Going off the grid is a catchphrase that often means taking a hiatus from Facebook or retreating into the woods for the weekend. But in solar, it has a slightly different meaning. It means cutting the cord on your local utility company, making all your energy consumption and production on site.
At CRJ Contractors, we educate customers on all things related to solar energy. We are dedicated to informing Colorado Springs business and homeowners on the how going solar can benefit them. One question many of our customers ask is if they should cut the cord on their local utilities company. When making this decision, it’s important to consider your home’s annual average wattage, the local climate, and finally, whether the financial investment would be worth it for you.
What Does Going Off the Grid Mean?
In a nutshell, going off the grid means you power your home is powered completely through your own means. The vast majority of solar powered homes and businesses are still connected to their local utility company. The average home requires about 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, usually requiring twenty or more 365 watt solar panels being installed. Further, even in cases where your solar panels power only 80 or 90% of your home’s energy use, staying connected to your local utilities company would still be necessary. For this very reason, many people invest in solar simply to save on their monthly utility bills, rather than to become energy independent.
Still, there are many advantages to going off the grid, such as providing investors with control over their energy use, keeping the environment clean, avoiding power outages, and lowering utility costs to virtually zero. If you decide to go off the grid, like hundreds of other Colorado residents, installing a balance of system equipment, otherwise known as a stand alone system, is the only way forward.
Stand Alone System
Stand alone systems work in unison with your solar panels. They ensure that the energy you produce is being stored properly, running safely, and powering your home. So far, it is the only way to achieve complete autonomy in solar energy. Stand alone solar systems have several parts:
- Deep Cycle Batteries
- Charge controllers
- Power conditioning equipment
- Meters and instrumentation
Deep Cycle Batteries
Deep cycle batteries store energy conducted through your PV solar panels, allowing investors to harness electricity even during night or weather-adverse days. They are able to store an average of 80-95% of the solar energy conducted. It’s important for solar investors to consider how many batteries will be necessary to sustain your home or business, in addition to the local climate.
For example, if you live in a state such as Massachusetts, where sunlight is limited to only a few hours a day, more batteries will be necessary to store energy because of the limited exposure to sunlight. However, in states such as Colorado, less batteries will be necessary, as there will be plenty of sunlight throughout the year.
Charge controllers determine whether your battery is fully charged. They regulate the flow of electricity and determine whether your batteries are full or not. Without this, your deep cycle batteries would not be optimized to ensure their maximum productivity.
Power Conditioning Equipment
Many home appliances run on alternating current (AC), while most solar panels produce direct current (DC). Thus power conditioning equipment will convert solar energy from DC to AC, so you are able to use everything from your hairdryer to your toaster without concern. There are four basics to power conditioning equipment: conversion, frequency of AC cycles, voltage consistency, and quality of AC sine curve.
Installing a stand alone system into your home does involve some risks such as in events when your house is hit by lightning, power surges occur, or equipment malfunctions. It’s important that you take every precaution necessary to avoid your stand alone system harming anyone.
Safety equipment includes: grounding equipment, safety plugins, and surge protection. These can be installed by your local electrician and are always advised by any trustworthy solar panel company.
If you are going off the grid, you might as well see how much electricity you are conducting, conserving, and using. Meter instrumentation is helpful for both you and solar panel professionals who will be able to tell you with confidence how much energy is being saved. Being able to monitor your financial and solar savings is gratifying, especially after you have made the push to go off the grid.
Should You Go Off the Grid?
Going off the grid is a luxury afforded to many who have the financial means to do so. It protects against power surges, eliminates utility costs, and allows people to live purely off of their own land. However, this approach can cost as high as 25% of your total cost to invest in solar. Such a financial decision is usually advised on a case-by-case basis. Usually mobile homes, financially wealthy businesses or homeowners, make the investment to go off the grid. In addition, if you live in a remote area, going off the grid may be absolutely necessary, depending on how far away your local utility company is.
Additionally, if you are already invested in solar and your net metering is capped by your utility company, going off the grid could save you money in the long term. The American Federal government will also give you 30% in tax credits (ITC) for installation of the stand alone system.
Invest in Solar and Go Off the Grid Today | CRJ Contractors
Ultimately, it is best to have a professional determine your average wattage of household electricity, or formerly known as your electricity load, to see if going off the grid would be a viable, economic decision for you. At CRJ Contractors, we are committed to educating investors of solar energy to invest in solar and make real differences on their lives and the environment.
If you have any questions about going off the grid or stand alone systems, contact us today. Our trained staff is versed in all things solar — We would love to talk to you about your next big move.