Off Grid Solar System Cost (What Can You Expect to Pay?)
Taking your home completely off-grid with solar is a much more involved and expensive of a process than many people first think. The setup requires various different components, some of which are much more complex than the more common grid-tied solar installation. However, going completely off-grid with solar may be the only viable solution for a home that’s located in the middle of nowhere, or when the owner wants to rely solely on their own energy solutions. If this sounds like you, you may be curious about how much off grid solar system cost? Assuming electric consumption is that of the U.S. national average, an off-grid solar system would cost between 30,392 – 48,048. The major price fluctuation is largely due to battery bank type, with LFP batteries costing much more than flooded lead-acid. Lastly, before we continue going into detail on each off-grid solar system component and its cost, we need to make sure you understand something. Solar system cost is largely dictated by 3 things. Your country, peak sun hours, and electricity consumption. The average price we gave above assumes you live in the United States. Costs in Australia for example would be much different.
What Components Are Typically Used in an Off grid Solar Power System?
In this section we will outline all the different components that make up an off-grid solar system and how each will influence the overall cost of your system. Keep in mind each component that makes up an off-grid solar system varies in cost based on its size and brand. For example, if your home uses a lot of electricity it is going to need a larger-sized battery bank to offset your consumption on overcast days. The larger the battery bank, the higher the costs. We will factor in location in the next section, here we want to talk about each of the main components that make up an off-grid solar system and what you can expect their costs to be.
#2 Charge Controller
Charge controllers regulate the rate at which electric current is added to or drawn from the electric batteries.
The type/power rating of these devices generally determines the price.
We recommend installing MPPT charge controllers, Victron is a fantastic brand.
#3 Hybrid Power Inverter
Inverters are pretty much the life force behind your off-grid solar system. Without them, your setup won’t work.
They essentially transform the DC electricity from your batteries into useable AC electricity which you can use to power your appliances around the house.
#4 Battery Bank
Perhaps the most expensive component of your entire off-grid solar system setup.
Battery banks are one of the defining components of an off-grid solar system.
They allow your home to be powered during periods of overcast conditions or at night time.
Battery technology is still quite expensive, particularly lithium-ion technology.
For the most part we have covered the main components in an off-grid solar system.
However, there are of course a few more smaller components that will add to your cost. We have chosen to leave them out as they really all depend on the individual setup.
Off Grid Solar Systems: Estimated Costs Table
|Solar Panels||5,000. 30,000|
|Charge Controller||50. 1,000|
|Hybrid Inverter||3,000. 13,000|
|Battery Bank||10,000. 30,000|
The overall cost of your system really all comes down to what size you have installed.
The larger the size the more expensive.
The size you require all comes down to your energy consumption and your offset requirements.
For this reason we have included averages instead of exact amounts as the cost of an off-grid solar system varies way too much person to person.
Solar Tax Credits
One perk available to those of you who live in the U.S. is the solar tax credit. Our averages do not take into account your ability to claim solar incentives for your solar installation.
Congress passed an extension of the ITC, which provides a 26% tax credit for systems installed in 2020-2022, and 22% for systems installed in 2023. (Systems installed before December 31, 2019 were eligible for a 30% tax credit.) The tax credit expires starting in 2024 unless Congress renews it Energy.Gov
Taking these credits into consideration, our average amounts get reduced to:
Off Grid Solar Systems: Complete Costs Table
|1.30 kW||Daily Summer: 5.80 Daily Winter: 2.90||Price: 8,349. 14,220|
|2.90 kW||Daily Summer: 13.00 Daily Winter: 6.50||Price: 11,559. 16,921|
|3.80 kW||Daily Summer: 17.30 Daily Winter: 8.60||Price: 13,916. 23,571|
|4.80 kW||Daily Summer: 21.60 Daily Winter: 10.80||Price: 15,634. 25,289|
|5.80 kW||Daily Summer: 25.90 Daily Winter: 13.00||Price: 18,303. 27,958|
|6.40 kW||Daily Summer: 28.80 Daily Winter: 14.40||Price: 22,654. 32,699|
|7.70 kW||Daily Summer: 34.60 Daily Winter: 17.30||Price: 24,451. 34,496|
|9.60 kW||Daily Summer: 43.20 Daily Winter: 21.60||Price: 33,462. 54,111|
|10.20 kW||Daily Summer: 46.10 Daily Winter: 23.00||Price: 32,065. 48,565|
|11.50 kW||Daily Summer: 51.80 Daily Winter: 25.90||Price: 32,815. 53,464|
|12.80 kW||Daily Summer: 57.60 Daily Winter: 28.80||Price: 35,653. 52,154|
|14.40 kW||Daily Summer: 64.80 Daily Winter: 32.40||Price: 47,263. 76,984|
|17.30 kW||Daily Summer: 77.80 Daily Winter: 38.90||Price: 51,180. 80,900|
(Table courtesy of Unbound Solar)
You may use the above table to figure out your estimated costs based on your homes solar requirements.
Final Off Grid Power Thoughts
Understanding the costs involved with your off-grid solar system is the first step in figuring out whether this is a viable option for your household.
An off-grid solar system may allow you to live in more isolated areas, ones closer to nature without grid-tied electricity supply.
This in itself would generally reduce the overall purchase cost of your household. Perhaps this is some incentive to justify the large cost of an off-grid solar system.
Is Off Grid solar expensive? Off-grid solar systems are expensive. A solar panel setup that supplies all the energy needs of a home tends to be very expensive. Compared to a grid-connected solar system, an off-grid solar system requires more panels, an inverter with a higher voltage capacity, and a large amount of solar battery storage.
Does solar increase home value? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that every dollar saved on energy through solar increases home value by 20. That’s a return on investment of 20 to 1 According to Zillow, homes with solar panels sell for approximately 4 percent higher on average than homes without solar energy.
How much does a 100kW solar system cost? The average commercial solar panel cost for 100kW solar system in the US is about 325,000 with average ranging from 50,000 for a 25kW system to 600,000 for a 250kW solar system.
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What are the best off-grid solar systems to buy?
Choosing the best off-grid system to buy can be a challenging task.
Consumers looking to purchase an off-grid system are faced with an overwhelming amount of choice. This is because:
- Off-grid systems are the sum of many parts: Every off-grid solar power system is the sum of many components. They are comprised of solar panels, batteries, charge controllers, inverters, wiring, and racking and mounting
- There are many solar brands out there: For each type of solar equipment. solar panels, solar inverters, solar batteries, etc there are many manufacturers
- There’s lots of room for customization: Solar systems are completely modular, so each component can be swapped for a different size or different brand
Luckily for you, we here at SolarReviews have researched the market and narrowed down your options for you. In this blog, we share our picks for the best off-grid solar systems for every need.
Editorial note: This is an unbiased review; we have no financial ties with any of the companies mentioned, nor do we earn money from affiliate advertising. The content of this blog is based on research and information available at the time of writing.
Why you can trust SolarReviews:
SolarReviews is the leading American website for consumer reviews and ratings of residential solar panels and solar panel installation companies. Our industry experts have over two decades of solar experience combined and maintain editorial independence for their reviews. No company can pay to alter the reviews or review scores shown on our site. Learn more about SolarReviews and how we make money.
Best off-grid solar kit for RVs and boats
WindyNation 400W kit
Price: 769.98. 1,899.99, depending on which option you choose Buy Now
Image source: Amazon
- Solar panels: (4pcs) 100 watt WindyNation polycrystalline modules
- Inverter: 1500W VertaMax modified sine wave inverter
- Battery options:. No battery- 300Ah /3.6kW lead-acid batteries [150Ah/1.8kW usable capacity at 50% depth of discharge, or DoD). 400Ah/4.8kW lead-acid batteries (Usable capacity: 200Ah/2.4kW @50% DoD). Both battery options use BattaMax 12V 100Ah AGM (maintenance-free) deep-cycle batteries
- Charge controller: 30-amp P30L Solar Charge Controller (w/ LCD Display)
- Other: Wiring, connectors, all necessary solar mounting hardware
A quick note about depth of discharge
The maximum recommended depth of discharge (DoD) refers to the level to which you can drain a battery while maintaining the battery’s health. Draining the batteries beyond this point is not recommended as it will weaken the batteries and reduce their total lifespan.
For lead-acid batteries, the maximum recommended DoD is generally 50%. That means that a lead-acid battery bank with a nominal energy storage capacity of 3.6 kW has a practical usable capacity of 1.8kW.
With lithium batteries the max recommended DoD is much higher, between 80-100%.
What we like about the WindyNation 400W kit
- Small system footprint means that it can easily be installed on small structures, RVs, and boats
- The inverter’s 1500W capacity is very high for a system of this size. It will allow you to run several appliances simultaneously, or run power-hungry appliances like power tools for a short period
- You can easily expand this system by stacking on extra solar panels and additional batteries, although you’d probably want to upgrade the charge controller in the process
What we don’t like
- On Amazon, the default kit includes a modified sine wave inverter; these are not ideal for running sensitive electronics. It’s possible to upgrade to a pure sine wave inverter by contacting the vendor. we recommend you do this
- It uses polycrystalline (poly) solar panels. Poly panels have lower efficiency and don’t look as attractive as their sleek, black siblings. monocrystalline panels
This WindyNation 400W system is the ideal size for recreational vehicles such as RVs and boats, but would work just as well in a tiny cabin.
The system is the right size to comfortably run LED lights, a mini-fridge, chargers, a router, and even several hours of television. Thanks to the high capacity of the inverter, you can even run energy-hungry devices like a microwave or electric kettle.
You definitely want to have adequate battery storage with this off-grid system. that’s the case with any off-grid solar system, actually. Unless you already have batteries you’re planning on using, we recommend going for the maximum storage option, i.e. 400ah of AGM lead-acid batteries.
Best off-grid solar kit for cabins and sheds
altE 1.83kW ‘Tiny House’ Base Kit #3
Price: Starting at 5,329.27 Buy Now
- Solar panels: (6pcs) Seraphim 305 watt monocrystalline all black
- Inverter: Samlex EVO 4000W 24V pure sine wave inverter/charger
- Charge controller: Outback Power Flexmax 80 MPPT Charge Controller
- Battery options:. 15.84kW 6V Trojan flooded lead acid (FLA) batteries (7.9 kW usable capacity @ 50% DoD). 12.96kW 12V KiloVault AGM lead acid batteries (6.5 kW usable capacity @ 50% DoD). 10.3 kW 12V KiloVault lithium batteries (8.2 kW usable capacity @ 80% DoD);. The lead-acid batteries have a recommended depth of discharge of 50%, while for the lithium battery it’s 80%
- Other: Breakers, surge protection devices (x2), wiring, connectors, mounting hardware options for metal roof, shingle roofs, and top-of-pole
What we like about it
- The altE store has a reputation for excellent sales and support
- The monocrystalline Seraphim solar panels. they have a sleek, black look, an above-average 15-year product warranty, and have passed the Thresher Test, which means they are very durable and capable of withstanding large loads of snow. Better yet, Seraphim solar panels are American-made in a factory in Tennessee, unlike most solar panel brands which are manufactured overseas
- The inverter is a pure sine wave system, which means it can reliably power all kinds of electronics, including computer equipment
- It has three convenient mounting options with transparent pricing: metal mounts, shingle mounts, and pole mounts
What we don’t like
- The Samlex inverter’s warranty. While the Samlex brand has a reputation for durability, the warranty for this unit is a measly 2 years. This simply isn’t good enough these days given that other inverter brands offer warranties of 5 years or longer
- The short warranty offered on altE’s proprietary ‘Kilovault’ lithium battery option. By contrast, leading lithium ion products like the Tesla Powerwall, LG Chem Resu and sonnen Eco all offer 10-year warranties
The Tiny House Base Kit #3 is a package that combines reliable brands in a relatively affordable package. Seraphim, Samlex, Outback, and IronEdge. the makers of the panels, inverter, charge controller and mounts, respectively. all have good reputations for performance and reliability.
The only weak link here is the Kilovault lithium battery; while we like the lithium iron phosphate technology it uses, its 3-year warranty is unacceptable given that the Tesla Powerwall and other leading brands offer 10-year warranties. We recommend sticking with the lead-acid batteries, which will also help keep total costs down.
Another positive here is the vendor. altE store. which has an excellent reputation in the DIY solar community. They may not have the spiffiest website, but they do have advanced expertise in off-grid solar, as evidenced by their in-depth educational videos on the topic. As such, they can help you design and customize an off-grid solar system for your needs and provide the necessary after-sales support.
Those seeking to support American manufacturing will be happy to know that the maker of the solar panels, Tier 1 brand Seraphim, has a manufacturing facility located in Jackson, Mississippi.
What to keep in mind before you buy
Each system we’ve presented in this blog has standout features that makes it the best in its class.
That said, keep in mind that there is an almost infinite variety of options and configurations when it comes to going off-grid. That means that it’s always possible to add, subtract, and modify to make your systems the best for your specific needs.
As such, before settling on a system, we recommend that you speak with a qualified vendor or installer who can accurately assess your needs and design and design a system accordingly.
Compared: Grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid solar systems
There are three types of solar panel systems: grid-tied (on-grid), off-grid, and hybrid solar systems.
Each type of system has a unique setup that affects what equipment is used, the complexity of installation, and, most crucially, your potential costs and savings.
What would be the best in your situation? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and downsides of grid-tied, off-grid and hybrid solar systems.
Calculate the price of solar panel installation on your home
Grid-tied solar systems
Grid-tied, on-grid, utility-interactive, grid intertie, and grid backfeeding are all terms used to describe the same concept – a solar system that is connected to the utility power grid.
DC electricity generated by the solar panels is sent to the inverter, which converts the power into AC electricity. This electricity is first used to service the home loads, while all surplus energy is exported to the grid in return for electric bill credits.
Benefits of grid-tied systems
A grid connection will allow you to save more money with solar panels through net metering, lower equipment and installation costs, and better efficiency rates.
Save more money with net metering
Your solar panels will often generate more electricity than what you are capable of consuming. With net metering, homeowners can put this excess electricity onto the utility grid instead of storing it themselves with batteries.
Many utility companies are committed to buying electricity from homeowners at the same rate as they sell it themselves. As a homeowner, you can use these payments from your utility to cancel out your electricity usage charges. by up to 100%.
Net metering plays an important role in how solar power is incentivized. Without it, residential solar systems would be much less feasible from a financial point of view.
Lower upfront costs and ease of installation
Grid-tied solar systems are the only type of solar system that don’t require a battery to function. This makes grid-tied systems cheaper and simpler to install, and also means there is less maintenance required.
You can use the utility grid as a virtual battery
The electric power grid is in many ways also a battery, without the need for maintenance or replacements, and with much better efficiency rates.
According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States. Lead-acid batteries, which are commonly used with solar panels, are only 80-90% efficient at storing energy, and their performance degrades with time. In other words, more electricity (and more money) goes to waste with conventional battery systems.
Additional perks of being grid-tied include access to backup power from the utility grid, in case your solar system stops generating electricity for one reason or another. At the same time, you help to mitigate the utility company`s peak load. As a result, the efficiency of our electrical system as a whole goes up.
Equipment for grid-tied solar systems
There are a few key differences between the equipment needed for grid-tied, off-grid and hybrid solar systems. Standard grid-tied solar systems rely on the following components:
Grid-tie inverter (GTI)
What is the job of a solar inverter? They regulate the voltage and current received from your solar panels. Direct current (DC) from your solar panels is converted into alternating current (AC), which is the type of current that is utilized by the majority of electrical appliances.
In addition to this, grid-tie inverters, also known as grid-interactive or synchronous inverters, synchronize the phase and frequency of the current to fit the utility grid (nominally 60Hz). The output voltage is also adjusted slightly higher than the grid voltage in order for excess electricity to flow outwards to the grid.
Microinverters go on the back of each solar panel, as opposed to one central inverter that typically takes on the entire solar array.
Microinverters are certainly more expensive, but in many cases yield higher efficiency rates. Microinverters are particularly useful if you have shading issues on your roof.
Most homeowners will need to replace their current power meter with one that is compatible with net metering. This device, often called a net meter or a two-way meter, is capable of measuring power going in both directions, from the grid to your house and vice versa.
You should consult with your local utility company and see what net metering options you have. In some places, the utility company issues a power meter for free and pays full price for the electricity you generate; however, this is not always the case.
See how much a grid-tied solar system can save you annually
Off-grid solar systems
An off-grid solar system (off-the-grid, standalone) is the obvious alternative to one that is grid-tied.
For homeowners that have access to the grid, off-grid solar systems are usually out of question. Here’s why. To ensure access to electricity at all times, off-grid solar systems require high-capacity battery storage and a backup generator. On top of this, a battery bank typically needs to be replaced after 10 years. Batteries are complicated, expensive, and decrease overall system efficiency.
Off-grid systems require large amounts of energy storage as there is no option to import power from the electric grid. As such, they are typically designed using lead-acid batteries, which are a much cheaper alternative to newer (and more efficient) lithium-based solar batteries.
Can be installed where there is no access to the utility grid
Off-grid solar systems can be cheaper than extending power lines in certain remote areas.
Consider off-grid if you’re mor e than 100 yards from the grid. The costs of overhead transmission lines range from 174,000 per mile (for rural construction) to 11,000,000 per mile (for urban construction).
Become energy self-sufficient
Living off the grid and being self-sufficient feels good. For some people, this feeling is worth more than saving money.
Energy self-sufficiency is also a form of security. Power failures on the utility grid do not affect off-grid solar systems.
On the flip side, batteries can only store a certain amount of energy, and during cloudy times, being connected to the grid is actually where the security is. You should install a backup generator to be prepared for these kinds of situations.
Equipment for off-grid solar systems
Typical off-grid solar systems require the following extra components:
- Solar charge controller
- Battery bank
- DC disconnect (additional)
- Off-grid inverter
- Backup generator (optional)
Solar charge controller
Solar charge controllers are also known as charge regulators, or just battery regulators. The last term is probably the best to describe what this device actually does: solar battery chargers limit the rate of current being delivered to the battery bank, and protect the batteries from overcharging.
Good charge controllers are crucial for keeping the batteries healthy, which ensures the lifetime of a battery bank is maximized. If you have a battery-based inverter, chances are that the charge controller is integrated.
Without a battery bank (or a generator), it’ll be lights out by sunset. A battery bank is essentially a group of batteries wired together.
DC disconnect switch
AC and DC safety disconnects are required for all solar systems.
For off-grid solar systems, one additional DC disconnect is installed between the battery bank and the off-grid inverter. It is used to switch off the current flowing between these components. This is important for maintenance, troubleshooting and protection against electrical fires.
There’s no need for an inverter if you`re only setting up solar panels for your boat, your RV, or something else that runs on DC current. You will need an inverter to convert DC to AC for all other electrical appliances.
Off-grid inverters do not have to match phase with the utility sine wave as opposed to grid-tie inverters. Electrical current flows from the solar panels through the solar charge controller and the bank battery bank, before it is finally converted into AC by the off-grid inverter.
It takes a lot of money and big batteries to prepare for several consecutive days without the sun shining (or access to the grid). This is where backup generators come in.
In most cases, installing a backup generator that runs on diesel is a better choice than investing in an oversized battery bank that seldom gets to operate at its full potential. Generators can run on propane, petroleum, gasoline, and many other fuel types.
Backup generators typically output AC, which can be sent through the inverter for direct use, or it can be converted into DC for battery storage.
Hybrid solar systems
Hybrid solar systems combine the best of grid-tied and off-grid solar systems. These systems can either be described as off-grid solar with utility backup power, or grid-tied solar with extra battery storage.
If you own a grid-tied solar system and drive a vehicle that runs on electricity, you already kind of have a hybrid setup. The electrical vehicle is really just a battery with wheels.
In a hybrid solar system, energy generated from the solar panels is first used to service the home’s electrical loads (flow #1). After the home’s energy needs have been supplied, solar power is used to charge the solar battery (flow #2). If there is still a surplus of solar energy, it will be exported to the electric grid in return for credits (flow #3). The system pictured above shows an AC-coupled lithium battery, but hybrid systems can also be designed using either lithium or lead-acid-based DC batteries.
Less expensive than off-grid solar systems
Hybrid solar systems are less expensive than off-grid solar systems. You don’t really need a backup generator, and the capacity of your battery bank can be downsized.
If your battery runs out of charge at night, you can simply buy off-peak electricity from the utility company. This will be much cheaper than operating a generator.
Smart solar holds a lot of promise
The introduction of hybrid solar systems has opened up many interesting innovations. New inverters let homeowners take advantage of changes in the utility electricity rates throughout the day.
Solar panels happen to output the most electrical power at noon – not long before the price of electricity peaks. Your home and electrical vehicle can be programmed to consume power during off-peak hours (or from your solar panels).
Consequently, you can temporarily store whatever excess electricity your solar panels generate in your batteries, and put it on the utility grid when you are paid the most for every kWh.
Smart solar holds a lot of promise. The concept will become increasingly important as we transition toward the Smart grid in the coming years.
Equipment for hybrid solar systems
Typical hybrid solar systems are based on the following additional components:
- Charge controller
- Battery bank
- DC disconnect (additional)
- Battery-based grid-tie inverter
- Power meter
Battery-based grid-tie inverter
Hybrid solar systems utilize battery-based grid-tie inverters, which are also known simply as hybrid inverters. These devices can draw electrical power to and from battery banks, as well as synchronize with the utility grid.
Final thoughts on grid-tied solar systems
The bottom line is this: Right now, for the vast majority of homeowners, tapping the utility grid for electricity and energy storage is significantly cheaper and more practical than using battery banks and/or backup generators.
The Ultimate Guide To DIY Off-Grid Solar Systems
Aug 23rd 2022
Off-grid solar installations in the middle of nowhere are often the first thing people think about when they think of going solar. While it’s definitely not for everyone, DIY off-grid solar can be a great solution for those living in a remote area without reliable and affordable access to the grid, want to live a self-reliant lifestyle without monthly utility bills, or have the ability to access power during a blackout.
Off grid solar systems utilize batteries to store energy produced from solar panels. Because you’ll be relying solely on your own solar installation to cover all your energy needs, systems must be sized and designed to fit a variety of needs throughout the year, especially in the winter when there are fewer sunlight hours. Off-grid systems are great for those wanting to go the DIY route since you’re not connected to the grid. But you’ll definitely want to educate yourself before you dive in. The key components of every off-grid solar installation include solar panels, charge controllers, batteries, and inverters. We highly recommend taking the time to read up on all the different components, as well as how to plan and size your system to be efficient for years to come.
In this guide, we’ll help you navigate calculating how much energy you’ll need to produce, how to store that energy, and how to select your components, from solar panels to inverters.
Calculate Your Power Load
One of the most important parts of going off-grid is calculating your energy needs. This is because you won’t be able to tap into the electric grid, but rather relying solely on your own system. Having an accurate understanding of your energy needs will give you a better idea of the costs and ensure you don’t under- or over-build a system.
The Renogy Solar Power Calculator is a great tool that makes it a quick and easy process to help determine your specific needs. The solar sizing calculator allows you to input information about your lifestyle to help you decide on your solar panel requirements. You’ll need to know what total watts your electronics will consume, how long you plan on running the devices, your charge controller efficiency, and average sun hours per day (taking into consideration those darker winter months).
Learn more about off-grid solar systems as well as sizing your system to best fit you and your home’s needs in the posts below.
Select Batteries for your Battery Bank
Batteries are a crucial component of off-grid solar systems. After all, how are you going to store all the energy produced from your panels? There is a range of deep cycle battery options that are ideal for solar applications, such as sealed and flooded lead acid and lithium ion batteries.
Flooded lead acid batteries are the cheapest battery option and are available in many big box stores. They also require the most maintenance. Flooded lead acid batteries contain a combination of a liquid electrolyte, and the liquid in these batteries must be carefully measured and maintained to ensure a healthy, long-lasting battery. They also emit gases, so it’s important that they are housed in a well-ventilated room.
Sealed lead acid batteries require little to no maintenance and are more efficient than flooded lead acid batteries. Contrary to flooded lead acid batteries, there’s no need to add water to the inside compartment. Although they are more expensive, they also have a longer cycle life.
There are two main types of sealed lead acid batteries: absorbed glass mat (AGM) and gel batteries. Gel batteries, which use silica to stiffen the electrolyte solution in the battery, tend to have lower charger rates and output than absorbed glass mat batteries. They also can’t handle as much current, meaning they take longer to recharge. Gel batteries have a greater lifespan than AGM batteries. AGM batteries are the cheaper of the two and they also offer a better temperature range.
Lithium iron phosphate batteries are the most advanced and expensive battery type. For those who place a premium on efficiency and portability should consider lithium iron phosphate batteries. They are compact and lightweight, have an extremely long cycle life, and high discharge and recharge rates. They also require little to no maintenance. Lithium batteries typically have a lifespan of at least 10 years and lose less capacity when idle than other battery types.
When it comes to choosing a battery for your off-grid system, we typically recommend lithium batteries because of their high efficiency and lifespan.
The amount of battery storage you need is based on your energy usage, so again refer to your results from the Renogy solar panel calculator. To give you an idea, a battery capacity of 4 to 8 kWh is usually sufficient for an average four-person home. To learn more about the pros and cons of each battery type, how large of a battery bank to have, and the different options available from Renogy, read the follow posts.
- Sizing Your Battery Bank for Your Solar System
- Do I Need Deep Cycle Batteries for My Solar Installation?
- Top Selling Renogy Batteries
Select Your Solar Panels
When it comes to actually collecting energy from the sun, that’s where solar panels come in. There are a few different solar panel options available to choose from.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Panels
Choosing between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels is one of the first steps to take when shopping for solar panels. Polycrystalline panels are light blue in color, and they are less energy and space efficient than monocrystalline panels. On the plus side, they are also the cheaper option. Monocrystalline panels, which are darker in color, are more space and energy efficient. Keep in mind that with the added efficiency comes a higher price tag.
Portable vs. Roof Mounted Panels
Rigid, roof mounted solar panels are the most common solar panel type and durable solar panel type. They are also ideal if you have consistent energy needs and want to be able to charge your battery bank at the flip of a switch. If you are looking to mount your solar panels on a non-flat roof, flexible solar panels are the way to go.
On the other hand, portable solar panels are perfect for those who may not be ready to mount solar panels on their roof, have limited surface area to mount panels, want to generate solar on multiple applications, such as on your RV and your home, or have smaller energy needs. One of the most popular types of portable solar panel systems are folding suitcase panel kits. Folding suitcase panel kits are lightweight, easy to handle, and can be set up on the ground and angled for maximum efficiency.
Solar installations be built out as 12, 24, or 48 volt systems. Most RV’s and boats have 12V battery banks, so people usually stick with the 12V panels in order to be compatible with those. You may consider a 24v solar panel system if you have high energy needs. If your energy needs are about 1 to 3 kW, we’d recommend a 24 volt system. If your energy needs are above that, you’ll want to install a 48v system. Having a higher voltage panel system can save you money in the long run as you need less charge controllers and can use thinner cables for the same amount of power.
Solar panels are also available in flexible and rigid forms. Flexible panels weigh less than the rigid solar panels and can be installed directly on the roof of your RV or van. Rigid panels, which are more typically durable, can also be mounted to tilt, which makes their solar energy collection more efficient. If you’ll be mounting panels to your roof, you’ll want to take into consideration the condition of your roof and how old it is. If it’s nearing the end of its life, you’ll want to replace it before going solar.
Learn more about all of this and more in the following posts about solar panels and how to select the right one for you.
- How Solar Panels Work: A Breakdown for Beginners
- How To Choose The Right Solar Panels for Your Lifestyle
Select A Solar Charge Controller
Charge controllers are another crucial component of your system and are recommended with every solar panel larger than five watts. They sit between the energy source and storage and perform the essential role of preventing any overcharging of batteries by limiting the amount and rate of charge to your batteries.
Additionally, charge controllers shut down your system if the stored power falls below 50 percent capacity and charge batteries at the correct voltage level. This helps preserve the life and health of the batteries in your battery bank.
There are two types of charge controllers to consider: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controllers and Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) controllers. PWM charge controllers are cheaper and ideal in smaller applications. They’re an older technology and are cheaper, but they are also less efficient than MPPT charge controllers. MPPT controllers are the most efficient controller option, ideal in large applications, and are the most expensive option. Both are widely used, have similar lifespans, and preserve the life of your batteries. We typically recommend using MPPT controllers in an off-grid system because of their increased efficiency levels.
Lean more about charge controllers in the posts below.
Select An Inverter
Inverters are the final, crucial component to consider when piecing together your solar installation. Inverters turn DC power produced from your solar panels and stored in your battery into AC power. An inverter is necessary to power the common appliances found in your home or RV, from TV’s to microwaves. When shopping around for inverters, you’ll quickly learn there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
There are two main inverter types: pure sine wave and modified sine wave inverters.
Pure sine wave inverters are capable of producing smooth, quiet, and reliable electricity to operate appliances and electronics without any interference. Like its name suggests, pure sine wave inverters produce current in a pure sine wave shape. Renogy sells a range of pure sine wave inverters of varying capacities to fit your solar installation and your energy needs. Renogy inverters also provide overload protection for both DC input and AC output to prevent damage to the components and the unit.
When looking at the waveform from a modified sine wave inverter, it has a stair-step, square pattern, where the polarity is flipped back and forth. Because of the choppiness of the wave pattern, modified sine wave inverters can negatively affect more delicate, sensitive equipment. If you have medical equipment you need to power, such as a CPAP machine, we recommend using a pure sine wave inverter. In many cases, you’ll hear a hum with devices attached to a modified sine wave inverter.
What can I run with a modified sine wave inverter?
Modified sine wave inverters can be used in simple systems without sensitive electronics. If you’re running an appliance that does not have an AC motor and isn’t a delicate piece of medical equipment, you may be fine with a modified sine wave inverter. Old tube tvs, water pumps, and phone chargers usually operate ok with a modified sine wave inverter.
Appliances like refrigerators, microwaves, and compressors that use AC motors won’t run as efficiently on a modified sine wave inverter. Some fluorescent lights will also not operate quite as bright, and some may buzz or make humming noises.
Review the posts below to learn more about different types of inverters, what to look for when shopping, and what size inverter to purchase for your system:
Put It All Together
Solar is definitely becoming more popular among homeowners and travelers alike, and it is easy to see why. There’s a lot that goes into going solar, from sorting through technology options to handling permitting, but thanks to a growing number of solar panels kits, going solar on your own has never been easier.
If you are interested in going off-grid or living a remote or mobile lifestyle in a van or RV, and have the time and energy to dedicate toward a solar project, DIY off-grid solar can be a great way to meet your energy needs, be energy reliant, sustainable, and save money. Plus, if you live a lifestyle without accessible, reliable, and affordable access to power, off-grid solar is often the best way to meet those needs and live your dream life.
We hope this guide has answered your big questions about going off-grid. Taking into consideration the different solar components, properly sizing your system, and making a plan for the entire installation process, will help ensure you have a smooth transition to start collecting and storing energy from the sun.
Self-Driven (living space and engine in the same vehicle such as vans, buses, and motorhomes)
When you have an engine built into your living space, you can take advantage of the ability to charge your house battery without resorting to lugging around a gas powered generator. You can certainly use a battery isolator to charge while driving, but installing a DC to DC battery charger can greatly increase the charging voltage/amperage and greatly decrease the time it takes to recharge your house battery!
By installing a Dual Input DC to DC Battery Charger. you can charge your house battery even faster while driving down the road by simultaneously garnering energy from your vehicle’s starting battery/alternator (when the engine is running) and from your roof mounted solar panels. This product becomes both battery charger and charge controller, all in one. The added convenience here is that when the house batteries are full and the panels are still collecting solar energy, they will trickle charge your starting battery so that you won’t have to worry about not being able to start your vehicle after two weeks in the desert.
Tow-Behind RV (living space in a secondary vehicle towed by a car or truck such as 5th wheels, campers, and travel trailers)
Trailers can take advantage of the same charging opportunities as well, but require the ability to connect and disconnect quickly. After all, the whole point of using solar is to passively charge your batteries while you go out and play outside. Either of the DC to DC chargers mentioned above can be installed in the vehicle doing the towing, or in the trailer itself within close proximity to the house batteries. Just keep in mind that the longer the distance from the starting battery, the larger the gauge cable you will need to use to reduce voltage drop and increase safety. Many Renogy customers use Anderson 4 Gauge Extension Cables to make a quick and easy connection between the trailer and the towing vehicle.
DC to DC Battery Charger (manual, pg 16)
We hope this list of blogs, videos, and diagrams has been helpful to you. Check back with us on this blog, because we will continue to try and improve it as we find more helpful information. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us via our website or social media listed below. And, be sure to follow our solar powered journey!
Shari Galiardi David Hutchison have turned their higher education backgrounds, desire for life-long learning, and thirst for adventure travel into writing, photography, video production, and public speaking tours from coast to coast. Known to their friends as simply Shari Hutch, you can learn more about their full-time, solar powered adventures on their website at freedominacan.com Or, follow them on Instagram. and YouTube as “Freedom in a Can.”
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