Eaton looks to ease loadshedding with new solar hybrid inverter for South Africa

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Power management specialist Eaton has fingers in many, many pies around the world, building everything from UPS back-up systems for datacentres to hydraulic pistons for mining machines to car gearboxes. But now it wants to go somewhere it hasn’t really been before: your home.

With an eye on the booming market for off-grid electricity, it’s looking to take on the likes of Tesla and local manufacturers with a new hybrid power system that will run your home off of solar power and battery back-up, with a line to the Eskom grid for when you need it.

The system, imaginatively called the Hybrid Inverter at the moment, was launched at Eaton’s Johannesburg factory today. The basic model can handle a 5kVa peak load and can switch between solar, Eskom or battery power in under 15ms – which is less time than it takes your TV to flicker.

It’s currently still being tested, says product manager Jaco du Plooy, and pricing will be left to resellers to decide. du Plooy did, however, say that it will be available within a couple of months and will be competitive against rival products.

The interesting part of the hybrid inverter is that it has nine different modes switching between straight grid power at night, a combination of solar and battery power and a mode for charging the batteries using solar panels while running your house off of the grid supply.

du Plooy says that he doesn’t, however, see it as an off-grid solution and when the sun goes down, reckons that people will prefer to use Eskom power when it is available rather than batteries to reduce costs.

“For me I want to know that the batteries are fully charged if the power does go off,” he says.

du Plooy says that he sees alternative power for homes as being more about lifestyle – keeping the lights on and running from solar when you can – than complete self-sufficiency.

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