Off-Grid Solar - A Step By Step Guide To Go Completely Off The Grid - Solar Tech Advisers

Off-Grid Solar – A Step by Step Guide to Go Completely Off the Grid

Off-Grid Solar
Off Grid Solar Panels Installed on a remote cabin

An off-grid solar system provides direct electricity to the electrical devices you want to use. These systems use batteries to store the solar energy generated throughout the day, rather than connecting to the utility grid.

An off-grid solar system is a popular choice among homeowners in remote areas. Once you get an off-grid solar system, you basically rely on your systems to generate electricity rather than the utility grid.

People choose off-grid solar systems in remote locations because the overall cost of solar panels, solar batteries, and generators is less than the extending power line to the main grid and as well as to reduce their reliance on utility for their own needs.

If you live in remote places and have zero access to electricity, off-grid systems are the only way you will generate electric power. The way it will work is your house will receive power supply directly through the sun, and you won’t be dependent on the local utility company. 

This guide will help you understand everything about off-grid solar systems, how they work, how much they cost, and everything related to it. Keep reading to learn more details. 

What is an Off-Grid Solar System?

A off grid system is a solar energy system that is not linked to the utility grid, whereas a on grid system also known as grid-tied is tied to the utility grid. An off-grid system generally consists of Solar Panels, Inverters, Charge Controllers and Batteries. 

Off-grid systems are for those living autonomously and don’t want to rely on utility for any electric power. In addition, an off-grid system is helpful for remote locations, such as remote cabins, where utility grid access is lacking, and that requirement can be fulfilled by solar energy. 

An electric utility provides communities with power, and when a person opts for off-grid systems, it means that they want independence, and fortunately, off-grid solar systems provide them with that. 

Moreover, a solar system decreases energy costs and gives homeowners more control over energy usage. All the power that will come to the house will be renewable energy. 

However, please note that installing solar panels doesn’t mean you are going off the grid; it means that you’ll have to buy additional devices that will enable you to go off the grid truly. 

How Big of a Solar System Do I Need to Go Off-Grid?

Off-Grid Solar

It is possible to use a full off-grid system; however, one must determine how big the solar system has to be to run independently and meet the requirement of the complete home. 

You will also need a place to store the solar energy generated by the solar panels. For this purpose, you will need solar power stations or solar batteries. They are an absolute must to store off-grid solar energy.  

Now, how big should the off-grid systems be? Well, that depends on the amount of electricity your house needs, how much usable roof space you have, the amount of direct daily sunlight the solar panels will receive, and the type of solar panels you go for. 

On average, your house will require a 7 kW solar system if you want your complete home to depend on solar energy. Keep in mind that you will find solar panels in different sizes and shapes. There are DIY kits available as well, which you can go for. 

Moreover, there are on-grid solar systems, which will be connected to the grid and generate power when the utility power grid is accessible. For this, you will not have to depend on batteries or a battery bank for stored energy. 

Now, the panel performance will be rated under STC, standard testing conditions. Typically, larger panels will provide you with higher performance. For example, if your house requirement is 7 kW, and you want 200-watt solar panels, you will need at least 35 panels to meet the energy requirement. 

Like that, if the solar system size is 10 kW, you will need at least 52 panels. Simultaneously, for the 20 kW solar system size, it is better to go with 105 panels (plus or minus). 

A basic formula will help you understand the number of solar panels your home will need. 

Step 1: Take your recent power bill. Now, check how much energy your house has consumed. The energy consumption will be displayed in kWh. That’s the amount of energy used. 

comed-bill-jan-2011-1
Total kwh used (In Red Circle)

Step 2: Once step one is done, figure out the number of hours your rooftop receives adequate solar energy. This is the time when the solar panels will be most productive. If you live in California, where you receive a good amount of sunlight, you will not have to go for a more extensive solar system. 

Solar-Irradiance-State
Solar Irradiance

At the same time, if you receive less sunlight, your house will require more solar panels. The crux is to let the solar panels produce enough energy so that your home can have optimum power. Peak hours of sunlight usually reach an average of 1000W/square meter. 

Step 3: Calculate the number of hours you receive proper sunlight or solar energy in a month. Now, multiply the number of hours by 30. Whatever you get, you need to divide it by 1000kWh. For example, let’s say you receive 5.44 hours of peak sunlight. Multiply it by 30, and you will get 163.2. Round off the figure to 163. 

Divide it by 1000, and you have 6.1. Now, this 6.1 is the kW solar system your house needs. 

Step 4: The figure you have attained will multiply by 1000, and the result will be 6,100 watts. Let’s say you are going for a 200 watts solar panel system. Now, divide 6,1000 by 200, and you have 31. So, the number of solar panels you need is 31. 

And that’s how you will calculate the solar system size and the number of solar panels you need. 

How to Buy the Right Off-Grid Solar System?

If you are new to off-grid solar systems, you may wonder how to get started. Should you buy custom-designed kits, what kinds of batteries will be best suitable, and so on. How to be sure that you are not purchasing an off-grid solar kit with lower efficiency instead of a high-efficiency one. 

To save time, we suggest contacting companies who can help you with the same. Here are some key considerations. 

Components of an off-grid solar system:

Solar Panels

Solar panels are necessary for any Solar Energy System. Solar panels convert sunlight into DC electricity that is fed into the Inverter or Charge Controllers. You will have to make sure that you are buying the correct number of solar panels based on the voltage requirements and wattage information of the off-grid solar system you have t designed

Off-Grid Battery Inverter/Charger:

These devices allow the energy to flow from the solar panels to the off-grid batteries. In addition, they make sure that the off-grid battery is receiving enough power and is getting adequately charged. Please note, not all kits come with an inverter. So, you may have to buy an inverter additionally.

MPPT Solar charge controllers (DC power)

A maximum power point tracker, or MPPT, is a DC-to-DC converter that optimizes the match between the solar array (PV panels) and the battery bank or utility grid. Simply explained, they convert the higher voltage DC output from solar panels to the lower voltage required to charge batteries.

Battery Bank

Battery banks will store extra energy. They work like battery storage. During the nighttime, you can use the extra power generated (battery storage) by the battery bank.

Backup Generator

A battery generator is an optional choice. They become a secondary source of energy when there is a power failure. 

Importance of Off-Grid Batteries

So, you can choose from lead-acid batteries or lithium-ion batteries. Both the options are available. Lead-acid batteries are economical in comparison to lithium batteries. But even though lead-acid batteries cost less, they need proper maintenance. 

You will have to check whether the lead-acid batteries function correctly and supply energy to the home. You can buy lead-acid batteries online or offline. Also, look for battery storage possibilities. Some will let you do battery storage.

Then you have lithium-ion batteries, known as lithium batteries. Lithium Ferro phosphate batteries will cost you more but are more convenient to use. Lithium batteries require less ventilation, and they can be used even when they aren’t charged. Moreover, lithium-ion batteries designed with lithium iron phosphate technology need less maintenance. 

Therefore, carefully choose the off-grid system based on your budget and requirement, choose solar batteries, such as lead-acid or lithium batteries. Apart from all the things mentioned above, you should also look for charge controllers. Charge controllers regulate the current and voltage and keep the battery protected. 

You will also have to buy breakers, fuses, wires, and breaker boxes. Go for an off-grid backup generator as well, just for those rainy days when you have no sunlight for a day or two. And you may also look for an inverter. Buy an off-grid inverter based on the solar device type. 

Here are hand-picked off-grid solar systems that we think you can go for:

WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit

Windy Nation 400W Kit

The first on our list is WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit, which has a 25-year power output warranty. It also comes with a one-year warranty on all the parts. However, its warranty policy is the most significant advantage of going for WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit. 

The off-grid solar power system meets the industry standard when it comes to its performance. The charge controller features an LCD screen, and you can expect 150 amp-hours of charge from the solar panels every day. 

The entire solar power system consists of four 100 watt polycrystalline solar panels, 40-feet of UL listed 12 AWG solar cable, 30-amp P30L solar charge controller, solar connector, and essential mounting hardware. 

This solar kit is ideal for remote homes, off-grid cabins, boats, etc. The user-adjustable setting makes WindyNation 400 Watt solar kit easy to use. Solar panels come with five years warranty. If you want, you can buy an inverter separately. 

Pros

  • The warranty policy is excellent. 
  • The installation process is easy, and the power output is good.
  • The product is long-lasting and durable. 

Cons 

  • Customers reported issues with the return policy. 

Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit with Wanderer 

Renogy 400W Kit

Next is Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit with Wanderer. This is an off-grid system that comes with sleek monocrystalline panels. The panels are highly durable. The solar kit is designed to provide a house with optimum energy per area. 

You can expect a power output of 2000Wh per day and quickly charge a 200Ah battery. A junction box is included to ensure that the kit stays protected. Reviews say that the solar kit provides high performance. 

You will get an 8ft 10AWG tray cable, which will let you connect the battery and the charge controller efficiently. Price-wise as well, it is good. 

Pros

  • Provides a home with 2000Wh power every day. 
  • The charge controller is upgraded to the latest 30A PWM Negative.
  • It offers many features, such as battery reversal, short circuits, overloading, and overcharging protection. 

Cons

  • It lacks installation instructions. 

ECO-WORTHY 1000 Watt 1KW 24 Volt Solar Panel 

Eco-worthy 1000kW Off Grid Solar Kit

The ECO-WORTHY 1000 Watt 1KW 24 Volt Solar Panel can produce 4kWh energy depending on how much sunlight the panels receive. The good thing about this off-grid solar kit is that you can choose a battery and inverter package. However, the cost will be higher than the standard kit. An inverter is not added.

The kit involves a combiner box which adds to extra protection. As said, you can opt for an inverter and battery as well. You will find no hassle in setting it up, and the company provides a one-year warranty. Moreover, you can connect with customer service whenever you want because they are available 24×7. 

The off-grid solar system is ideal for battery backup power requirements or an isolated house, cabin, garage, etc.

The package includes a 6 pcs 195W mono solar panel, 1-piece 60A solar controller, one-piece 4-string combiner box, three-piece solar cable, six sets of Z mounting bracket, one piece of 16 ft red and black 12AWG cables, and male and female connectors. 

Pros

  • The solar kit can provide power to multiple devices in your home. 
  • It can produce up to 4Kwh of energy daily. 
  • The addition of a combiner box is good, and the setup is easy. 

Cons 

  • Some customers have reported a problem with the battery.

ECO-WORTHY 200 Watt

Eco-worthy 200kW Off Grid Solar Kit

ECO-WORTHY 200 Watt is an economical choice for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on their off-grid solar systems.

The kit comes with two pieces of 100w solar panels, one pair of Y branches, one pair of 16.4ft cabled, an adapter is included, one pc 20A charge controller, which will consist of LCD, one piece of 12V-110V sine wave inverter, and two sets of Z mounting brackets. 

The panels come with pre-drilled holes for an easy installation process. The frames are corrosion-resistant and can suit all kinds of weather conditions. The junction box is waterproof. One can use it for telecommunication, lighting, security and surveillance, water pumps, utility monitor, and much more. 

ECO-WORTHY 200 watts are corrosion-resistant aluminum, which adds to its durability. If you have an off-grid inverter, you can connect this system to that off-grid inverter as well. 

Pros

  • It provides 0.8 kWh of power every day. 
  • The LCD screen shows the system charging state efficiently. 
  • It is helpful for different kinds of locations.

Cons 

  • The customer service needs to be a bit better. 

WEIZE 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit

WEIZE 100W Solar Kit

WEIZE 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit is a good option for everyone new to the off-grid system. It consists of high-performance Monocrystalline solar cells, which ensures higher efficiency. 

The company claims that it is maintenance-free and highly durable. In addition, it comes with anodized aluminum frames, a sealed junction box, and tempered glass. All this makes the entire kit corrosion-resistant. 

The panel meets the industry standard and is 36.4″ x 26.8″ x 1.2″ in size. It generates 5.3-amp power, comes with a 2.6ft cable with connectors, and can quickly charge a 12-volt battery. You can use it for remote locations that require small power generation. 

It is virtually ready to be installed because it consists of all the necessary accessories, such as a 1*10A charger controller, set mount brackets and screws, one pair of 8ft battery tray cable, one pair of 20ft extension cables. In addition, you can get a power inverter if needed for an additional cost. 

Pros

  • It includes all the essential items to install their off-grid solar system. 
  • The panels feature multi-layer and advanced material sheets. 
  • It comes with pre-drilled holes for easy installation. 

Cons 

  • Customers have complained about the solar controller. 

How Much Is an Off-Grid Solar Power System?

The price of an off-grid solar power system will vary from company to company. Also, it depends on how big the solar power system you want to go for. For example, let’s say you want the solar power system to provide electricity to the whole house; in this case, the solar energy system would be quite big and as a result price will be high. 

So, you need to think about the type of off-grid solar kit you need, the number of panels you need, how much kWh you need, and, accordingly, you need to choose a solar power system. 

The solar power system can cost you as low as $150.00 or as high as $10,000. Everything boils down to the number of equipment you want in the solar power system. The panels, whether you want an additional inverter, power backup, etc. All of that will have to be considered before buying. 

Apart from the cost of the system, you will also have to think about whether you want to install on your own or want to involve a reputed company in the installation process. Labour and installation cost will always be separate. 

Can I Install My Own Off-Grid Solar?

Off Grid Solar Panel Install on a House – Completely off grid

The answer is, yes, you can install an off-grid solar kit on your own. But the way to go about it is pretty intensive. Your first step is almost done since you want to go for the off-grid solar system. People often struggle to choose the right type of solar system. 

You already know the size of an off-grid solar system;. But, let’s dive into the rest of the things that you need to look after. 

Before buying the off-grid solar kit and saving time, you must check your state’s solar rules and regulations, particularly your location jurisdiction. Note that not every state’s law will allow you to install an off-grid solar system, particularly for the entire home. This will not be applicable in remote places and unincorporated townships as they will not have local jurisdiction.

Also, some counties or townships will mandate you to do the installation process by a licensed contractor. If mandated, you will have to figure out whether you will need a building permit. This has to be done before you even start the installation process. 

After all, the paperwork is in place, and you can install the off-grid solar kit; you will then have to design the system. Meaning, you will have to figure out the solar system requirements. 

You need to think about the power required from the off-grid solar kit, the number of solar panels required, what about the number of days your home receives adequate sunlight, the shading on the rooftop, and also the solar panel angle, and so on. 

We recommend going for a kit if you don’t want to buy everything separately, meaning inverter, cables, and solar panels. The kit will have all the necessary items that you need for the installation process. 

Think about the number of panels you need and accordingly buy. We have already shared how you will calculate the number of solar panels you need for your home. Use the same calculation when you purchase solar panels. 

Installation Process

So, you will begin by marking on the roof where you will install the racking system. Choose a solid structure because it withstands the lag bolts and the solar panels. If the kit includes microinverters, you need to connect them to the rails. Use the bolts to connect microinverters. 

Take the copper wire and place it across the rails. Ensure you have the appropriate length of copper wire. Also, use copper wires because they are more secure and keep the kit safe from a lightning strike or any type of fault. 

Now, take the junction box and drill a hole on the roof to install it. Next, you need to take at the solar array and check how the solar array flows. If you have more than one solar array, you will need a trunk cable to connect it to the junction box. So, think about the solar array and how much power is needed.

Get the solar panels, and ask someone to help install the solar panels. In case the roof is steep, ensure to call someone to help. Then, attach the panels to the mounting rail. 

Once you are ready, take care of the rest of the connection. So, you will need a conduit, an external junction, and an emergency disconnect box.

You will have to install them somewhere close to the home’s main electrical panel. Also, ensure that both the emergency disconnect and junction boxes are waterproof. 

We recommend calling a local building management offices  to inspect the entire installation so that the expert can gauge whether the installation has been done as per local ordinances. Finally, everything is done, and you are all set to switch on your system. 

The DIY off-grid solar kit will certainly help you save a lot of money. Also, because you will do the installation process independently, you will save additional money. However, as you can see, installing an off-grid solar kit is not an easy thing to do. 

If you are not a licensed electrician or have never installed a solar kit on your own, you may better get in touch with a professional who will do the needful. Also, save time by calling a professional.

The answer to this will largely depend on where you live. Typically, generating your energy and becoming self-sufficient is not illegal. But the issue arises with the utility companies. So, for example, if everyone starts going for off-grid solar, there won’t be anyone paying the electricity bills. 

So, using the same logic, some states prohibit off-grid solar panels for the complete home. Instead, they allow homeowners to use it as a power backup, not a permanent power source. 

Any home powering itself is not an ideal scene for utility companies. In case you are living completely off the grid and in remote areas, you will first have to find out what the local jurisdiction says and whether you can get a permit for the same or not. 

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