There has been an increase in demand for off-grid solar panel systems in recent times. The main reason for this is the far-fetched leap in-home battery storage technology. But when you start searching for the right off-grid solar panel for your home, you will realize that there are many factors that you must consider.
Off-grid solar panel professionals may offer you valuable information and recommendations. However, you still may want to undertake thorough research. This way, you can identify which solar panel system meets your requirements.
In this article, we will look at some truths about off-grid living with solar panel systems. We will highlight the benefits of the solar panel systems, the number of solar panels you require for off-grid living and what type of battery do you need to set up a solar panel system.
Advantages of Off-Grid Solar Systems
Selecting an off-grid system for your home has several benefits. One of the most significant benefits of these solar panels is that they convert sunlight into complete and usable energy, providing you with a clean supply of energy for your home. Below are other benefits:
- The system is highly cost-effective
- The stored energy is readily available to counter emergencies
- Similar to geothermal and turbine power sources, solar panel systems can reduce carbon footprint.
- It is a natural alternative especially in the rural areas as one doesn’t have to pay any extra money for the connections. You can also be in a position of controlling your own power and live almost anywhere you want.
- The off-grid system design is fit for energy stowage which later can be applied as a standby power
- By choosing to use solar panel systems, you actually save money in the long run as you will be paying low rates every month.
- Installing off-grid solar panel systems is much easier as the light can be located where it is needed. This differs from the traditional grids where you have to use the existing poles and infrastructure to put the power where you want it to be. With off-grid solar panels, you can place them anywhere you want.
When it comes to using solar panel systems, you must come up with a load list. This helps you to figure out what energy-efficient devices you will be providing power for. The list must show how much power each device uses in watts, how many hours in a day it will be running, and if it has a start-up surge like a water well pump or fridge.
You might also need to replace some of your appliances to bring in those that are energy efficient. For instance, you can replace your CRTY TV monitor with a LED or LCD one.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
The first step towards determining the number of solar panels that you need to power your home is finding the amount of power your home is actually using. There are several ways in which you can do that.
The first method entails looking at the manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the power draw. Each product comes with a label attached to the power cord displaying its wattage. So if you want to know the watts you use in your house, you can calculate using this formula: Volts x Amps= Watts.
Most house appliances run on 12 volts. So if the tag on the appliance says that it draws 3 amps, you only need to multiply 120 x 3 which gives you 360 watts. This is the number of watts that the appliance uses per hour.
So to figure out how many watts you use on average each day, we will take the 360 watts and multiply with the hours a day that appliance runs. If the appliance runs for 3 hours a day, you will require 1080 watts per day.
In the case of a refrigerator that draws 400 watts an hour, we multiply the number by 24 hours which gives us 9,600 watts a day.
Buy a kit that measures exactly how much power your appliance uses throughout the day. Run it through each appliance for one week, and you have real data on how much power you use.
So, to estimate the number of panels you need to support your home, you follow the following steps:
Panel Watts x hours of sun = Daily Output.
Let’s assume you have a 100-watt panel, you will take that number and multiply it with the number of direct sunlight hours in the day. So if the amount of direct sunlight is 6 hours then that one panel can produce 600 watts in a day.
Next, you will take the daily wattage needs, in the case above 9600, and divide by the daily panel output
So for the 9600-watt system, you will require 16- 100-watt panels.
Choosing the Battery
Choosing the battery for your off-grid solar system is important. One of the greatest profits of having an off-grid solar panel system is the freedom you get from utility companies and the ability to use your own electricity. But this cannot be possible if you don’t have the right battery for your application.
When it comes to choosing the batteries, you must understand that off-grid systems require deep-cycle batteries. There are two types of renewable energy batteries:
- Flooded lead-acid batteries: These batteries are most common as they are quite affordable. They also last longer as they are regularly cleaned and serviced, which significantly prolongs their lifespan.
- Sealed Valve Regulated acid (VRLA) batteries: The VRLA batteries differ from the flooded lead-acid batteries in that they are closed and fitted with a lead alignment. They are special in that no physical upkeep is needed. With a decent battery charger in place, the fluids and inner plates should not worry you because the charger significantly extends the life of the battery.
Before you can choose between the two batteries, you must think about where they will be placed, whether you will have enough time to check the battery levels and refill the fluids regularly.
Once you decide on the type of battery you want, you then decide on the size of your battery bank. To do this, you must have a clear understanding of how batteries are rated as well as their lifespan. Normally, batteries are rated in amp-hours. For instance, a battery rated 100 amp-hours means that it can generate 1 amp of electricity for 100 hours.
The lifespan of a battery largely depends on the depth of discharge, as well as its cycle life. One cycle-life is equivalent to a fully charged battery that is draining below 30%. It is important to ensure that the battery does not drain below 25% to ensure its lifespan.
When choosing a battery, you should never mix and match old and new batteries. You should also not combine batteries of different types and capacities. Also, do not add batteries that are over six months old to your battery bank.
You can also choose to get a solar generator. These have batteries within them but some can have external batteries attached to them. The benefit of these systems is that they already have the power outlets and ports that you need in an all-in-one system. The only parts they don’t have are solar panels.
I created an article that discusses and compares the best solar generators for off-grid cabins and you can find it here: 5 Best Solar Generators for Cabins (Plus Example Scenario)
Living off-the-grid with solar panel systems is quite an economical way of saving you the large utility bills. While it comes with an added investment of battery bank storage, they offer you several advantages like energy independence and the chance to create electricity in remote areas.