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Off Grid vs Grid Tie Solar Power Installation

If the state of your finances matches the country’s troubling economy and you have just about had it with sky-rocketing energy bills, perhaps you should think about acquiring green solar power. You must decide which type of solar power is best for you. You can choose off-grid or grid-tied solar power, but you must learn about the differences between these solar power systems.

Off-Grid Solar Power

Perhaps you wish to provide for your own needs and go with off-grid power. What does off-grid really mean though? If you choose off-grid, it will mean a certain lifestyle. Off-grid solar power means, as the name indicates, that you and only you will be running the system.

Remember that you will have to produce and store all of your own power. If you run out of power, then you must rev up the backup generator since there is no power utility unit waiting around to kick in when your power fails.

Off-Grid Means No Power Bills Come Your Way

Some people say that off-grid power is inconvenient when power fails. Well yes that is true, but the kicker is that you no longer will be paying a power bill if you choose to install off-grid solar power. The storage system you maintain for times when there is no electricity is the distinguishing factor that separates it from a grid-tied solar system.

Solar Array and Wind Turbine Produces Electricity

So how does off-grid all come together to work for you? Your in-home appliances will reportedly run on the power of both a solar array and wind turbine that provides the electricity needed to get your appliances working. The remaining electrical power is stored in a battery bank.

Ideally, the bank should be large enough to hold 3 days’ worth of electricity without the need for wind or solar charging. This means that you will need spacing that measures 2 feet wide, 4 feet long and 3 feet high to store large battery cells, according to the experts.

Use Load Analysis to Ensure Large Enough Battery Bank

You must use load analysis to ensure that the charging system and battery bank you use for off-grid power is large enough for your power storage needs. At the same time, be aware that if you reside in an area with a cold climate, heating your home with off-grid power will be challenging.

Choose Right Heating Systems for Off-Grid Power

Some heating systems are invariably expensive to operate with off-grid systems, and geothermal energy systems reportedly will not work with off-grid power because the pumps’ power requirements are said to be too large. Experts recommend that passive solar design and in-floor heating systems work best with off-grid solar power systems.

Grid-Tied Solar Power Connection

A grid-tied solar power system connects with the power grid of the electrical utility company that you use. This makes the utility company’s grid your backup generator. Your utility company will charge a monthly fee of approximately $25 for the grid connection.

Net Metering Agreement

You enter into a net metering agreement with the utility company whereby when you produce extra power, you are required to channel that power back to the grid for credit from the company. When you use more power than you produce, the credit kicks in and you receive a credit on your power bill.

How Your Excess Power Benefits You

Some utility companies might pay you for the excess power stored in the grid or buy back the extra power from you at a higher price than the going rate, which is called a Feed-In-Tariff. Stored until you need it, this credit arrangement comes in handy during the winter months when energy bills tend to climb.

So you store the extra credits during the summer, and those credits decrease your winter energy bills. This arrangement is even more economical for you since it is much less expensive than buying and maintaining a battery bank such as is required by the off-grid solar power system.

Cost Comparison between Off-Grid and Grid-Tied Power

Cost comparison between both systems reveals that it certainly is less expensive to install and maintain a grid-tied system. The money you expend to acquire this system is used to directly purchase solar and wind power, and this is what you planned for.

Notably, the inverter system that converts the DC solar power to normal household AC power is the only other expense you will have to bear for the grid-tied system. Industry experts note that a grid-tied system costs approximately $15,000 less than the off-grid system.

Weighing the Costs Aids Right Decision

Weigh the costs of both systems. Consider that industry experts confirm the fact that battery-run systems cost much more than a grid-tie system that does not use a battery system. They suggest that depending upon the size of the battery bank, the batteries and component parts could cost as much as 50 percent more.

Determine if Your Property is Close to Existing Utility Lines

Utility line extensions may not be astronomical if there are nearby properties with utility lines already in place. However, if utility lines have to be provided for properties that are located a long way from an existing utility line, the cost could run into thousands of dollars.

Distance Determines the Choice of Off-Grid System

People who live a great distance from a grid-tied system choose the off-grid systems for economic reasons as well. It would cost them quite a lot just to have power brought to their location.

When compared to what they pay for the batteries and generator for the off-grid system, it would reportedly cost them even more than $20,000 to bring in power. The math shows that off-grid systems cost less for this population of people, and they benefit also from not paying monthly power bills.

Off-Grid Disadvantages

  • Batteries do not last forever, and this could prove to be an expensive issue.
  • Replacement batteries occur on an average of five to fifteen years.
  • There is much maintenance needed.
  • Environmental issues of removing and recycling batteries.
  • Energy waste caused by batteries.
  • Efficiency of batteries decreases as they get older.

Grid-Tied Disadvantages

  • Grid-tied solar power discourages people to conserve energy.
  • Grid-tied power systems invite in meddling regulatory authorities.
  • There is always the possibility that public service and utility workers have no idea about how the technology works.
  • Contending with inspection agencies can be frustrating.

Hire a Licensed Solar Power Contractor

Your best bet in determining costs for the construction of solar power systems is to make sure that you hire a qualified solar contractor. That professional should be a licensed contractor who has experience installing off-grid or grid-tied solar power. Get quotes from a few contractors and also from your utility company before deciding which contractor you will hire.