An off-grid solar system is a type of stand-alone power supply that does not connect to the utility grid. The term may apply to photovoltaic systems, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, and solar thermal systems which use the heat of the sun to provide heating or hot water.
When people think of electricity, they usually think about how much power they need and how to get it. Solar panels are the most common way to produce this energy in off-grid solar systems. For some people, off-grid living is a perfect choice. Many want to rid themselves of unnecessary bills without sacrificing too much living space or compromising how they live.
Some people may find that off-grid living has many advantages such as no electric bills and lower overall expenses, but there can be some downsides such as higher initial investments and less convenience if your solar systems are their main source of power while others only use them for secondary purposes. No matter how you’d like to live, there’s an off-grid solar system that will work for you.
No matter how you’d like to live, there’s an off-grid solar system that will work for you. These are the three most popular types of off-grid solar systems:
- Stand-Alone Solar System
The stand-alone solar system is the most basic of off-grid solar systems. Its main purpose is to provide power to a single home or building. The electricity produced by the panels will be used to power appliances and devices of all kinds, including things like lighting, electrical outlets, and other useful items. Although this is a very basic off-grid system, it can also be the most expensive to set up.
- Backup Solar System
A backup solar system operates in much the same way as a stand-alone system; however, there are some differences. This type of solar power comes with batteries that store the produced energy.
This means that if the sun isn’t out, or there’s a cloudy day, your batteries will store enough power for you to use at night or on an overcast day. If there are many days in a row with no sunshine how much power you have stored in your batteries declines, making this system less effective as time goes on. Having a backup solar system is still an effective off-grid option if you don’t mind how often it needs to be recharged.
- Hybrid Solar System
A hybrid system offers the best of both worlds. Like other off-grid solar systems, it will provide power for all your appliances and devices, however, unlike other systems hybrids capture and store energy each day so you have power even on an overcast or cloudy day. The way a hybrid system works can vary, some models use solar panels to charge the batteries while others use wind turbines to do the same thing.
How to Build an Off-Grid Solar System?
There are different types of off- it comes equipped with a backup. This means you will only need to make sure your batteries are charged when it’s cloudy or there is no sunshine, and not every other day. This system does require more panels than the other two systems, making it more expensive initially, but in the long run, it can be beneficial because of how convenient it is.
Any one of these off-grid systems is a perfect solution for anyone who wants to reduce their bills, get rid of electric companies and live how they want. No matter how you choose to do so there’s going to be an off-grid system that fits your needs.
In this how-to build an off-grid solar system article, we will explain how exactly how to set up a basic system.
Step 1: Site location and building preparation
The first thing to consider when deciding how to set up a solar power system is how much energy you need, how reliable the sun will be in that location at different times of the year, how stationary or mobile you want the system to be and how much time and money you want to invest in this project.
Locations that are free from obstructions are the most efficient, however, south-facing walls will work just as well.
The building itself must have an entrance for equipment wiring, a window large enough to install panels, plus access for maintenance when needed. A building with a metal roof is ideal as it can be used to mount the panels, but any material will work if you make sure the roof won’t leak.
Step 2: Solar Panels
The most expensive item in a solar power system is going to be the solar panels themselves.
To cut costs, purchase a second-hand panel and refurbish it, or alternate usage with an AC grid-powered system to balance energy use and reduce how frequently the solar panels need changing.
When shopping for a used panel you can acquire them from auctions, Craigslist or eBay, but make sure they are in good working order beforehand (the eBay link is extremely helpful).
Panels can also be purchased with expected life spans of around 25 years.
Step 3: Batteries
Batteries store surplus energy created by the panels that are not used immediately, meaning it is converted into chemical potential energy that can later power appliances in your home.
If you are installing batteries, consider how much money and how much time you want to invest.
Keep in mind that the larger the battery bank, the longer it will take before it recharges. A basic off-grid solar system consists of lead-acid batteries which can be recharged in as little as 14 hours.
Make sure that you calculate how much sun exposure your batteries and inverter will receive during a day. The measurements used to determine how much energy is available for your solar panels are known as “gain ratios”.
Once you have an idea of how much power you use, take a look at how much sunlight your location receives. This will determine how many PV panels you need.
After that, check how many hours of sun your solar panels receive during the winter to ensure that your off-grid solar system is efficient throughout the year. Sun hours are typically lower during the winter months which is why you might need additional batteries or more PV panels.
If you live in a cold area, choose a charge controller with low-temperature functionality to make sure that your batteries won’t get damaged during the winter.
A large bank of batteries is an initial investment, and some people also like to add a battery charge controller and inverter (see Step 4).
Batteries come in all shapes and sizes; how many you need depends on how much energy you use per day and how reliable the sun will be.
Batteries should always be used in pairs, to prevent loss of power.
Step 4: Charge Controller
A charge controller is necessary if you have batteries to store energy. Occasionally there will be too much energy being put into the batteries, which can lead to damaging them over time. A charge controller regulates how many amps are going into the batteries and how often.
Step 5: Inverter
An inverter takes DC electricity from the batteries and turns it into AC electricity, for use in household appliances.
If you already have a battery bank, an inverter is not necessary as your panels and charge controller will automatically convert direct current to alternating current when needed.
Step 6: Solar Mounting
In selecting how to mount your panels, consider how much roof space you have. Panels should be placed in the sunniest part of a south-facing roof, with an even pitch to maximize sunlight exposure.
The array must face true south and there should be at least 1 meter of open space between the array and any objects that could cast shade on the panel.
Keep in mind how heavy the panels will be when you are designing how they will be mounted to your roof.
Step 7: Rooftop Wiring
Mount your racking and connect it to your inverter and charge controller, which should be located in a dry space.
Wire the charge controller to the solar panels, with DC negative wire connected to negative on each panel, and positive wire connected to positive on all panels.
If using batteries, connect the inverter to the next.
Step 8: Other Components
Once your off-grid system is wired, all that’s left are the pieces you may have purchased for convenience or comfort.
Connect your appliances to the system, making sure not to overload it. This will reduce how often the batteries need replacing–which means more money in your pocket.
Before turning on your system, double-check all wiring. Make sure there aren’t any power surges, and that all appliances are operating, which will prevent breakage.
Step 9: Putting Your System to Use
To maximize how much energy your system produces, clean the panels as often as needed. If you go a long time between cleanings, dirt buildup can reduce how much electricity is created by up to 25%.
Keep in mind how much energy you use per day while using your system.
It is important that if you draw more power than what the system can produce, the batteries will begin to drain and won’t be able to charge back up for a while. Because of this, it’s best to unplug major appliances during peak sunlight hours (12 PM to 2 PM).
Also, if you are in a colder climate consider how much insulation your system requires. Solar panels in cooler climates may need more insulation or heating elements to prevent damage due to cold temperatures.
Step 10: Troubleshooting
“The lights won’t turn on when I flip the switch!“
Check that all wiring is properly connected and that there isn’t an overload of power being drawn from the system. Check all wiring again to make sure it isn’t loose or disconnected.
How many solar panels does it take to run a house off-grid?
This is a very common question when people are thinking of living off-grid. The truth is that how many solar panels you need to run your home really depends on how much energy you use in your house, how efficient the appliances are, how weatherproof your house is and how big of a backup generator you have.
That being said, how many solar panels do you need to run a grid-tie system? A 5000-watt grid-tie inverter will require about 8 – 10 260 watt solar panels. For reference, a 1.5 kW (approximately) off-grid system, like the kind that would be installed in an RV or cabin will require about 20-30 260 watt solar panels.
These numbers are just for general reference because how much power you use really depends on how many people live in your house and how much stuff they have. If you have a large family, you will use more power so how many solar panels that it takes to run your house off-grid will depend on how much power you use.
Can I build my own solar power system?
This is a question that many people ask when it comes to generating solar power. The design of the system, how much power it will generate and how much the components cost are all questions you need to answer before attempting to build your off-grid solar system.
If you don’t know how to build an off-grid solar system then this article will help you.
Can I install my own off-grid solar system?
The answer is yes. Lots of people all over the world are taking it upon themselves to learn how an off-grid solar power system works and how they can go about designing their DIY off-grid solar systems.
A lot of people think that you need an electrical engineering degree to be able to understand how an off-grid solar power system works and how to build your own. That’s simply not true.
Sure, it’ll probably help you make more progress on your project if you have some sort of background in electrical engineering, but as long as you’re willing to study and learn how an off-grid solar power system works and how they work, anyone can build their off-grid solar system.