A typical off-grid system consists of solar panels and or a small 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 or 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 Blue Pacific Solar we believe that with the improvements and safety features of a 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.
The starting point in planning your system is to first reduce demand. (Click on the tab above “Off-Grid Living Energy Conservation” for some tips.) 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. Don’t stop at compact florescent lights, go all the way to LED which can use 1/6th the watt consumption of compact florescent lighting.
Here are some questions your will need to answer to get started choosing 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 solar system is to balance your energy consumption with your solar or wind turbine energy supply.
TIP: 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. THIS IS IMPORTANT: When we say “list your loads”, we mean all your loads from the cell phone chargers to a hair dryer. Energy Load Worksheet
How many days without sun or wind do you want to be able to run? (Days of Autonomy)
What is the largest load you expect to run (Watts / Amps / Volts IE: 240V Well Pump @ 9.5 Amps)
What is your budget?
TIP; 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.