How Much Do Off-Grid Solar Systems Cost in 2024?

The transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources for electricity generation is a global priority for many reasons. 

Not least of which is the survival of the planet as we know it.

The global implications of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions are still being evaluated and are subject to debate.

However, in South Africa, relying on utilities like Eskom that burn coal and other fossil fuels to produce electricity is already a failure.

Load-shedding has been a daily reality for many South Africans for years…

And it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

But thanks to recent innovations in off-grid solar technology, there’s no need to go without electricity for hours every day.

But how much does energy security and freedom from Eskom cost?

Read on to find out more.

What Is an Off-Grid Solar System?

An off-grid solar power system consists of photovoltaic modules (usually solar panels) and a balance of system

Balance of system refers to all the additional components required to convert and store the DC electricity that solar panels produce from sunlight using the photovoltaic effect. 

Unlike on-grid or grid-tied PV systems, off-grid solar power systems operate independently of electricity supplied by utilities and power companies like Eskom.

On-grid solar systems have some benefits in locations where utility-supplied electricity is reliable. 

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing national crisis with Eskom and load-shedding, having reliability as a prerequisite for on-grid solar basically excludes the entire country.   

One commonly cited advantage of grid-tied solar is net metering. Also known as a “feed-in program,” net metering is a billing arrangement between residential and commercial solar energy producers that allows them to send electricity generated in excess of what’s used instantaneously back to the utility grid. 

Typically, any excess electricity your net metering capable solar power system sends to the grid is credited to your electricity bill against the cost of the on-grid electricity you consume.

Net metering is relatively rare in South Africa, but notable exceptions exist. Cape Town, for example, is working on a program that would lower the cost of the bi-directional electricity meters required for net metering. 

Additionally, instead of only being able to receive credits against electricity bills, some small solar producers may also be eligible to receive cash. Under the Western Cape’s Small-Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG) program,  some residents with grid-tied systems may qualify for a “feed-in tariff.” According to News24: “The National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) approved a feed-in tariff of 78.98c/kWh for the city. And the city, in turn, added a 25c/kWh incentive to that.”

Government incentives for residential solar power production are a welcome development. However, it’s crucial to note that very few homes will generate sufficient solar power to offset their electricity bill costs fully — let alone make any significant income from a feed-in tariff. And that doesn’t even account for the initial investment in a grid-tied solar power system.

Of far more concern to most South Africans will be the fact that on-grid solar power systems don’t work during blackouts.

During load shedding or unscheduled power outages, grid-tied solar power systems and inverters are designed to shut down and disconnect from the grid. International safety standards dictate that grid-tied solar inverters switch off during an outage to avoid further damage to infrastructure. More crucially, during an outage, utility personnel working on the grid could be injured or killed by an unexpected surge of electricity being sent back to the grid.

Off-grid solutions like EcoFlow’s DELTA Series portable solar stations and solar generators can be charged using on-grid AC electricity — as well as numerous other methods. 

However, they also operate entirely independent of the grid. By generating and storing electricity using PV panels and an all-in-one balance of system — including a LiFePO4 solar battery — EcoFlow’s off-grid electricity solutions have no reliance on the power company whatsoever.

In South Africa, where load-shedding is an ongoing nightmare, home battery backup power that offers solar charging and grid independence can be a life-changing (or lifesaving) purchase decision.   

Components Needed for an Off-Grid Solar System

Off-grid solar systems are comprised of photovoltaic modules (like solar panels), battery storage, and all the required balance of system components to convert, condition, and output usable household electricity.

It’s possible to mix and match the components listed below by using standalone parts from different manufacturers. However, compatibility issues are common and can lead to very expensive mistakes. 

EcoFlow’s portable power stations and Power Kits combine all of the balance of system components you need for off-grid solar power — just add rigid, flexible, or portable solar panels

With a plug-and-play EcoFlow solution, installation is simple, and you never need to worry about interoperability issues. 

Solar Panels

For homeowners, solar panels are by far the most common choice of photovoltaic modules. Solar shingles are another option, but they’re generally only suitable for new builds — and more expensive. 

Solar panels are generally composed of 100+ monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar cells that harness photons from sunlight and convert them into DC electricity. Thin film solar panels are also an option but tend to be inefficient.

When selecting solar panels, the essential factors to consider are rated power and efficiency.

Rated power measures the maximum amount of electricity a PV panel can produce under ideal conditions. For example, a 400W rigid solar panel will supply 400W of electricity per hour when unshaded in peak sunlight at a temperature of 25°C.

Rated power is determined in a laboratory under Standard Test Conditions — which seldom exist in the real world. Assuming 75% of rated power production during daylight hours is a helpful rule of thumb when shopping for a PV panel array.

Efficiency is a specific metric when it comes to solar panels. It measures the amount of sunlight (solar irradiance) a PV panel can convert into electricity per square meter. Essentially, the higher a solar panel’s efficiency, the more electricity it can produce by surface area.

Here are the average efficiencies of solar panels by composition


An inverter is an essential component whether you opt for an on-grid or off-grid system. 

Solar panels harvest photons from sunlight and convert them into DC electricity. Direct current has many applications, including transmitting electricity over long distances through power lines. 

However, alternating current (AC) is used worldwide for commercial and residential electricity.

An inverter converts and conditions DC power into AC (household) electricity.

Solar Battery

Solar power is intermittent. You can’t produce solar electricity at night. In overcast conditions, electricity production can be significantly reduced.

An on-grid solar system will automatically switch over to electricity from the power company when solar power is insufficient. However, grid-tied systems don’t work during power outages or load shedding. 

A solar battery is an essential component of every off-grid solar power system. LiFePO4 batteries offer the longest cycle life, depth of discharge, and charging efficiency of any electricity storage system currently available to consumers.

EcoFlow’s current range of portable power stations, solar generators, and Power Kits use lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4/LFP) battery chemistry.

Solar Charge Controller

Optional in a grid-tied system, a solar charge controller optimises battery performance and prevents over and undercharging. There are two types of charge controllers commonly used in residential solar power systems: MPPT and PWM. Maximum Power Point Tracking offers the best performance and maximises electricity production from your PV panel array.

Battery Management System

All off-grid solar power systems rely on solar batteries to store electricity. Solar power is intermittent. PV panels rely on sunlight to generate power and don’t work at night. They still capture photons on overcast days, but their electricity production is diminished. An advanced battery management system maximises battery performance and longevity.

Smart Home Panel or Transfer Switch (Optional)

If you opt for a solar generator from EcoFlow, you’ll have numerous ports available to plug your personal electronic devices and appliances directly. If you’re looking for seamless home backup during load-shedding or unscheduled blackouts, using a Smart Home Panel or transfer switch to integrate your solar power system with your home’s existing wiring and circuit panel is ideal. 

Depending on which DELTA series solar generator you choose, circuits connected to a Smart Home Panel will switch to off-grid electricity instantaneously or in ~30ms. Whether it’s load-shedding or an unscheduled power outage, you’ll barely notice that the grid isn’t operational.  

Cabling and Mounting Hardware

Whether you’re installing an off-grid solar system yourself or working with an installer, you’ll need wiring and mounting apparatus for a rooftop solar installation.

Even if you opt for portable solar panels, you’ll need the right cables to connect multiple panels in series or parallel and to your portable power station.

Factors Affecting the Cost of an Off-Grid Solar System

If you’re sick and tired of energy insecurity due to load-shedding, installing an off-grid solar power system is a no-brainer. But it does carry a significant price tag. 

Even though you’ll save money on Eskom bills over time once you achieve solar payback, the initial investment can be a challenge. 

Here are the primary factors that determine how much you need to spend.

Number and Type of Solar Panels 

Photovoltaic modules like solar panels and solar shingles are a prerequisite for any active solar power system — on or off-grid. Currently available solar energy systems rely on capturing photons from sunlight to generate electricity.

But all solar panels and other PV modules aren’t created equal. They vary substantially in price and electricity generation potential. Monocrystalline silicon solar cells typically offer the best efficiency and performance but are also more expensive to produce and purchase.

Choose the highest efficiency solar panels you can afford and look towards the long-term. An off-grid solar system can provide energy independence immediately, but your return on investment on electricity bill savings can take a while.

Aside from the type of photovoltaic modules you choose, carefully assess how much electricity you need them to produce. Make sure your solar panels can generate enough power to meet your needs.

Balance of System Components

Whether you opt for an all-in-one solution like the DELTA Pro or choose to tackle building a DIY off-grid solar system, it’s crucial to ensure compatibility between all your components. A plug-and-play solution from EcoFlow is a safe (and affordable) option. 

Required Electricity Output and Storage Capacity   

Even more than price, knowing what you want to power and for how long is the most essential consideration when purchasing an off-grid solar power system.

If you want to go on safari and keep your smartphone and laptop charged, a RIVER 2 solar generator may be just the ticket. But if you want to back up your home during load-shedding or blackouts, you’ll need a DELTA series solar generator or Power Kit.

No matter what your use case, adding up the starting and running wattage of the appliances you want to operate is essential. You can learn how to do that here.

For quick reference, here are the starting and running watts of some common home appliances.

Starting and Running Watts of Typical Household Appliances 

ApplianceRated (Running) WattsStarting Watts
Washing Machine12002300
Light Bulb60-750
Coffee Maker10000
Clothing Iron15000
Toaster Oven12000
Curling Iron15000
Space Heater20000
20” Box Fan200350

Ensure you install an off-grid solar power system that can meet your AC output (watts/kilowatts) and electricity storage (Wh/kWh) needs.

Location and Climate

Solar panels from any manufacturer come with a rated power wattage.  

When you’re planning to buy an off-grid solar power solution, it’s crucial to remember that rated power indicates maximum potential electricity generation — it’s not a guarantee.

Rated power is determined in a lab using Standard Test Conditions. A 400W rigid solar panel can generate 400 watts of electricity an hour under peak conditions. But “peak conditions” are specific and include:

Assuming that a high-efficiency solar panel will produce 75% of its rated wattage during daylight hours is a helpful rule of thumb. 

Quality of Manufacture

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. 

Whether you’re working with an installer or purchasing an off-grid solar system direct from a manufacturer, do your research and make an informed decision. 

“Cheap” can cost you a lot in the long run.

Installation Costs

If you opt for a rooftop solar panel installation, working with a professional installer is usually the best option. EcoFlow’s solar panels are easy to install if you have DIY skills, but working on a roof is always risky.

DIY isn’t an option if you integrate your solar power system with your home wiring and circuit panel. Hire a licensed electrician — it shouldn’t cost you more than one billable hour. 

Maintenance Costs

If you choose an off-grid solar system from EcoFlow, your maintenance costs will be practically zero. Unlike lead acid batteries, lithium-ion and LiFePO4 batteries don’t require any routine maintenance and will work for 10+ years of regular use. 

Solar panels last for 25+ years and require no maintenance aside from an occasional cleaning.

Available Government Incentives

Despite Eskom’s historical, ongoing, and seemingly unending failure to provide reliable on-grid electricity to South Africans, there are few meaningful incentives to adopt solar power under the current federal government. 

As of May 2023, individuals can deduct 15% of the cost of solar panels against their income tax liability, with a cap of R15,000. No write-offs are available for balance of system components like inverters or solar batteries.

According to the Mail & Guardian: “To be successful, the tax incentive needs to be far greater and have more of a meaningful and immediate effect on pockets.”

So, What Does It Cost To Go Off-Grid in South Africa?

How long is a piece of string?

If you want to take off-grid solar on safari or a camping trip, the RIVER 2 solar generator is currently available for R 6,999*.

The RIVER 2 is perfect for staying connected when traveling off-grid. However, its AC output and storage capacity aren’t suitable for home backup.

The world’s fastest charging solar generator, DELTA Pro + 2 x 400W solar panels offers 3.6kW of AC output (7.2kW surge power), 3.6kWh of storage (expandable to 25kWH), and is currently on sale for R67,999*.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Worth It To Go Off-Grid in South Africa?

Switching to off-grid solar power is a worthwhile investment worldwide, but perhaps nowhere else more so than South Africa. With no end in sight to Eskom’s inability to provide reliable on-grid electricity and the almost daily burden of load-shedding, off-grid solar power can provide you with energy security despite power company failures.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning to renewable energy sources to generate electricity is an urgent priority worldwide. 

Despite having only the 24th largest population, South Africa ranks 7th in coal consumption, almost all of which goes to electricity production.

Coal is plentiful in SA, but reliable on-grid electricity remains elusive.

If you want to free your family from the harmful effects of load-shedding, check out EcoFlow’s off-grid solar solutions, such as our diverse collection of solar generators.

For most South Africans, load-shedding will make life harder for the foreseeable future.

You don’t have to be one of them. 

*Prices are current as of November 2023 and subject to change.

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.


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