How To Go Off-Grid With Solar Energy

Feature
By Megan Murphy
12 May 2021

CAN I GO OFF-GRID WITH SOLAR ENERGY?

The short answer is yes, you can go off-grid with solar energy.

WHAT IS “OFF-GRID?”

The U.S. Department of Energy explains this as basically a stand-alone, small renewable energy system that isn’t connected to the power company’s grid. In addition to solar panels, you’ll require batteries for energy storage.

Going off-grid is an option. Generally, that kind of interest comes from people who are building a lake home or a cabin, a property like that, where the cost to run an electric line is very expensive.

Traditionally, a person goes solar with a “grid-connected renewable energy system.

A person installs solar panels on his roof or on his property (ground mount system). The solar PV system is tied into the existing electricity grid, and the power company credits the homeowner for any extra electricity he produces in the form of a credit on his next bill. If you use electricity at night, his system will tap into those credits he earned during the day from overproduction. Being grid-tied also means that when the grid goes down, so will your home’s electricity, regardless of whether or not you have solar panels. To go solar this way, you do not need a battery backup.

With an “off-grid or stand alone renewable energy system,” or a home storage solution, instead of feeding excess electricity back into the grid, you instead store it right there at home with a battery backup that’s installed as part of your system. Solar panels produce the energy, the batteries store the energy. Other perks: you can control all of the energy flowing in your home through a smartphone. You can turn off certain circuits, turn on certain circuits, and manage your battery’s electricity.

Both types of systems require additional equipment called “balance system equipment.” The type of system you go with, paired with your specific setup and situation, will determine what these elements are.

FAQS

If I live in a residential neighborhood, decide to install a battery backup, and remove myself from the grid completely... can I?

Technically yes. However, if you ever decide to change your mind, I think it's quite expensive to reconnect to the grant. If, for whatever reason, you decide to just disconnect, I don't necessarily know that there's a charge to do that, but there could be. I do know the cost to get reconnected to the grid is quite expensive.

Are batteries required for solar to work?

No. 99% of people install solar panels and stay grid-tied, meaning whatever excess electricity is produced and not used by the home will go back to the shared grid.

How long can solar + batteries power my home?

It primarily depends on the amount of power your home is using and the number of batteries you have installed. Most homeowners with a battery backup can expect to power their home for at least 24 hours without any sunshine to recharge the batteries. The best part about solar + batteries is that the battery will recharge as soon as the sun comes up in the morning, and you can use the battery as it's recharging. This means, a home with solar + batteries will have power as long as the sun rises.

How long is the battery warrantied for?

Most batteries are warranted for a period of 10-12 years. However, if you are just using a battery as a backup option, it will hold most of it's out-of-the-box storage capacity for much longer than 10-12 years. The degradation of lithium-based batteries are correlated with battery life cycles or the number of times you fully deplete the battery and then fully recharge it, much like a cell phone. Older phones don’t hold charges like they used to because they’ve gone through hundreds of battery life cycles.

How much do batteries cost?

The cost of the battery and installation will average around $14,000. Most homeowners don’t experience enough power outages to justify this purchase, and also, in most areas, there is no financial incentive to buy a battery backup. This is why, for now, most homeowners who go solar do not purchase batteries to go along with their solar panel installation.

RisingSun Solar gives away all the education we've learned over the years about solar PV installation, because we feel it's most important that a person feels knowledgable and comfortable when making the decision to go solar. Reach out to us any time.