Have you ever thought of going off-grid? Perhaps you are considering it and already doing some prior diligence before taking the plunge. The idea of cutting links with city life, constructing a house powered by the sun, and being the manager of your neck of the woods is pretty good.
But wait a minute!
What does going off the grid mean?
It simply means no energy distribution from the big brother and being free from utility bills. In other words, it means moving to a remote area without electricity, where you will only rely on energy produced from your household solar with a battery storage system.
Producing your power is a positive lifestyle change. If anything devastating happens, either natural or otherwise, you’ll still have a power source if you are off the grid.
Nowadays, people are paying more attention to different lifestyles like going off-grid and staying in small homes. Here are factors to consider when thinking about how to go off the grid.
What to Consider Before Going Off the Grid
1. Source of Energy
When going off the grid, make sure you find and use solar energy systems as they are the best due to their efficiency in producing power and ease of set up. Solar power is one of the renewable energy sources that are 100% clean and reduces reliance on natural gas, coal, and oil. Fossil fuels have harmful emissions to the environment that affects the quality of soil, water, and air leading to global warming.
In contrast, considering solar energy when thinking of going off-grid has zero pollution in the atmosphere. The abundant power from the sun provides an unlimited energy source that doesn’t harm the ozone layer.
When facing the household rising energy expenses, going off-grid, and using home solar panels will significantly reduce your costs. Solar energy provides all-year savings and efficiency, even in cloudy and colder climates.
2. Financing Option
How are you going to finance your solar energy project? There are various options available for homeowners and businesses. You can apply for solar loan, power purchase agreement, lease, or cash payment.
The cost of purchasing and fixing the panel depends much on: the type of panels you wish to install, capacity of the solar panels, and mode of placement- ground-mounted or roof-mounted.
There are two types of solar technologies that you can buy:
- Thermal solar technology that uses solar power to heat air or water for domestic use
- Photovoltaic technology uses various cells to change solar energy to electricity, which you can use for household purposes.
In case you use many units for heating, then solar thermal technology is a viable and suitable option to select.
3. Energy Consumption
Consider how you use energy to help you get a solar panel system that will meet your energy consumption at home. Appliances such as pool pumps, air conditioners, and refrigerator tend to consume more power to keep them running.
Therefore, you must be ready to purchase a solar panel system that will quickly meet your needs and run all your appliances when you want to go off-grid.
4. Solar Energy Storage System
After considering the energy source you’ll use to power your home while going off the grid, make sure you buy a solar battery or a storage bank. A solar battery stores the excess energy produced by your photovoltaic solar panels, thus giving you a power backup source.
Additionally, a solar battery gives you independence from the grid. The system provides power to run your home at night or during cloudy days when the supply is low. If you have a grid-tied solar array, you don’t have to buy batteries unless it makes sense for your circumstances.
The battery you choose should store enough power and supply your home with all the energy it needs 24 hours. However, a PV system needs deep-cycle batteries as they are tolerant to continuous charging and discharging.
Valve-Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) battery banks require low maintenance. The reason being, they are designed to convert oxygen and hydrogen into the water to retain the liquid levels. Additionally, these batteries retain their higher dispense charges and voltage levels.
On the other hand, Flood Lead Acid batteries are the best for residential solar as they function well when fully or partially charged. Furthermore, they have an extended lifespan. They require frequent maintenance since they have a liquid that easily evaporates.
5. Backup Power Generator
Repeated days of poor and cloudy weather and frequent maintenance of the off-grid system must have a power backup generator. The power generator protects you from experiencing further damage or loss when the solar system isn’t working.
Backup generators are small and require combustible fuel such as diesel or petrol to generate power. You can integrate them to run manually or automatically depending on the response needed and level of security.
6. Investment Payback
To get the payback period for going off the grid, you should check on the solar system purchase price, the power backup generation, plus the battery system. Also, make sure you check on the price of electricity and the future maintenance costs.
The payback period for an off-grid system is approximately 10 years. But it’s vital to know that when going off-grid in rural areas, it’s a bit affordable to build an off-grid system than connecting to one. The first thing to do is getting an estimation for the total grid connection cost to help you understand the amount the off-grid power system will save you.
7. Roof Orientation
For maximum power generation, solar panels should face south. Apart from that, the roof should be inclined for maximum exposure to the sun.
When people think about going off the grid, one thing that comes to mind is how fix solar panels, then relax and begin enjoying the solar energy.
Even though this might sound easy, you must put some significant factors in place, more so concerning the roof’s condition. Some solar panels can be durable compared to the rooftop. And that’s why your shelter’s roofing should be in the right condition before you install the panels.
The south-east, south-west, and south-facing roofs for the places above the equator generate more solar energy than the north-facing rooftops. The reason being, the more sunlight the panels receive, the more energy they deliver.
Don’t build the off-grid shelter in areas with tall trees because this will prevent the solar panels from receiving direct sunlight.
9. System Maintenance
This is totally up to you. When thinking of going off-grid maintaining the solar panels power supply will be your responsibility. You’ll have to plan for regular services to make sure the panels are okay and functioning properly.
While ancient and rooftop panels are the best to use, make use of ground-based solar panels when you have limited space. You can install these systems anywhere, making them the best choice to use if your roof is unfavorable.
However, ground-mounted systems are more costly since they need additional materials and labor. A different choice is mounting the panels using a tracker to direct the panels to follow the sun’s direction.
Besides the solar panel placement, you can also select from different types of panels. Be sure to ask concerning the efficiency of the panels, since higher panel efficiency yields greater output. Therefore, you need less space.
Is it possible to go off the grid? The answer is yes! Going off the grid entails more than buying an energy storage system. You should also consider the reliability of weather in your location.
Electricity is an important necessity, but it has a constantly rising cost curve. With the factors above, going off the grid shouldn’t be mind boggling. Yes, it will cost you some money, preparation, time, and planning to gain sustainability but the benefits are immense.