So you want to go solar…
But can’t decide how many panels to get, right?
We’re going to teach you a simple little formula to calculate that in seconds.
More on that in a sec.
Your biggest worries will be how many solar panels I need to go off the grid.
In this article, we will answer this question and provide you with more insight into off-grid solar systems.
- What Is An “Off-Grid Solar Energy System” Anyway?
- Can I Go Off The Grid With Solar Panels?
- How Many 100W Solar Panels Do I Need to Go Off the Grid?
- Can I Use Only Solar Panels to Power My Home?
- Important Components Needed for an Off-Grid Solar System
- Can I Get Solar Panels and Install Them by Myself?
- What Does It Really Mean to Live Off the Grid?
- What are The Pros and Cons of Living off the Grid?
- How Much Does It Cost To Live Off The Grid?
- How Legal Is It to Live Off the Grid in the US?
- What States Allow Living Off The Grid in U.S.?
What Is An “Off-Grid Solar Energy System” Anyway?
To live off the grid completely, you’ll need to create your own electricity since you won’t be on the central power line. Well, you can solve these situations with an off-grid solar energy system. This system acts as a power provider that will help keep your entire electrical appliance running.
The larger electric grid supplies power to most homes and business centers all over the nation. But to go with the off-grid solar system, you will need quite a number of solar panels to generate enough energy to power your home. This is the main reason many stick to the city grid.
Also, in a region where there are lengthy cloudy climates, you will have to get a powerful on-site battery to store power from the sun. This way, you create, store, and use energy when you wish.
Going off the grid with solar systems might be expensive from the beginning, but it will save you more money in the long run.
Can I Go Off The Grid With Solar Panels?
Yes, you can. Solar panels can provide you sufficient electricity for off-grid living. However, there are essential things to look out for and steps to take before installing a solar panel. These considerations will help you know how many solar panels you need to go off the grid.
- Evaluate the amount of power you consume
- Check the number of batteries you need
What Amount of Power do You Consume?
This question is among the firsts that come up when you want to go off the grid. You should consider this before you start thinking of how many solar panels do I need to go off the grid?
Your energy consumption rate helps you to deduce how many of them you would install and the batteries required to store and supply enough power in your home. It’s quite essential to know your daily power usage or total electric load.
To calculate your daily power consumption, you should adopt any of the two primary methods. The simplest way is to get the electricity used for the month. The consumed power amount is indicated in Kilowatt-hours, kWh.
When you have the monthly rate, divide the total amount by the number of days in the month. Run this method on three and for months and take the average, that’s it.
The next method for evaluating the daily power use is by an approach called bottom-up strategy. With this method, you will get the wattage of your appliances and the hours they use.
The above strategy may not give an exact amount, but you can find out from labels attached to some of your devices. Split the number among the 365 days in a year, and the answer is your daily power use.
What Battery Capacity Do I Need?
For you to enjoy sufficient power supply when living off the grid, you need to have solar batteries to store up the power from the sun. These batteries provide electricity even after sunset. But you should know that not every battery has the capacity to power up the entire electrical appliances in your home all day like the central grid.
Sufficient off-grid power supply will require a type of battery that recharges its cells by forming its grid. This way, the slightest energy from the sun can boost the cells.
You also need to know how many batteries are enough to power your home all day. One way to get this is by calculating your daily consumption and then comparing it with the usable energy on the battery.
The usable energy is the number of energy stored in the battery, stated in kWh. This energy is the amount of energy it can release after losing some to charges and battery sustenance.
Once you have gotten the two parameters above, you can easily calculate the number of batteries you will need. That means if your house uses about 40kWh, you need a battery that has at least a 42kWh capacity. The average American uses 30kWh, but you need an efficient one with more power to run your house for a day or more.
Considering these calculations, if you intend to power your appliances for days without a ray of the sun, you should get more batteries. That’s the only way you’ll be comfortable living off the grid-tied electrical system.
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How Many 100W Solar Panels Do I Need to Go Off the Grid?
Here comes the answer you have been waiting for. You should base on the information you have gathered above so you can set up an adequate solar system. In other words, once you know the number of batteries and the power you consume, you can determine the number of solar panels needed.
The off-grid solar system should be big enough to store power that will run for the entire day. You should know that the energy stored from the panel is proportional to the intensity and period of sunlight a day.
According to research done in the US, there are 5-hours of high-intensity sun rays every day on average. And, the amount that hits the panel depends on the angle you place it.
To get the accurate number of panels needed to charge your battery fully every day, you should use this formula. The quantity of energy consumed every day divided by the hours of the highest sun intensity (which is mostly 5 hours).
That means if your home uses 32kWh a day, you should divide it by 5 hours: 32kWh/5-This gives you 6.4 kWh. Hence, to fully charge a battery of 32kWh capacity needed to power up your home all day, you will need solar panel arrays of 6.4 KWh.
Use that simple equation to figure out how many KW of solar panels you need.
Can I Use Only Solar Panels to Power My Home?
Yes, solar panels can provide enough electricity that will power up your home. It can also do this without depending on another source of energy.
However, it is mainly suitable for rural homes that use a small amount of electric power, especially during the day. If you want to use solar energy for a modern styled building, consider finding the best option for storing the energy.
That way, when the sun sets, you can use the power to keep your household electrical appliance running.
Also, before you take this energy option, prepare to make significant changes to your electrical appliances and your usage. You will also have to consider the following factors, particularly if you want to rely entirely on solar power units.
Before you depend on sun energy totally, you should consider the location of your home. For people that stay in Nevada, solar energy comes as one of the best options. The reason is that you can expect sunshine almost every day in this state.
Asides having a steady supply of natural light, avoid placing the panels on shady areas. The reason is that these shades tend to block sunshine from reaching the system. This blockage could be as a result to nearby trees and structures.
If your location has enough sunshine and minimal shade, check if the roofing can carry the number of panels required. So when you are looking for answers on how many solar panels do I need to go off the grid, also consider if the roof is strong enough to carry them.
Amount of Energy Needed
How much energy does your home consume daily? If you turn on an air conditioner or dishwasher, then you spend massive amounts of electricity. Besides, using TVs or computers can also drain your power source.
Also, if you want to go off-grid, reduce your consumption rate. Start by replacing your old electrical appliances with hi-efficiency models like your stoves, heaters, air conditioners, and other devices. Ensure to make the changes early enough before getting the solar power unit.
Important Components Needed for an Off-Grid Solar System
The off-grid solar system consists of many things. But the main components you will need include the following:
- Solar modules
- Charge controller(s)
- DC Disconnect Switch
- Backup Generator (Optional)
Now, let’s tell you more about these components mentioned above.
This component, commonly known as solar panels, uses solar energy to create electricity. When sunlight hits them, they produce an electrical charge to power up the batteries for your home use.
This item has several batteries wired to each other to store energy from the sun. Thanks to the battery bank, the off-grid solar system can power up your electronics for hours.
Solar Charge Controller
It is commonly called the charge or battery regulator. The name of the device perfectly defines its function. This component controls the current that enters the battery bank, and it prevents overcharging.
If you want the battery bank to last longer, you need to get the best solar charge controller. However, if you are using a battery-based inverter, you don’t need to get a charge controller. The reason is that it features an integrated controller.
The inverter converts DC to AC, particularly in appliances that run on electricity. Unlike inverters that use the grid, the off-grid models do not need to match phase with the utility sine wave.
Instead, it converts the current from the solar panels into DC. But before this process, the current will pass through the controller and battery bank.
DC Disconnect Switch
Every solar system should have AC and DC safety disconnects. But for the off-grid system, you will need to get an extra DC disconnect installed between the off-grid inverter and battery bank.
The DC Disconnect Switch helps to cut off the current flow between these components, thus preventing damages or fire outbreaks.
Can I Get Solar Panels and Install Them by Myself?
Yes, you can purchase, install, and maintain your off-grid solar system without any assistance. But it will be advisable you seek guidance from an expert. The reason is that setting up solar panels requires more skill than changing a light bulb.
Creating a homemade solar system might look extra hard. But people claim that this DIY project is quite easy. Luckily, anyone can get tips from YouTube videos or online tutorials.
When you fix a solar panel by yourself, you cut costs and learn how to fix things. But to avoid any problems, skip the DIY idea and look for a professional.
So why should you ignore the self-build option and choose an experienced hand? First, poorly installed panels can make you spend excess cash. Besides, there are local laws that you must adhere to before setting it up, and you also need to know the perfect angle to position it. Also, you will need an expert to determine if the roof can hold the weight of the panels.
Some brands provide solar components that have easy-to-use features. For instance, these models might have cables that you connect to a compatible port. Since they come in the same package, finding the dedicated slot for each cable won’t be difficult.
Moreover, every item has labels, thereby making it easy for first-timers. To set up this type of system, you need to know how to carry out the following steps:
- Securing bolts and screws with a screwdriver and wrench
- Carry the item weighing up to 75 pounds. If they feel heavy, get an extra hand from a friend.
- Make holes and add concrete that’s if you’re constructing ground mounts
- Connect the system to your electrical service panel
- Set up and connect the solar inverter
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What Does It Really Mean to Live Off the Grid?
I will start from scratch to give you a great insight into this unique way of living. The first thing you should know is what it is and how do you live off the grid?
Well, to make it simple, as long as you get your electricity from the central power station, then you’re still in the grid. But living off the grid is entirely the opposite, which means that you’re not on the city’s network at all.
Hence, you will need to generate your own electrical energy and have a distinct water supply away from the central flow that comes from the city.
What’s more, most people go a long way to produce and process their food to ensure a complete ‘off-grid’ lifestyle.
Above all, it requires much commitment. So are you still willing to go off the grid completely? Then you need to know the upside and downsides of living off the grid.
What are The Pros and Cons of Living off the Grid?
You should know that living off the grid has its fair share of challenges as well as advantages. Hence, you should evaluate these factors and reasons before making this life-changing decision. Here are some of the pros and cons of living off the grid.
The Pros of Living Off The Grid
1. Eco-friendly Lifestyle
The effect of our everyday living on the ecosystem has become more harmful than beneficial. Also, the increasing need for non-renewable energy raises the release of greenhouse gases. These gases put the earth and its existence in jeopardy.
So, by staying away from the usual way of life and using good energy forms like the sun and wind, you’re helping the environment.
The use of renewable forms of energy is the best eco-friendly practice you can ever indulge in as it reduces the carbon footprint in the atmosphere. Also, investing in recyclable material with improved durability can lessen the quantity of waste on the environment.
2. Budget-Friendly Living
At first, it may seem like an expensive form of living, but in the long run, you’d see it is cost-effective. Building a home that relies on solar energy for electricity and natural water bodies for supply will surely cost a fortune.
However, as time passes, you will save thousands of dollars on water and electricity bills. You can also save money on groceries and veggies by setting up a small farm with less hassle.
3. Makes One Self-Sufficient
One of the advantages of staying away from the societal grid is that it builds you to be self-sufficient. Imagine that you’re not relying on the farmers market for your veggies and salads, you’ll have no choice but to grow yours.
This practice enhances your ability to produce the needed energy from the natural resources that surround you.
4. Natural Proximity
One other benefit of living away from the bustling and jostling of the city is your ability to enjoy nature. With the appropriate climate, you can sit out and take a long view into the environment amidst the stroking of the cool breeze.
Nature becomes your companion, and you benefit more from it. You can plant, harvest your food, and control the number of harmful preservatives found in your environment.
The Cons of Living Off Grid
Living off the grid also has its downsides which are:
1. First Time Costs
Although it seems to be cost-effective in the long run, the initial cost of living off the grid is somewhat scary. You may need a fortune to set up a complete off-grid house with the necessary fittings to match the city’s lifestyle.
The reason is that constructing a potable water system and power supply sufficient for a comfortable lifestyle will cost you quite a huge amount of money.
2. Periodic Loneliness
If you decide to stay away from the main town where the majority of the populace resides, you also have to prepare to be alone. To live off the grid completely, you should brace the idea of staying secluded for quite some days.
You need to make numerous adjustments when you decide to live off the grid. Since you won’t be close to equipment supplies and grocery stores, you should prepare to live on occasional chops.
Likewise, you also have limited access to essential services like auto-repairs, plumbing, and home fixings. So you have to hope your car or shower fitting doesn’t get faulty since you’re in the middle of nowhere.
How Much Does It Cost To Live Off The Grid?
When you want to move to the middle of nowhere, ensure that you have enough money to cater for potential expenses. The reason is that you might need to purchase materials for your new home.
To cut down your spending, look for land that contains a pre-existing house and well. With the remaining cash, you can cover other expenses. Here is what it will cost to go off the grid below.
Rural land comes as the perfect spot for living off the grid. Since you plan on living comfortably, you could look for an area with a stream or river passing through it. If your land does not have any natural water body, you could consider creating a well or rain catchment.
When it comes to basic accommodation, a cabin with simple features fits outdoor life. Typically, a combination of land and the building itself should cost at least $100,000. But if you plan to add off-grid upgrades, prepare to spend an extra $70,000.
Living off the grid costs less than staying in an urban area. The reason is that you won’t have to worry about paying the regular utility bills.
Source of Electricity
After setting up your home, you will need electricity to keep some essential electrical appliances running. For people living off the grid, solar panels serve as the most affordable choice for producing energy. If you prefer other options, you could consider a wind turbine or hydroelectric power generator that will be great.
The cost of these panels depends on your location, and some states provide tax credits. For instance, you could spend between $2.71 and $3.57 per watt to set up a solar panel. Before the tax credits, the average gross cost is $18,840. But depending on the building size and tax credits, getting the required solar panel could cost you $11,380 to $14,990.
Hydro Powered Electricity
Do you have a stream running where you plan to go off the grid? If yes, you can use a hydroelectric power generator. This form of energy will cost you anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000.
A full Installation could cost you $20,000 to $100,000. However, this figure depends on the source of the water supply and the energy requirement of the building. The distance between the home and water also determines the cost.
Before choosing this form of energy, ensure you have a vast area that offers plenty of wind. For your electronics to run smoothly, you have to consider a $30,000 wind turbine.
But if you don’t use much energy, go for a smaller sized model that goes for $4,000. At this price, this item costs less than using solar power.
Starting a garden requires up to $200 to $500. But you will surely have access to a steady supply of healthy food.
You can also raise poultry or cattle for your protein needs. However, the initial investment depends on the type of animals you want to rear and your household size.
You can provide water to your off-grid home by creating a well. To drill a water well, this costs anywhere from $1,500 to $12,000. Usually, the price to get this done depends on the depth of the hole.
After drilling the well, you will have to set up the pipes and an electric pump. To get this done, you will need an additional $2,000 – $3,000 for installation. With this in mind, the average price to get the water running in your off-the-grid home falls within $3,500 to $20,000.
If you decide to have three-bedrooms, consider a 1,000-gallon septic tank. Creating this tank will cost you at least $600. But if you plan to buy building replacement materials for future purposes, this requires extra cash.
You can cut the expenses by using a water catchment tank to help gather rainwater.
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How Legal Is It to Live Off the Grid in the US?
In all the states in US, there are no strict laws against living off the grid. You are free to stay off the grid as long as it is not an essential infrastructure. For instance, you cannot decide to operate a hospital off the grid, at least not without notice.
You are free to cultivate plants for food using natural water supplies. Also, you can provide power for your farms as long as you do not interfere with the electricity layout of the state.
But mind you, any unlawful interference with the city infrastructure can lead to fines or jail terms from the state. However, laws that guide off the grid living vary extensively, not just among states but in countries as well.
Furthermore, the biggest challenge with setting up an off-grid home is passing the state septic tank regulation.
Variation of Off-Grid Living Within States
Under this section, the laws guiding off-grid living vary in some states. Depending on the restrictions placed by local laws, you might discover large or small differences in each category.
- Smaller urban communities have also set up regulations that guide basic off-grid projects like cutting off from the central electrical power or sewer systems.
- Suburban areas with wealthy residents also feature laws that discourage off-grid living.
- Towns and cities always have the strictest rules that concern off-grid living.
In the countryside, you can set up your home without any trouble. But that’s if the laws in such areas support people that love staying far away from public services. Apart from constructing septic tanks, rural counties do not offer any zoning regulations.
Many North American states do not permit people to live off the grid. However, some areas offer you the chance to try out this unique way of life.
What States Allow Living Off The Grid in U.S.?
For this reason, it is advisable to research the state law that guides living off the grid. Since local authorities create new regulations, look out for the current ones. By taking this step, you can avoid paying a fine or ending up in jail.
Luckily, some states allow people to live off-grid while others have laws that forbid this idea. Overall, places with a vast expanse of remote land tend to support private individuals living off the grid.
But no state promises the best conditions for off-grid living. The reason is that some places might frustrate you with taxes, while others provide an environment that supports your decision.
States that allow off-grid living include:
However, when choosing a spot for your off-grid living, consider the source of water in the area. You should also check out the distance from your water supply to the building and then find the best way to bring the water to your home.
Food comes as another essential thing to take into account. If you want to live alone, you can handle this part with ease. But if you want to raise a family in an off-grid home, you will have to spend more time and cash providing enough farm produce.