Having finally completed most of the preparation work, it was time to complete the final switch-over to the new distribution system.
First off, the cabling that was left in the ceiling had to be connected to the existing circuits. In order to complete this, the main supply was disconnected to ensure that the work was done as safely as possible. Two hours of crawling around through the ceiling, and only one additional hole made, the circuits were disconnected from the existing distribution board and then connected to the new panel.
The next step was to get the new 16sq.mm feed into the old board. This entailed getting on the roof, removing some tiles to access the conduits coming from the old panel and feeding the tails into the board. That done it was time to rewire the old panel and connect the new feed to the inverter system and also reconnect the pool and stove supplies that wouldn’t have back-up power.
As you can see, it was a mess – lots of redundant wiring, damaged wiring and also some very old circuit breakers.
All of this would need to be stripped out and a new main breaker and feeder circuit breakers installed.
New feeds are pulled through the existing conduits.
Some of the old wiring is still there. All of that got pulled out and added to the growing pile of old wiring that was removed from the ceiling void.
Main switch feeding the inverter supply and the earth leakage unit which in turn feeds the pool and stove circuits. There is no earth leakage protection on the feed to the new distribution panel.
In the meantime, this is safe even though it’s not pretty. With the panel complete and relabeled, it was the time of truth.
In order to check the integrity of the system, everything was switched on in sequence: main switch first, then the earth-leakage unit, the pool supply and finally the inverter supply. The pool worked the stove worked and there was power to the incomer on the new distribution panel. So far so good.
Next was to start switching everything else on: first the main switch on the new panel, then the geyser supply and then the inverter supply.
To start up the inverter batteries get connected first, the the supply to the inverter is switched on at the main inverter isolator on the new panel. The inverter gets switched on via a switch at the bottom of the unit. This turned on the feed to the inverter distribution panel, where the same switching on sequence was done: main switch on (in this case a RCCB) and then the lighting and plug circuits.
Success! Lights on everywhere. Inverter showing that batteries are charging. Everything working!
Here’s a close-up of the new panel. The lights are probably a bit of an overkill, but what can I say, I like them and I can get an indication at a glance that everything is switched on the way it’s supposed to be. I really like the combined Volt meter/Ammeter units I found on Bidorbuy, a quick look can tell me what each panel is doing.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out. With testing, the inverter worked flawlessly, you don’t even notice the changeover from mains to back-up, other than the sound of the inverter fan kicking in and the alarm tone.
As luck would have it, we haven’t had any load-shedding since I completed the installation! But at least I’m ready for Eskom now. Bring it on!
The way everything is set up it will be a relatively simple procedure to add the solar input and to increase the battery capacity. The base is there, the rest is plug and play.
So far the costs for what’s been done are as follows:
Gas Stove: R 13,400
Hybrid Inverter: R 12,000 (delivered, not installed)
102Ah/48V Battery Bank: R 6,400 (delivered, not installed)
Rewiring and new distribution board: R 4,000 (DIY saved about R2,000 to R3,000)
Cost so far: R 35,800
At this stage I’m budgeting on around R32,000 for the solar panels, cabling and support system. This is also based on a DIY installation.
Adding solar panels will take a while still due to finances, but hopefully it will get done within the next year. In the meanwhile, I’ve got a few other little projects to tackle.