Additional equipment, including a bank of batteries and a charge controller, is required to operate a stand-alone system. And with photovoltaic energy as the lone source of power, a larger number of solar panels must be installed to meet your energy needs.
Despite the increased cost of the initial equipment investment, however, more and more people are choosing to live off-grid with photovoltaic energy.
Should you join them, or is sticking with a grid-tied solar power system more appropriate for you?
One of the biggest reasons homeowners choose to live off-grid is to take advantage of the free energy of the sun, and to enjoy absolute freedom from monthly electric bills.
Cutting ties with the utility company also offers both short- and long-term advantages.
Electricity prices have been steadily increasing for many years, and there’s every reason to expect that they will continue to rise. Using a standalone photovoltaic power system provides you with true energy independence, freeing you from utility company terms and constant rate increases.
An off-grid photovoltaic system is typically designed to capture and store enough of the sun’s energy to power your home at all times, even at night and on cloudy days. And of course, your home won’t be affected in an outage.
With a grid-tied solar power system, however, your home will not have electricity if the utility goes down, even when you have solar.
Sure, your photovoltaic panels are still capable of producing power. But in the event of an outage, the system will shut down immediately. This is because it isn’t safe for your system to continue pumping electricity through the lines, as repair crews cannot work on live lines.
Grid-connected photovoltaic systems are less expensive because they require less equipment.
So if saving more on the initial investment is essential, you may not choose to live off the grid. Keep in mind, though, that extending utility lines to a remote area could actually be more costly than paying for an off-grid solar energy system.
A grid-tied system may make sense if your home is already connected to the utility lines. After all, the connection is a two-way street. Electricity will flow from the grid and it will flow back from your home.
Any time your solar system produces excess energy, you’ll receive a net metering credit from the utility company, paying you for the electricity. This means that depending on your system output, your monthly savings could be large. In some cases, you could even end up earning a profit from your solar power system.
Each customer must weigh the benefits and risks of free-standing and grid-tied photovoltaic systems before deciding which is better for them. Intermountain Wind & Solar of Salt Lake City, Utah, has extensive knowledge on both fronts. We can help you make the determination about whether on-grid or off-grid solar is better for you.
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