Helping customers figure out what type of off-grid solar kit that would be best for them is a fun part of my job. For customers who want an off-grid solar system and where their is local utility service available, there are a couple of choices. They can either decide not to pay the utility company to bring power back to the property, or just operate off grid or do both. A home solar system that is grid tied as well as off-grid is called a bimodal system.
If you are considering a bimodal solar kit, there are few questions you are going to ask yourself. If electrical blackouts are a concern, how often does the power go out and for how long. If power is down for long periods of time which might be the case in say a hurricane zone, you may need a larger bimodal system to satisfy all your power needs. What equipment in your home would you need to power and how long do you typically use each piece each day? We find it helpful if our customers make a list of the equipment they are trying to power then write down how long each day they use each piece. Example, my roommate and I use our microwave for about 20 mins a day. A microwave uses about 1,200 watts of electricity per hour so 1200 / 60 X 20 = 400 watts of power used each day. That’s one item. You should then proceed through your list of equipment you want your off-grid or bimodal solar kit to support, and come to a total daily energy requirement.
A couple of other factors you should consider in sizing your off-grid solar kit, is how much time are you willing to spend maintaining a battery bank? AGM batteries are consider maintenance free while vented lead acid batteries require some monthly maintenance at a minimum.
Rural home or cabin owners who are at the end of the electrical line and see outages that lasts for days it may be important to look at a bimodal solar kit. For my money, off-grid is the way to go. Beyond the practical aspect of not being tethered to the utility grid, there is a certain sense of freedom your get, call it satisfaction that comes with being off-grid. A stand alone solar system makes the most sense because it offers an electrical supply for life, without having to worry about rising energy costs.
Off-grid solar customers tell us at first there is a real lifestyle shock but in no time they make the change and the benefit far outweighs the trouble. When selecting a stand alone solar kit, we tell our customers to not only look at their lifestyle today, but also picture what they think their needs will be in the future. When designing a system, a home or cabin owner should ask themselves to settle in first on a budget. How much do you want to spend? Sure most people would say as little as possible, but there is a reality check that needs to happen at this time of the planning process. The more you are willing to conserve with energy saving appliances and energy conser, the less you are going to spend on a off-grid solar kit.
Keep in mind that living with an off-grid system is going to require a lifestyle change for most people. I have a friend that I visit in the Midwest that lives off-grid. When I stay at his cabin, there is a real sense of freedom I feel along with the zen of not being connected or wired in. Its kinda like outdoor BBQ Vs something baked in an oven. The choice is simple, do you want to have the mouth watering, smoke filled air experience of off-grid solar with a some bling, or are you content with baking in the kitchen?