Off-grid solar power systems run independently of the municipal power grid and utility companies.
One of the most common questions people have about photovoltaic power is whether grid-tied systems cost less than the off-grid versions, and if one is better than the other.
To determine which of these options may be best for your home or business, you must first understand some basics, as well as the pros and cons of each system.
Off-grid systems are also known as battery-backup systems.
These systems are not connected to the electrical grid, as you might guess from the name. In this scenario, the PV panels must be able to yield enough electricity to meet all of your energy needs, both day and night.
Because most homes require more energy at night than during the day (when the sun is actually shining), off-grid systems require a backup plan. In most backup systems, batteries are used to stockpile energy produced during the day.
Typically, another source of energy, usually a generator, is added in case even more power is needed.
Off-grid PV systems are normally used in remote areas that don’t have utility service, but many customers living in well-populated areas are also opting for this level of true energy independence.
The typical components of an independent system include:
- Photovoltaic panels
- Battery bank(s)
- Charge controller (this protects the battery bank from overcharge)
- Safety gear (such as disconnects, breakers and fuses)
- A monitoring system to oversee consumption and production
These traditionally have been the most common types of solar power systems. Also known as grid-tied solar, they are connected to the municipal power system, allowing you to use its electricity to supplement the energy your panel array produces.
What’s nice about these systems is that they will send any excess electricity generated by the panels back into the grid for use elsewhere. In exchange for using the power you have generated, the utility company will provide a credit on your bill.
These systems don’t need to produce every watt of the electricity needed for your home or business, and it’s a great way for you to save money on utility bills.
The components of an on-grid system are:
- PV panels
- Monitoring system ( optional, but helpful)
- Electrical safety gear
Compare the Costs
When you consider an investment in solar energy, it’s important to think about the long-term benefits.
Solar panel components have become affordable today, and although you may have some upfront costs for installation (but you may not!), the long-term savings are limitless.
The cost for grid-tied and off-grid systems are the same, other than any extra costs that may be involved with the backup system(s) and their installation. Whether you invest in these extra components or continue paying some portion of your energy bill to the utility company, most people find that off-grid systems save more money in the long term.
And because utility companies continually raise rates, you can more accurately predict your future expenses with an off-grid system.
Whichever type of PV system you choose, you will save plenty of money by avoiding today’s out-of-control energy costs.
Contact Intermountain Wind & Solar to learn more about installing a solar energy system at your home or business. Our experts can show you all of your options and help you decide whether an on- or off-grid solar power system works better for your needs.