How To Decide Between On- Or Off-grid?

The Most Comprehensive DIY Solar Panel GuideQuestion: I’ve decided to go solar but I’m unsure what I should do with my excess energy. How to decide between on- or off-grid?

Answer: This is an interesting crossroads, and each path has its own pros and cons. Let’s look at going off-grid first. The main advantage to going off-grid is, well, you are completely off the grid! That means you are fully independent of the energy provided by your local electric company. You are generating all of your home’s energy from the light absorbed by your solar panels. When sunlight is not available, your energy is provided by your solar system’s batteries, which have been busy charging when sunlight was available.

Going completely off-grid precludes living in a sunny climate, and installing a large enough solar system to power all of your house’s energy needs. On the other hand, those batteries that you depend on can be heavy, may require maintenance and eventually be replaced and when they are fully charged and the sun is still blazing away in the sky, any excess energy is simply wasted (neither consumed nor stored in your batteries).

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As an alternative to a battery-dependent off-grid system, your solar system can also tie into the local power company’s grid. This means your excess electricity (that which you aren’t directly using) is fed back into your utility company’s storage system, often at a credit to you, instead of stored locally in batteries. Then when the sun is down or behind a cloud and its energy isn’t available to you, your system will revert to grid-based electricity.

The advantages of going on-grid are that you don’t have to include batteries in your system, which can save in costs. Additionally, you can save even more money by selling your surplus energy back to your utility company. The downside of going on-grid is that you are still technically dependent on the grid, and to avoid voltage hazards, when the grid goes down (power is out in your community) so do you. Going on-grid is more fitting for a household that may not have as much annual sunlight, or whose solar system cannot produce all of its energy needs.

In either case, on- or off-grid, solar panel installation kits are available as a DIY project, making the conversion even easier.


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