store the fuel in the same room as the generator. This makes sense but most people don’t follow it. You increase your risk of fire or an explosion by having a source of fuel next to an ignition point. All it takes is a spark.
6. Have you generator serviced. This one is so important, yet most people don’t do it. A generator that is running well, has little chance of back firing or generating hot spots that can be potentially ignite. They also use less fuel, pollute less and last longer.
7. Avoid the cheap I better pass my neighbor. They are cheap, dangerous to you and your appliances. They don’t produce clean electricity and can damage your sensitive electronic devices. They pollute, are noisy and can self com-bust. If you must buy a generator spend a little extra and buy a good quality product.
We don’t advocate generator use, but we recognize that many people use them and we feel that if you follow these simple guidelines you will be relatively safe.
Conversation with our client two days ago.
C: Can you tell me how many more panels I will need when you come to install them.
A: We have you getting six 255 W panels.
C: How much more will I need? I am using 9 % now (450W) and when the water pump comes on it goes to 45%. I want to run two AC.
A: How long are your 490 AH batteries lasting?
C: I am getting more than 12 hours out of them. I have not used my Gen since you installed the system. PHCN comes just before the system starts to beep.
A: You know you purchased 1202 AH in batteries. Lets bring the panels and your new batteries and we can monitor your charge and discharge rate and we can then determine how many more you will need.
C: I want to have everything right from the get go.
A: 2.5 Kw in panels should take you through the day. I can’t guarantee your nights if you run 2 AC’s with 1202 AH in batteries.
C: I might need a bigger battery bank.
A: Yes you will.
A client that is thinking ahead. The system is performing well and he has saved so much money on fuel. When we add his panels next month (after he finishes building the carport) he won’t think about a generator anymore. Sweet
Conversation today February 12, 2015 at 3:30 AM
What happens when you run your batteries down at 10 PM
The client called from Lagos and said
C: I have not had light since 10 pm last night.
A: Can you explain the circumstances
C: It rained heavily yesterday and we have not had NEPA for 2 days.
A: Do you know what the voltage of your batteries are?
C: 20.6 V.
A: Do you remember our conversation about you not buying enough batteries and panels and if NEPA is out for 2 days and it rains to turn off your freezer and water pump. 20.6 is a battery in crisis. Your operating range is between 24 and 26. Did you hear the alarm?
C: Yes we did. It beeped for a few hours and then the lights went out.
A: It is 930 AM what is the voltage of your battery?
C: 22.8 V
A: Leave the system off for 6 hours, the sun should recharge your batteries fully today. You can spring some money to double your battery bank and you won’t have to worry again.
C: So you are saying that I ran out of fuel.
A: Yes you have a fuel tank that is deigned for 24 to 30 hours. You got 48 hours out of it. Turn every thing off and your tank will be full in 6 to 8 hours.
C: Thank you I will pay attention to my batteries going forward.
A: I am sure someone used an Iron and the water pump did stress it when it was discharged but the batteries will recover.
Folks it is important that you pay attention to your batteries Our client got comfortable and plain forgot about his system and batteries.