Icon Home Energy Hub, the SA developed energy solution taking on Tesla Powerwall

Move over Tesla and Powerwall, because you’ve got competition in SA. Announced yesterday, Energy Partners unveiled their Icon Home Energy Hub, an all-in-one solution for storing and using solar energy in the home.

This “energy hub” primarily consists of an inverter — designed specifically for the South African market — and a Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery, available in 3.6kWh or 6kWh. The battery alone supposedly has a 10-year life cycle, or over 4000 discharge cycles.

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While Energy Partners were primarily focussing on these two devices, that isn’t all there is to the solution. It’s also comprised of a heat pump, water tank, and solar panels.

The inverter draws power through the solar panels and manages the loads when it needed, while charging the battery for night-time or blackout usage. Due to the way the devices are designed, the inverter can make sure 100% of any solar energy stored is used in order to reduce wastage. Depending on the settings, or how low on power the battery is, the inverter will also draw from the electrical grid, as well as use it to charge loads.

Read more: Is Elon Musk’s Tesla Energy just what Africa’s energy grid needs?

According to Energy Partners, the solution can save homeowners up to 70% of their electricity bill, as well as generate a 16% return on investment. The system can be paid back in seven years with the unit having a 20-year life cycle.

Along with its internal design, the aesthetics of the devices have been designed with homeowners in mind as the battery and inverter are the only visible components. Each of these is housed in a white and black casing, which is reminiscent of Apple products. They feature a single LED colour strip, which is the only interface between the user and the power readings. The inverter can display red, blue, and green for different messages, while the battery shows how full it is.

There is an app accompanying the system for notifying users of how much energy is stored in the battery and how much money has been saved on electricity usage.

According to the company, which is backed by PSG Group, this is the first inverter designed for the South African market. Even though it’s developed in SA, it’s not all manufactured here. The company is hoping to manufacture the next version’s inverters in SA.

Read more: Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors to set up office in South Africa

Even with all of the attractive features, the device comes at a cost and isn’t’ geared towards the average individual, say those living in flats. In total, the complete solution will cost R167 000, excluding VAT. Installation of the system can cost around R10 000, but it’s dependant on the home and setup. Everything is modular, which means customers can purchase the heater and tank initially and expand from there. There is also a five-year payment plan for those who don’t want to put down money upfront.

Right now, 140 units are allocated to the Val de Vie Estate in Cape Town for their next round of development.

Those wanting to get their hands on it will be able to in June, but only if you’re living in the Western Cape. Energy Partners plans to use the province as a sort of testing ground before expanding to other areas. Gauteng will be next with an expected availability in Q3 this year.

When asked about a lower-cost version of the product, a representative stated it is on the cards. At the moment, the company is looking to first grow the current range, but is thinking of ways to save on development and manufacturing costs. Don’t expect a mass-market unit within the next 18 months.

It will be interesting to see how Energy Partners and Tesla eventually battle it out, and if any other competitors will rise in the SA market.

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