IF I were an electrical contractor in business today, I would do two things:
- Make sure that each of my staff was as highly trained as possible.
- Go into the business of installing solar power systems.
There is no doubt that the technical ability of the staff of the average electrical contractor has got worse and worse and worse.
It may be that the reason is as confusing as the reason for none of my staff being able to write a report with correct grammar and without spelling mistakes - something that I can't understand.
One would think that in these days of word processors, where spelling mistakes are underlined in red and grammatical errors underlined in green, a trained chimpanzee could write a report in which spelling mistakes and grammatical errors do not appear.
But this is not so. In a similar way, contracting staff make errors, which are so basic as to be incomprehensible.
For example, they will install distribution boards and leave out the earth connection.
They will install distribution boards and cable up various consumers and, despite the fact that they have been issued with a labeling machine, they will fail to label the circuits of the distribution board.
They will connect a cable to a 100A circuit breaker in a consumer's premises and connect the other end of the cable to a 60A circuit breaker in a distribution board and see nothing wrong with this. In short, their ability, like the report writing ability of my staff, is ever decreasing. Thus, any contractors that reverse this trend will soon become rich because they will, by definition, be doing better than their opposition.
Secondly, contractors should learn about solar power installations. This is the big thing of the future.
To fully turn a house over to solar power today will cost R100 000. Power savings will be about R13 per day so, at today's power prices, you will only get your money back in 21 year's time.
However, it is quite likely that power prices will escalate at 15% a year, which means you will get your money back in about seven years. At the same time, the prices of solar products (solar cells, batteries, controllers) are falling rapidly and so I predict that in three year's time, a full solar installation will repay its installation cost in five years.
This is a rate of return of 14%. And when we hit this level of repayment, there will be flood of demand. If you have highly trained staff and if they are trained in solar installation, you can't help but be at the right place at the right time.
Now, it may seem that I am making wild guesses and that the phrase ‘turn a house over to solar power' has, by implication, the requirement that there should be a solar geyser and gas cooking. True, but not quite. A solar geyser is a good idea but naturally requires a power supplement on dull days. If we consider that the average domestic home has a peak demand of about 5kW and steady demand of about 13kW/h per 24-hour period, with 20 solar panels and twelve 105A/hour batteries, the whole system would almost be able to run the entire household, even the stove.
What would bring the whole project home would be if the municipalities (or Eskom) allow those residents who install solar systems to supply back into the grid, a process known as ‘net metering'. Then it would be truly possible for the house to be energy neutral. The time is not very far away. The technological leaps in solar cells, solar lights and inverter technology are causing the prices of these systems to fall each month. The trick is not to install too much too soon since technology will continue to improve and, if you dive in too early, you will pay too much.
This is where the intelligent electrical contractor with well-trained staff who have a knowledge of solar, stands to gain in the market.
Think about it.
And how to teach my staff grammar and spelling?
Oh, I don't know....