How to beat ZESA and still enjoy your DStv PVR

Garikai Dzoma Avatar
I use a PVR 2P decoder
I use a PVR 2P decoder

So a while ago I decided to invest in a DStv PVR 2P decoder as part of my mid year resolutions. I am still trying to find a reason why the Explora is worth that shocking price; the “DStv advert dude” is yet to convince me.

After a lot of consideration I decided to opt for the Compact Plus package because I felt I had no other choice: I couldn’t afford to pay a Premium bouquet without putting a dent in my budget nor could I afford to watch the appalling programming that comes with the other bouquets: Big Brother, seriously?

Sadly that disqualifies me from being able to access the DStv Catch up feature which is the preserve of premium subscribers or so I am told. This leaves me no choice but to ‘PVR’ a lot of things: documentaries and matches.

Unfortunately, for a while at least, ZESA used to throw water on all my efforts. I would carefully program my recording schedule, leave for work and return home to find the decoder off because of a power cut and my shows missing from the hard drive. The problem is not helped by the fact that a lot of the documentaries I like have a low repeat rate which is a great thing until you miss one episode.

Then I was reminded of my World Cup contraption. The device made use of an old disused laptop charger to charge an old car battery that I would then use, together with an inverter, to power my TV and decoder during a blackout. However, I quickly learnt two lessons when I attempted to use the device:

  1. It takes eons to charge a car battery using a laptop charger
  2. The DStv PVR decoder is a power guzzler and its ‘Stand By’ mode is for show since it makes little impact on the power it consumes

That was 4 months ago and I have learnt a lot about alternative sources of energy, lessons which I will share with you in an upcoming series. Today I will tell you how to continue to use your DStv PVR despite ZESA‘s mischievous unscheduled power-cuts.

Budget $150

This might seem expensive but remember you can still use the battery as an alternative power source during blackouts too.

What you will need

  1. A 100 Ah maintenance free battery. You should only buy from retailers who offer guarantees. Should cost you about $100
  2. A 500 W inverter with a charge function, there are fairly ubiquitous now. Please test this with a suitable power taxing device such as a laptop before purchase. I learnt the hard way and had to return 4 inverters before I found one that worked. Should cost you about $30
  3. An ordinary inverter with a rating of around 200 W. Its hard to tell how much power a PVR consumes without testing but that ought to suffice. These cost about $20 and of course they are Chinese.

NB Unless you purchase an inverter that automatically switches from charge to inverter function you will absolutely need two inverters. Automatic inverters are in stock in various stores in the capital but the retailers usually require both your hands and feet in payment.

Setting up the connection

  • Plug in the charging inverter to a ZESA power source and attach it to the battery so that it can charge it. Make sure it is charging.
  • Connect the second inverter (200 W inverter in our case) to the battery
  • Whenever you are going away and have scheduled recordings connect the PVR decoder to the second inverter instead of a ZESA power source and switch the inverter on. This will ensure an uninterrupted power supply for a reasonable amount of time in case of a power cut

Depending on how well charged the battery is when you leave this ought to save you from a lot of grief. I have also found out that using this contraption on my 45 W TV, Intex Home theater and the PVR decoder I can enjoy my team’s entire game without interruptions even if the blackout occurs at the beginning of the game. I can even watch the entire ‘after lunch session’ of a Test match without recharging.

I am aware this is not a “professional” (read expensive) solution but it does the job. It works on the Explora too, although I still think you were robbed. No man should pay $300 for entertainment equipment unless it’s a PlayStation console; those saying Xbox were obviously brainwashed by Microsoft.

May the experts and informed please leave their improvements and suggestions in the comment section.

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  1. Lombross0

    Nice write up Garikai, would you mind sharing where you bought the battery and the charging invertor? I dont like Tv at all but I need to use your badass solution for my laptop during blackouts,am tired of having to drive to town. Wait,please also share how effective and or how long the 100 ah battery will last if fully charged during a powercut? Thanks very much in advance

    1. Garikai

      Hey, I was offline for a while but I promise you your question and others will be answered in the next article. It’s a bit complicated but I will answer it.

  2. Tapiwa

    You need to switch off important geyser, lights and cooker on the mains before you connect to the ZESA source.

    1. Anthony Somerset

      thats only if you plan to backfeed the invertor into your home electrics – most commonly available invertors can’t do this and only sit in line with your device and ZESA so that they run on zesa when zesa available and straight from battery when not, they also switch fairly seamlessly from zesa to battery without interuption

      1. Lombross0

        Somerset how are you copying with the power cuts? How do you manage the powercuts, would you mind sharing your solution?

  3. Darel

    What if i want something to just power up lights and entertainment with automatic switch-over

  4. Tricky

    You don’t need to switch off your geyser, cooker, heater, microwave etc. You can simply segregate your circuits and have an MCB that caters ONLY for your electronic gadgets. This particular MCB would feed the charging inverter. Your electronic gadgets can be solely fed from the second inverter circuit so that you don’t have to be switching power sources when ZESA goes on or off (some crude inline system).These electronic gizmos generally don’t use much power.

  5. Faiz

    I purchased a Proline 600w Inverter from Mica there are higher ones but battery cost, it charges automatically switches over from Zesa to Battery etc but the main problem are those darn expensive batteries! I haven’t seen deep cycle for $100 usually around $190 +, when new lasted 8hrs after a year and a half it lasts about an hour and the battery indicator on the top still shows green (good) and not yet black (replace), so I guess solar would have the same problem with battery? It seems like a costly set up just to watch tv.

  6. Faiz

    I’m sure you could find a pirated version of the entire series if need be for $1- $2, world cup another story though wait for replays maybe?

  7. Faiz

    @ Lombross0 it may be cheaper for you to buy a couple of spare laptop batteries depending on the age of your laptop and specs, my 17″ laptop’s new battery lasts only 2hrs, newer smaller laptops last up to 8hrs I hear,
    @Tapiwa my set used a 6way extension out of the inverter, one socket for old 21″ tv, other for decoder, 4 others to lighting lounge, kitchen, toilet and outside using energy saver 20W bulbs switching off what was needed, I feel 5.5Kva Diesel generator has higher output can do more( microwave, more lights, fridge maybe one plate on a stove, depending what’s in use and power of geyser element even the geyser!) drawbacks are initial cost, noise, smoke, doesn’t start automatically and constantly buying diesel.

  8. Lennon

    My plan is less rocket sciencish than all of this, just move to where you never have blackouts. Think MORTUARY and you get the picture. I live in town kumaAvenues and the only blackout we have had is that Politburo Friday.