Our Journey Off Grid In South Africa: Testing out our starter solar power set up that’ll be our only source of power on our off grid piece of land until we’re able to upscale it. One 120W solar panel, a 440W Flexopower and some lights. Here’s how it went!
Follow our off grid journey as we go from looking for land to building our off grid home.
We are on a journey to living off grid and self sustainably in South Africa.
Along the way, we’re doing a lot of research into various topics involved in this lifestyle.
Browse articles with information and tips on off grid living in South Africa
So our wendy is finally up – albeit not insulated yet, or treated – and we got to spend a few (absolutely freezing) days in it!
This gave me the opportunity to test out our solar equipment and see if it will be adequate for the upcoming permanent move.
Our only primary requirements are:
- Recharging electronics (laptop, cellphone, vapes etc) and
- Recharging our power tools batteries.
GD Lite Lighting System
We set up a little camping kitchen inside the wendy, and I was able to give our el-cheapo solar GD Lite Lighting System a go.
The system includes a small portable battery that has a bright light itself, a tiny solar panel (about 10 x 20cm) and 3 lights that plug into the battery with nice long cables and individual on-off switches. I got it on Takealot for a few hundred bucks.
I was curious to see how long the battery lasted.
On the first night, we only switched a light on when we went into the wendy (most of the time we sat outside by the fire). The battery reported that it was still on full power the next morning.
So the next night, I strung up one light outside (through the kitchen window) and switched it on, along with the one hanging in the kitchen area (which lights up the whole cabin on its own), at around 6pm.
I did notice that with both lights on simultaneously, the battery struggled – both lights dimmed and flickered a bit. As soon as I turned off one of the two lights, the issue resolved.
A bit of a pity that it can only solidly run one light at a time. We switched all lights off at about 10pm, and by then the battery was still reading full.
I also used the GD battery to charge my vape. I connected the battery to the solar panel. Again a nice long cable, so the solar panel sat outside and the battery sat in the shade at the sliding door. I then plugged my vape in to charge simultaneously.
It struggled a bit with charging my vape (could only seem to get it up to half battery power), but the GD battery itself did recharge to full while charging the vape.
Altogether, not bad for a R350 system.
It’ll be fine for our lighting needs, and as a back up emergency electronics charger.
That gave me the opportunity to test the Lithium 444 Flexopower.
Baby test, since this guy should be able to run a drill, and can even power a solar fridge.
We have the Black & Decker Multievo (which I’m enamoured with), which takes different attachments to be different tools.
I contacted Flexopower’s support before buying to make sure it’d be capable of recharging the Multievo’s lithium battery, and they confirmed it’d be no problem.
The Flexopower worked great.
I continued to use it to recharge both my vapes during our 4 day stay (I have two that I switch between and recharge about once a day). I also charged my cellphone.
Russ used the cigarette lighter plug around the back of the battery to power the air pump for the blow up mattress. He was stoked he didn’t have to blow the mattress up next to the car then manouver it inside! And he topped the mattress up on our second and third night.
The Flexopower’s battery power indicator didn’t change from full during our stay so I didn’t get a chance to test out charging it with a solar panel (we have a 120W solar panel for this purpose).
Its fairly expensive, but extremely light and portable, built in plug points, and a lot of power to offer (440W) for that price. I was lucky enough to get it on a pre-order special which knocked a few k’s off the price! All in all the battery and the solar panel (which you need to get separately) cost us about R7,000.
We plan to use this battery for our general electricity needs (simple as they are here) until we upgrade to a big permanent solar set up that can run a washing machine and a small fridge down the line. That requires some serious saving! The Flexo will still be super useful after that, as we can carry it to anywhere on the property (rather than having to run extension cables for days) and take it on camping trips in the mountains too if we want to. Happy days 🙂
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