Off-grid solar power used to be the predominant form of solar. Before solar equipment became more affordable, it was primarily used in remote locations that didn’t have other viable energy sources. Now that equipment has become more efficient and accessible to the average homeowner, grid-tied systems—ones that remain connected to the city’s power grid—have become the most common type of solar project.
But that doesn’t mean off-grid systems don’t have their place. There are still many benefits to an off-grid solar power system. When deciding which type of system you want for your home, it’s important to consider your options, how they differ, and their benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
How Is an Off-Grid System Different?
The key difference with this type of system is that you don’t have the energy “safety net” provided by the city grid. If your grid-tied solar power system doesn’t provide enough electricity to meet your needs, your inverter will simply switch to using grid power without you noticing it. Off-grid systems, however, must be entirely self-reliant if you want to ensure you can always keep your lights on.
This impacts the type of equipment you need, as well as just how much of it you’ll need. Here are some of the equipment differences to be aware of:
- Larger solar array – When you have to be completely energy independent, it’s important to slightly oversize your solar array. Think of it as “rounding up” your energy consumption calculations. This helps to ensure that you do have enough energy to meet your needs, even if you have a few days of higher-than-normal consumption.
- Off-grid inverters and charger controllers – An off-grid inverter differs slightly from a grid-tie inverter because it allows for a solar battery bank. This means that a device known as a charge controller is placed between the solar panels and the battery to ensure that batteries are not overcharged by the solar panels. In turn, the inverter is connected to the batteries and takes this battery power and converts it into a format suitable for powering typical appliances and loads within a household. Inverters and Charge controllers can be added separately, although an all-in-one inverter that includes both is now available. This leads us to our next major equipment difference.
- Battery bank – Without the grid to rely on for backup power, an off-grid solar power system absolutely must have a different backup plan; otherwise, you’ll be left in the dark every night and during any periods of cloudy weather. The preferred backup power source for off-grid systems is a battery bank. These allow you to fully use the solar energy you’re already producing by storing it in battery cells for later consumption.
- Generator – Of course, even batteries can run dry. If you experience a long period of cloudy weather, it is possible to drain a battery bank, even if you did size it appropriately for your needs. For these cases, it’s a good idea to have a secondary backup power source; most off-grid solar users prefer a generator for this purpose, as it allows you to rely on a separate fuel source (gas, propane, etc.) to power your home when solar is not available.
What Are the Benefits of Off-Grid Systems?
Most people who choose off-grid systems do so because they don’t have a grid to connect to. However, there are many valid reasons to opt to disconnect from the grid, even if it’s not a necessity. Going off-grid allows you to become completely independent and rely solely on your energy production. Not only is this great for the environment, but it can also empower many solar users who enjoy the feeling of being self-sufficient.
Off-grid solar users also aren’t subject to city grid outages. If a storm knocks out your neighborhood’s power or your area is subjected to rolling blackouts during periods of high energy consumption, your off-grid home won’t be affected. You can keep the lights on any time the grid goes down, so long as you have sufficient solar power.
Get Help Building Your Off-Grid System
Are you considering going off the grid with your power usage? If so, contact The PowerStore, Inc. Not only do we have all of the off-grid solar equipment you need to build an energy-independent system, but we can also provide you with the advice and guidance you need to design, size, install, and maintain your system. If you’re planning to build your system alone, you can get the advice of our specialists to help you along the way. Or, if you prefer, we can put you in touch with one of our partnered installers to ensure the job is done by a professional.
We carry equipment from the top manufacturers in the industry and have specialized in solar-plus-storage systems for years. For solar users looking to build a system that can power their home both day and night, The PowerStore, Inc. is the partner you need.