Off-Grid Home Solar Systems: What are the Pros and Cons?

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    Using the off-grid solar system is becoming very affordable and compelling nowadays. A lot of people who have well-installed power connections are now considering going off-grid and becoming energy sufficient. If cutting ties with the public power system proves beneficial and practical for many people, it also comes with some drawbacks. Depending on solar energy and investing in it, it doesn’t seem right for many people.

    Below is the complete guide to installing the off-grid solar system with a brief review of the pros and cons of doing so.

    All the related information and legalization of installing off-grid systems are given in the national electrical code 2020.

    The next question popping up in your mind is that how it works at home?

    What are the components of an off-grid home solar system?

    Solar panels these are usually made up of pv cells that produce direct current electricity from sunlight. Pv cells are connected inside the solar panel and connected to opposite panels with cables’ help. The solar panels are the first and foremost tool that you need with enough rooftop space, and the functionality depends on the available sunlight in a particular area.

    When the sun goes down, solar batteries are needed to fulfill sufficient energy needs as they are charged throughout the day. These batteries are available in lithium-ion or lead-acid; the former supplies 90% of capacity per day while the latter supplies 30% of total ability per day to increase battery life, as mentioned in the national electrical code 2020.

    Inverters to convert dc into ac, a solar power system needs inverters for use in-home or business purposes, a primary role of a solar inverter. A string inverter has all the panels linked together in series, and dc is sent to the inverter, which then converts it into ac power. Simultaneously, in the microinverter system, all panels have their microinverter attached to the rearmost side. The board generates dc and then converted to ac on the top and shifted to the switchboard.

    Charger this is used to save life and excessive battery usage by regulating the voltage and current as well, to prevent overcharging and damage to the battery.

    Switchboard ac is brought to switchboard via a solar inverter and then drawn into different circuits and eventually to appliances. This process is also called net metering when excess electricity is sent to the grid station or stored on a battery. Simultaneously, the hybrid system has back up the switchboard, enabling such circuits or critical loading to be powered only during grid outage or total blackout with a complete guide in national electrical code 2020.

    Types of a grid system:

    The on-grid system is the most commonly used system that doesn’t batteries and uses inverters connected with the public electricity grid. If excessive solar power is generated, it is shifted to the electricity grid and paid exported energy tariffs. Due to safety reasons, the on-grid system cannot function electricity during a blackout. So, if the solar panel system is generating electricity to the faulty grid, it will risk people’s safety.

    When the electricity reaches the switch, excessive solar energy travels to the meter for calculating how much power is importing or exporting. That electricity then can be used by other consumers as well.

    An off-grid system is not connected directly with the electricity grid, so it needs battery storage. It should be designed to fulfill needs for a year and generate enough power with sufficient battery to meet the requirement even on the coldest days when there is no sunlight. The cost of inverters and off solar grid systems makes it expensive and commonly required by people far away from remote or public electricity grid stations.

    It works in a way that off-grid system consumed by an appliance, excessive power is sent back to the main battery, and when the daylight dies down, the remaining power can be drawn when needed. Note: when the weather is not suitable, you will need a backup power source such as a generator, which should be according to the need and supplying the whole house as well as charging the batteries.

    A hybrid solar system combined with battery storage works so that when the battery is fully charged, it will halt receiving more power from solar. The energy can be discharged and easily used to control the whole house, especially during the peak time when the cost and consumption are higher.

    Off-grid home solar systems pros and cons

    Why are people considering an off-grid system?

    There are several reasons why people are considering off-grid system:

    • Affordable: it is very cost-effective to produce at least a part of your electricity rather than depending on a public grid station.
    • Battery cost: the prices are reducing faster, and the procedure is becoming more pocket-friendly.
    • Electricity cost: when the public electricity is increasing day by day, it is feasible to install their power system to cut off some expenses.
    • Solar energy: going solar at home is far more affordable and saves money for other expenses, and these have many feed-in incentives, so an off-grid system is an easy move.

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    What to keep in mind when going off-grid?

    • Paybacks: it is affordable with less cost; other than that, batteries’ prices are sky-high.
    • Rooftop space: the rooftop size is a huge factor in defining if the house can go off-grid or not. Many places don’t have enough space for solar panels to fit in tiny rooms.
    • Backup power: going off-grid with solar panels, you will still need backup sources that will help through days of extreme weather conditions. A fuel or gas generator is an option available but becomes more expensive and can be against local council policies or laws.
    • Usage rates: even you have enough surplus power energy to meet your day-to-day needs, it may exceed the limits anytime in a year.
    • Lifestyle changes: your system needs to be sized just according to your lifestyle requirements. A change in your routine could alter the additional needs and consumption of energy and possibly upgrade a solar grid system.
    • Costing: you will have to bear additional finances of installing an off-grid solar system at home and any other fuel cost for backup energy needs.
    • Value for property: when in the future you plan to sell your house, going off-grid won’t suit other people, and they might see it as a disadvantage rather than a benefit.

    Advantages of the off-grid home solar system

    Disconnecting from the national grid comes with significant benefits, and below are some of them:

    • Independence: when going off-grid, you are no longer dependent on electricity power company policies and terms. Higher rates can be the reason to cut off and go off-grid.
    • No more blackout: when the electricity is out, you will still have power at home with off-grid. This is also important for organizations and hospitals that critical patients on ventilators or other medicated supplies.
    • No bills: when you are off-grid using a solar panel, no longer dependent on giving monthly bills anymore.

    Disadvantages of the off-grid home solar system

    Installing an off-grid home solar system also comes with a lot of drawbacks, so here are some things that people need to keep in mind:

    • Cost: if you completely disconnect yourself from the power grid, you will also need backup, especially when the sunlight is hidden. Additional power backs up like a generator or ups will cost you heavy on the pocket.
    • Limited storage: even if you have a backup, still energy stores are limited. You may run out of power when the weather goes terrible for days.
    • Power efficiency: when living off-grid, you must keep in mind that it’s quite a risk if there is not enough household power.

    Stay grid-batteries connected and what to expect in return?

    Most people also choose to stay connected with both to avoid the complications outlined above.

    You have three choices for either complete self-reliance or total grid-reliance:

    • Grid reliance 100%; staying connected with the grid with no additional solar or batteries to fulfill consumption needs.
    • Partial grid reliance or self-reliance; to help meet the needs when solar grid energy is not working.

    Total self-reliance: cut ties with grid and dependent on solar needs, through bad weather conditions go through generator or batteries.

    In a nutshell…

    If energy independence and reducing expenses of bills is your primary goal, then going off-grid system can be the right move for you. The same goes for your home if it’s not connected with public grid lines. It will cost you more bucks for installing the system that too depends on the area and distance. Instead, go for your electric energy production as rules are mentioned with complete working in national electrical code 2020.