Off-Grid Living: What You Need to Live Off-Grid
When the utility power is unavailable or too expensive to bring into your home or cabin, solar panels allow you to be your own utility company. Going off-grid with solar gives you alternative ways to power your home.
Solar power is one of the most popular and available options when it comes to off-grid energy. Off-grid living is becoming an increasingly viable choice for those looking for an eco-friendly way to live self-sufficiently. Best of all, using off-grid power systems allow you to have all the convenience that electricity offers without having to run power lines out to a remote property that may be prone to outages.
So, how does solar power for off-grid living work? There are a few different types of off-grid solar power, depending on your needs and budget. All variations of off-grid solar power depend on solar electric panels and store electricity in a bank of batteries. Here’s what you need to know about off-grid living, the types of off-grid systems available, and what you need to live off the grid.
What Does Living Off the Grid Mean?
Off-grid living means going without public utility services for your power source. “The grid,” or the power grid, is the utility system that delivers electricity to your home. To successfully live off-grid, you need alternatives like solar energy to generate your own power. When people choose to use solar power to live “off the grid”, their reasons can differ. They might be looking to live more self-sufficiently, or are looking for a solution to provide power to a remote vacation property like a cabin.
What’s the Difference Between Grid-Tied Vs. Off-Grid?
The difference between grid-tied vs. off-grid solar is where you store the energy your panels produce. With grid-tied systems, the energy you generate is sent to the power grid. The utility company then credits you for the power you generate— similar to how you deposit money into a bank for later use.
Without access to the grid, an off-grid system requires a battery bank to provide dedicated energy storage and power to meet your energy requirements throughout the year.
Off-grid systems are typically more expensive than grid-tied systems due to the cost of batteries, system requirements, off-grid solar products, and having the best off-grid inverters to manage power flow. Still, off-grid solar is a cheaper alternative than running power lines all the way out to a remote property.
What Do I Need to Go Off the Grid with Solar?
- Your off-grid system will need a battery bank to store the extra energy that you don’t use when production is high (during peak sun hours) and when your system is not producing power (at night), so you can have continual access to electricity.
- You’ll also need a backup generator to supply your house with power and charge the batteries during seasons when you have less sun or your battery supply is running low.
Types of Off-Grid Solar Power Systems
There are different types of off-grid solar systems to choose from when you choose solar power for off-grid living. The following use AC or DC system power in various configurations:
Off-Grid DC Solar Power Systems
DC (direct current) off-grid solar power systems are most often used in off-grid living to power DC appliances in RV’s, boats, and cabins, as well as farm/ranch appliances like cattle gates and rural telecommunications systems when utility power is not accessible.
DC solar power is less expensive than AC solar power because an inverter is not required to convert the electricity produced by solar panels and stored in batteries from DC to AC. But DC solar power does NOT power standard AC appliances.
Use our off-grid solar system sizing calculator for help sizing a system to your solar power needs for off-grid living.
Off-Grid AC Solar Power Systems
Off-grid solar power also stores DC electricity in batteries. The addition of an inverter allows this system to convert DC electrical current coming from the batteries into AC, or alternating current.
AC is the standard form of electricity for anything that “plugs in” to utility power and is the appropriate current for common household appliances.
While AC off-grid solar power systems are more expensive solar power options for off-grid living because of the cost of the inverter, you can provide power to a greater variety of appliances.
Off-Grid Solar Power for Remote Telecommunications
Small off-grid DC solar power systems can power telecommunications, security, and lighting systems in locations for off-grid living, far away from power lines. Visit our remote industrial power page to learn about self-contained solar kits for a variety of industrial applications.
Off-grid hybrid systems are another, far less commonly used option that combine off-grid solar with gas or wind generators, but keep in mind that to go this route, your area needs substantial wind speed to justify a turbine.
Want to find out more about using solar power for off-grid living? Explore our off-grid solar packages to see how you can afford to get off the grid with solar.