When you decide to go solar, you have to decide which type of solar system you want to install: grid-tied or off-grid. The main difference is whether or not your solar panel system is hooked up to the energy grid or not. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option and it’s a good idea to learn about both before you decide.
What Is an Off-Grid Solar System?
An off-grid solar system is a solar panel system that is completely unconnected from the grid. A home using an off-grid solar system is fully reliant on solar power and won’t get any backup from the grid if the solar panel system runs out of power. For this reason, a battery system to store extra energy is essential.
What Are the Benefits of Off-Grid Solar Systems?
The primary benefit of an off-grid solar system is that it can bring electricity to areas that wouldn’t otherwise have it because the grid hasn’t been built up there yet. If you want to live in a very remote area and there just isn’t power infrastructure available, then an off-grid solar system is a great option. Even if you live in an area with an excellent electricity grid, if you value the independence of not being connected, then an off-grid solar system may be for you.
Off-Grid Solar Can Be Great for Remote Locations
Typically, off-grid solar systems are used by those who want the independence of not being tied to the grid. This type of system could be particularly useful for someone living in a remote area or in a community that is underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure like electrical power.
What Are the Drawbacks of Off-Grid Solar Systems?
If your solar system is completely off-grid, this does mean that you don’t have any backup from the grid if your solar panels haven’t pulled in enough energy. You would also be completely dependent on your solar panels and supplementing your solar system with grid-based power isn’t an option with an off-grid system.
Off-Grid Solar Panels Can Be More Expensive
Off-grid solar systems tend to be more expensive. Part of this is because you need to get batteries in order to store extra energy so that you can have some power saved for cloudy days and at night. However, batteries aren’t necessarily a guarantee that you’ll have enough power to run your home all the time.
Batteries May Be Necessary
If you want to be able to use your off-grid solar panels on cloudy days or at night, then batteries would be necessary. Without batteries, excess power during the day would be wasted and then you wouldn’t have any power at all at night.
You May Have to Make Lifestyle Changes
Depending on where you live, you may need to adjust your lifestyle to reduce your energy consumption. If you live in a particularly sunny area, then you may have enough power stored from sunny days to cover nighttime and cloudy days without significant changes. However, the amount of sunlight may vary throughout the year, even in the sunniest of areas.
What Is a Grid-Tied Solar System?
A grid-tied solar system is one that is connected to the power grid. If your home is still tied to the grid, then it can act as a backup should you run out of solar power.
What Are the Benefits of a Grid-Tied Solar System?
Grid-tied solar systems are popular because your power supply isn’t interrupted should you run out of solar power. You can draw on the grid for power as needed without interrupting your electricity usage.
Grid-Tied Solar Systems Can Be Less Expensive
Grid-tied solar systems can be less expensive because you don’t need batteries in order to have power 24/7. The grid can act as a backup. Additionally, if you participate in net metering, then the grid itself could function as a sort of battery because you could sell your extra energy to your power company in exchange for credits towards future power consumption.
You Can Buy a Smaller Solar System
You don’t have to buy enough solar panels to fully power your home if you’re tied to the grid. You could start small and use solar panels to reduce your grid power consumption and then gradually add on to the solar system over time.
Grid-Tied Solar Systems Are More Stable
If you feel more comfortable knowing that your power supply is stable, then grid-tied is probably for you. If you run out of solar power, your home can automatically connect to the grid for backup power. You also don’t have to worry about reducing your energy consumption to save your solar power.
What Are the Drawbacks of a Grid-Tied Solar System?
The major drawback of being tied to the grid is that if the grid’s power goes out, so does your solar system. This is to protect maintenance workers who may be trying to repair the grid. If solar panel systems were live while the grid was down, the power from the solar panels could enter the grid and harm employees working on the power lines.
How Can Solar Power Be Used During a Power Outage?
There are two ways to avoid your solar system getting shut off during a power outage. The first is to be completely off-grid. The second is to be grid-tied but have a battery backup system. Your home could draw power from the batteries instead of the solar panels or the grid. However, this would increase the cost of your solar system.