Going Off The Grid With Solar: Common Questions And Answers
Many people want to know if and how they can go off the grid after a solar power system is installed, so the following article was written to explain the answer to this commonly asked question. The short answer is yes, it is possible to install a solar project that will take you completely off the grid and allow you to no longer buy power from the utility. But, as you will see below, the true answer depends on how much electricity you need and your budget.
Before reading about off-grid solar, you may want to quickly read How Solar Works which focuses on the more common grid-tied scenario.
Benefits to going off the grid with solar power systems
Security & Energy Independence
One of the main reasons people are interested in going off the grid with solar is that it allows them to be in control of and responsible for their own power production. There is peace of mind in knowing that regardless of what happens in the world, your home or business will have electricity every day.
The second main reason that people look into off grid living is that a substantial amount of money can be saved by producing your own power and not having to buy it from the local electric company.
For example, if your average monthly power bill is $100, and you produce all of your own electricity with solar panels, you can save $1200 a year! That’s a substantial amount of savings that really adds up over time.
Drawbacks and limitations of off-grid solar
Why aren’t there more off the grid solar installations? One of the biggest limitations is the amount of power that we all use within our homes including air-conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, toasters, electric stoves, etc. That is, we simply use too much power.
The battery portion of an off grid solar installation must be able to support all of these appliances that run on electricity. And unfortunately, these things use LOTS of power!
Reserve Storage Capacity for Rainy Days and Bad Weather
Additionally, since an off-grid solar power system uses sunlight to generate electricity, and solar panels cannot produce energy at night (since the sun is not shining), batteries must have enough storage capacity for nighttime use, rainy days, and bad weather. This often means that an off grid system must be designed to meet the electricity requirements of not just one day, but multiple days under a worst-case scenario.
The other drawback of going off the grid is cost. An off-grid solar power system uses more parts than a standard grid-tied install, and more parts means more money.
A single battery can cost hundreds of dollars, and since the system must be designed to store enough power under a worst-case scenario, off-grid systems require many batteries.
If you are determined to go off the grid, the first step is decreasing your electricity usage significantly. You’ll need to stop using high-draw appliances such as your microwave, clothes dryer, and air conditioning because these items cannot realistically be supported by the batteries used in an off-grid solar power system.
You’ll also need to save a significant amount of money because off-grid solar costs more than grid-tied solar.
And remember, being grid-tied is like having an unlimited FREE battery source. Instead of using off-grid batteries you will be pulling from your LARGE utility battery where you have stored your overproduction, getting the same power you have always gotten. Most, if not all of the time, at no additional cost.