Off-grid Solar Power Systems
Off-grid solar power gives people all over the world the electricity to power their homes. In rural America, off-grid solar power makes it possible to buy undeveloped land (with no utility power) very cheaply. You can build an affordable house and live with all the comforts of a city house powered by the utility... without the electric bill!
When the utility company wants to charge you to pull electric lines out to your cabin or rural lot, off-grid power can save you lots of money.
With off grid power you are your own electric company. When the sun shines you store excess electricity in batteries and draw it out later. An off-grid inverter can convert the DC energy from solar panels and batteries into AC electricity which powers normal appliances.
Off-grid = freedom. With freedom comes responsibility— responsibility for understanding your power system and for maintaining it.
Planning an Off-Grid Electric System
A typical Off Grid system consists of solar panels and or a wind turbine to generate electricity connected to a charge controller which controls the pace at which batteries are recharged which is connected the battery bank. You will then need an off-grid inverter to convert the DC (Direct Current) electricity stored in the battery bank to AC (Alternating Current) electricity which is more commonly used in home appliances.
Years ago the high cost and poor reliability of early off-grid systems discouraged many except for the hardiest pioneers. Today solar, wind and hybrid systems have become so main stream that even families well within the utility power line reach are choosing to go off the grid.
At The Solar Store we know that with the improvements in modern off-grid inverters, energy efficient lighting, propane and DC appliances, cheap price of quality solar panels and careful design considerations means stand-alone systems need not rely on backup fossil fuel generators. We have lived off grid for over ten years, we have raised our two children at our off grid home since the day they were born. We use the off grid products we recommend to our customers we don't just sell them.
The starting point in planning your system is to first reduce demand. Most people in America can easily cut their electricity consumption in half. Reducing your families energy consumption by conserving and investing in watt saving home lights and efficient appliances means your are putting your money in your pocket and can substantially reduce the amount of off-grid equipment and or battery bank. As you begin your journey towards freedom from the grid, start by conserving as much as possible first. Its always cheaper to save electricity than to generate electricity. Most off-grid generation is used for lighting, appliances like refrigerators and water pumping. Lighting is the easiest to tackle. If you can afford it, don't stop at compact fluorescent lights, go all the way to LED which can use 1/6th the watt consumption of compact fluorescent lighting.
Here are some questions your will need to answer to get started if you would like us to design the right off-grid system for you:
List your loads. How many watts per day do you expect your equipment to consume? The most important challenge in an off-grid system is to balance your energy consumption with your solar or wind turbine energy supply. No easy way around this so get out a pencil and start listing everything you want to run and how long you usually run it. IE: 5 - 13 watt light bulbs X 5 hours per day = 65 watts. When we say "list your loads", we mean all your loads from the cell phone chargers to a hair dryer.
How many days without sun or wind do you want to be able to run? (Days of Autonomy 3 days is the normal)
What is the largest load you expect to run (Watts / Amps / Volts IE: 240V Well Pump @ 9.5 Amps)
What is your budget? The use of energy-efficient appliances and lighting, as well as non-electric alternatives such as a propane stove and refrigerator should be considered first. Every watt you save will help to lower the cost of your off-grid system.
We have a number of different pre designed systems we have designed for customers and these are a good starting point for starting a dialogue on what will work for your needs. We attended a course on renewable energy systems recently and the instructor was describing Off Grid system design as both art and science. There are so many variables. Please feel free to call or email and we can start the process, we design systems for free so what have you got to lose?