Should You Build An Off-Grid Solar System?
Off-grid solar systems sound fanciful because it would mean complete energy independence for your home. The idea of running your home or business completely free of utility companies is a terribly attractive proposition, but there are several factors that you need to consider such as cost, location, energy consumption, and balance of resources. An off-grid system does make sense in certain situations and it can have environmental and energy independence benefits. However, it could be unreliable and expensive as well.
What components do you need?
The required components include solar panels, solar batteries, solar inverters, battery chargers, and alternative energy sources, if needed. You need a solar battery that will store your solar energy and allow you to use it when the sun goes down. A PV inverter is required to cover direct current to alternating current that can be used by your appliances. The charge controller is essential for maintaining the battery's health and regulating voltage. An alternative source may be required as a backup or if you fail to get sufficient sunlight in winter.
You need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis
If you seek to do it alone, you need to factor the constant costs involved with maintaining and replacing the battery, the controllers, and the inverters. However, you will be saving money in one aspect— not needing to pay a grid control fee to a utility provider. This will ultimately be a factor of which state or city you reside in as off-grid can be very cheap for the course of your panels' lifetime. If you live in a city or a densely populated urban area, it makes little to no sense to go off-grid as your energy costs are likely to be very low.
What kind of balance of resources are available to you?
It is common to think of electricity as an available and abundant resource even if you decide to go off-grid. However, how often do you get sunlight and for how many hours a day do you have sunlight? Does your area get cloudy often? You will be completely responsible for energy generation, and if you happen to reside in an area with low sunlight, you may need a larger storage system and a larger backup generator. Such systems would erode or eliminate the environmental benefits of solar installation and reduce the efficiency of the system.