If your goal is going off-grid with solar, then you have found the right article perfectly prepared for you to read.
According to Home Power Magazine, at least 180,000 families are living off-grid in the United States. And this number is expected to increase as solar technology becomes more widely available/affordable.
For those of you already in the process of planning to go off-grid, we have compiled a list with the latest tips and tricks to going off grid with solar.
1. Know what is legal when going Off-Grid With Solar
Living off-grid with solar energy is legal. In fact, several states in the US encourage off-grid living. However, it is important that you follow local building codes and tax laws.
- Energy production: Producing your own energy with solar power is fundamentally legal. In fact, it is your right. Some people even end up selling any surplus back to the local power network.
When asked if people have the right to generate electricity for their own use and still remain connected to the grid, Steven Weissman from the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment says:
"Of course they do. You see it every day. Without prior registration or a background check, anyone can go into a hardware store and buy a diesel generator. Homeowners and businesses can install rooftop solar photovoltaics and enjoy the benefits of low-carbon energy."
However, with all this being said, we do still recommend doing some more of your own research on the topic, as this article is not intended as legal advice, but rather as tips and tricks to going off-grid with solar.
2. Find out how much sun reaches your state
Knowing how much sun reaches your state directly impacts what sort of solar system you will need to install in order to go off-grid.
For example, if you a lot of sun reaches your area, you may be able to get away with installing a smaller solar system. Not knowing this information could mean you end up spending more money than is actually necessary for your per case scenario.
We go very in-depth into this topic in this article here.
But essentially you can use this resource to figure out how many direct hours of sunlight your state gets every year.
3. Do not go above 100 Amps for your off-grid solar system
There is a very good reason most modern solar charge controllers on the market today do not go above 80 Amps. Working with anything higher can result any too many problems/danger.
If you happen to make a mistake with such high currents, you could severely injure yourself and potentially burn down your property.
Additionally, most solar batteries you will use in your off-grid system do not like to provide such high current the same way starter batteries do in your vehicle. They simply are not built the same way.
So, if you need more power with your solar system, we recommend rather increasing the total voltage, for example from 12V to 24V to 48V.
4. Use a high voltage system when going off-grid with solar
The majority of people who invest in off-grid solar systems do so in a 12 volt system. 12 volt systems are a very popular choice, mainly because there are a wide variety of choices when it comes to batteries, inverters, chargers, and devices such as light bulbs that operate optimally using 12VDC.
However, the downside to 12 volt systems, is their susceptibility to suffering greatly from voltage drops.
Voltage drop is the voltage that is lost between the actual power source and the end destination load, this happens because of the resistance.
Essentially what this means is the more resistance you get from wires and connectors, the less actual voltage you will have to work with.
Still a bit confused?
For example, let us say you transfer 60 Amps over a 15 feet 8 gauge wire at 12 volts. In this scenario you would lose approximately 1.13 volts or 9.42% of your initial power.
Why use a 24 or 48 volt system?
Let us use the same example as above, except replace the voltage by 24 or 48. In this scenario you would still lose 1.13 volts in the equation. However, it is much less of a big deal because the overall starting power is much higher than a 12 volt system.
5. Do not invest in sun tracking solar panels
Tracking solar panel systems are no doubt a smart technology and they do indeed increase your energy production.
However, you will get more for your money’s worth by investing in more solar panels rather a single solar tracker.
Also, keep in mind that solar panels can last you sometimes more than 25 years. The main reason being that there are no moving parts involved.
A sun tracking solar panel, however, is a mechanical system and requires much more overall maintenance to keep it fit for action.
6. Make sure you can access your solar panels
It is important that you install your solar panels in a way that is somewhat easily accessible.
Why might you ask?
Well, keep in mind, the one bit of maintenance solar panels does need is a brief cleaning. Over time your PV panels will collect dust and debris and in order to maximize its performance you will need to clean them.
It is recommended to give your panels a thorough cleaning every year, doing this can increase your systems performance by up to 12%.
Thus, it makes sense to have easily accessible panels, if anything to be a motivation to get up there and clean them regularly.
7. Install a battery monitor system
Battery monitors come in handy when it comes to providing vital information about the current state of your solar battery.
Modern battery monitors can help you stay on top of any issues that arise by alerting you to problems with your off-grid solar system.
This data is critical, especially if it’s your first time going off-grid. Installing one of these will allow you to keep track of your accumulated amp-hours by monitoring your household’s energy usage.
A good quality battery monitor will show you the net amps coming in and out of your battery bank and the net amp-hours used since the last full charge. They will also show things such as voltage, battery temperature and total % of battery capacity.
8. Utilize more efficient appliances
When you live off-grid and rely on solar energy for electricity production, the last thing you will want is to waste energy unnecessarily.
Each bit of energy produced is precious and using energy demanding appliances can use up all of it up quickly.
For example, a simple switch you could make to reduce the total amount of energy you use, is switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs.
LED light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 25x longer than their incandescent counterparts.
9. Wash your solar panels regularly
We recommend that you clean your solar panel every month with clear water to remove any dust and debris.
Over time, your panels can lose up to 15-25% of their efficiency if not cleaned properly.
You could rely on the rain to wash them. However, rain will not get rid of the dust layer that will build up over time. To get rid of this layer you need to scrub them down with a sponge and water.
10. Get a backup power system
Moving off-grid with solar is a big step to living a more green, sustainable lifestyle with the freedom to power your home the way you want.
However, because solar panels rely on the sun/weather to create power, do not expect your solar system to be completely fool proof. There is bound to be a moment in time where you will need to rely on a backup system.
If that moment does come, have peace of mind in knowing that you have one last system to rely on in case your primary system is not able to generate any power, whether that be due to unfavourable weather conditions or a mechanical failure.
We recommend our EP500 Pro as a back generator in case your solar PV system fails.
What are the benefits of going off-grid with solar?
Blackouts tend to come at the worst of times, making living conditions uncomfortable. They can be caused by freezing rain, sleet storms, or high winds which can damage power lines and equipment.
Going off-grid with solar means you will not be tied to the electrical power grid, meaning you rely on your very own power production.
If the grid fails, your household will not be affected as your backup battery storage system will kick in.
Going off-grid is the perfect choice for people who want to be prepared for any sorts of calamities that can result in long-term power outages so that they can survive with relative comfort.
Lower your utility bill
Relying on your own renewable energy source removes your co-dependency on any sort of fossil fuel (such as coal for example).
Fossil fuels are not renewable or sustainable and thus as limited resource, depletes over many years of usage. This is why fossil fuel prices have been increasing over the years, as opposed to declining.
Solar energy on the other hand has been drastically decreasing in price over the last decade.
Although, this green technology still has a somewhat expensive initial investment cost, over the long run, the low monthly rates and low maintenance costs make up for it.
This article by Energy Sage allows you to calculate how long it will take your solar panels to pay for themselves.
Keeps the environment clean
A single high quality solar panel installation can last you up to 30 years.
That means for 3 decades you will be able to generate your own clean energy from one installation. This is way more environmentally-friendly than relying on any fossil fuel for an extended period of time.
In fact, let us compare the two sources of power to see how much CO2 they produce.
Solar PV uses about 50g of CO2 per kWh compared to coals 975g of CO2 per kWh, this essentially mean solar technology is about 20x cleaner than coal.
Reducing your carbon footprint and saving money for the long term are two major reasons more and more people are going off-grid with solar.