Living off the grid is a lifestyle decision that should not be taken lightly.
It takes smart planning, commitment, and active engagement and if done right, the rewards of off-grid living are significant both for you and the environment.
Considering the costs
The initial cost of the off-grid power systems is the only “electric bill” a homeowner will receive.
Generally, the price of power is paid up front at a price that will show to be better than the on-going and climbing rates of utility companies.
As a homeowner, you benefit from the sense of self-sufficiency, low operating costs and independence that off-grid living provides.
Incentives are also available in the form tax credits depending on where you live. This is usually applied to the total cost of the solar power system. The incentives are usually a percentage of the total system price, including both components and labor for the installation. If you plan to do the installation yourself, usually only the system components can be applied to the tax credit.
Either way, you can save quite a bit of money if you spend the time researching your local and federal government incentives.
Finally, as the owner of a properly designed and maintained off-grid power system, you contribute to a better future for everyone as your impact on the environment is significantly reduced through the use of renewable energy sources.
Types of off-grid power systems
There are many components that can be used to create an off-grid system. There are solar power systems, wind power, hydro systems and gas and diesel generators.
Off-Grid solar power systems
Off-grid solar power systems vary widely depending on the load that will be placed on the system and the general surroundings of the building site. Cost is perhaps the largest consideration in choosing the size of an off-grid solar power system.
Energy efficiency is most important when designing an off-grid solar power system. The cost of the system is determined by its size, and the size of the system is determined by the appliances the homeowner intends on using.
Refrigeration, heating, and air-conditioning are typical necessities, and these appliances and their electrical consumption are measured first when writing up a system proposal.
Next are appliances whose use is more driven by choice – if an appliance generates heat such as a toaster, coffee maker, or dishwasher, it needs careful consideration because these items use a significant amount of energy.
Off-grid solar power systems are capable of providing every comfort and convenience as a standard home. They usually achieve this by considering high levels of efficiency rather than making huge investments in power production.
Solar power system components
The major components used to build the system are the solar modules, the off-grid power inverters, battery charge controller, module racking system and deep cycle battery bank.
These individual parts will determine how much power is generated, how much power is available in the conversion to household current, and how much power is available for reserve.
The smallest systems provide DC (direct current) voltage only. These systems are great for campgrounds and vacation cabins, providing energy for simple living with lighting, and even entertainment systems.
These solar power systems range in price from around $3500 to $5000. Adding more solar panel modules increases your charging capacity.
Add a power inverter, and now you have AC (alternating current) power available like a typically powered household.
Many off-grid power inverters also include battery chargers that work with a generator to back up the solar PV module array as your source of charging for your battery bank. The larger the power inverter, the larger the charger built into it.
These power inverters have a built-in transfer switch allowing your AC circuits to run off the generator while your batteries are charging.
The battery bank size is determined by the amount of reserve power required but also by the amount of charging capacity available.
It’s important that deep cycle batteries regularly be recharged completely.
Mounting for the solar panel modules is another consideration that impacts the cost of the installed system.
Those could be rooftop or ground mount racking systems or a mix of both to handle the number of solar panel modules needed.
When it comes to solar power, watts equals more money.
Recommended Solar power system kits
Here are some recommended solar power systems for setting up your off-Gre.
1) WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit
This solar power kit comes with 4 100W Solar Panels, a P30L LCD PWM Charge Controller, the required mounting hardware, cables, MC4 Connectors and an AGM Battery.
The Windy Nation 400 Watt Complete Solar Charging Kit + 400Ah Battery Bank comes with everything you need to start producing free, clean power from the sun!
It’s perfect for RV’s, boats, cabins and back-up power.
This 400 Watt Solar Kit with Batteries includes everything you need to get started.
Starting at: $1,549.99
2) Grape Solar GS-400-KIT 400-Watt Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit
The Grape Solar 400-Watt Off-Grid Solar Panel Kit is ideal for a variety of applications, including emergency backup systems, RVs, boats, 12 Volt battery charging, small pumps, charging small electronic devices and operating LED lights.
Made with high efficiency crystalline solar cells for years of service, this solar kit is easy to install and virtually maintenance free! An anodized aluminum frame and a sealed junction box make the panel weatherproof for outdoor use.
A two diode bypass minimizes power drop caused by shade. This system will provide approximately 1,200 Watt Hours or 100 Amp Hours of charge per day.
The kit includes: 4 pc 100-Watt polycrystalline solar panels, a 35 Amp charge controller, 2,000-watt inverter with two outlets and 1 USB port, cables and manual.Ideal for running small pumps and lights or charging your portable electronic devices.
Grape Solar GS-STAR-100W
Each kit comes with 4 high efficiency Grape Solar GS-STAR-100W crystalline solar panels.
The GS-STAR-100W features: A 2-diode junction box for enhanced performance, MC4 connectors on the positive and negative leads for a secure, weather-tight connection.
High transmittance, low iron tempered glass provides durability and enhanced impact resistance.
Xantrex C35 Charge Controller
The Xantrex C35 charge controller is the heart of our 100-series kits due to its versatility and reliability.
It is a PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) charge controller that will work with both 12V and 24V battery banks.
This charge controller also lets you add an additional Grape Solar 100W panel to the 400 Watt kit.
Grape Solar 1,800-Watt Pure Sine Wave DC to AC Inverter
The Grape Solar Pure Power 1,800-Watt inverter features True Sine-Wave AC output of 1,800 watts.
With high surge capability, the Grape Solar 1,800 Pure Power Inverter provides the necessary current to startup demanding electrical loads such as variable speed power tools, advanced electrical appliances, microwaves and much more.
In addition to dual GFCI AC receptacles, the Grape Solar Pure Power 1,800 includes an innovative USB connection for providing power to most USB chargeable devices. the Grape Solar Pure Power 1,800 offers many safety features not found in similar inverters.
Starting at: $1,099.99
3) Go Power! Solar Extreme Complete Solar and Inverter System with 480 Watts of Solar
The Solar Extreme is the largest solar and inverter system that Go Power! offers.
It is designed for anyone who would like the benefit of solar power to charge their batteries and the ability to use AC appliances when there is no utility power available.
For example, you can run a microwave, TV, blender, audio sound equipment, computers and more without any “utility grid power”.
This kit contains a 480 Watt solar charging kit and a 3000 Watt pure sine wave inverter system. Includes everything you need to hook the solar and inverter system up to your batteries and install the solar panels on a flat surface.
It is used for charging your RV, boat, cottage and cabin batteries, while providing you with AC power without the noise of a generator or the fuel and maintenance cost that goes with it. It is also used for multiple week trips. It allows you to take full advantage of available sunlight for faster charging and added reserve capacity. Go Power! recommends at least a 400 amp hour battery bank for this product.
- Complete kit includes everything you need to hook up solar and inverter system
- Run your TV and other AC appliances day or night without the noise of a generator
- Completely green power solution
- No noise, no fuel, and no maintenance
- It is used for long term use on your RV, cottage, cabin or boat
Starting at $3665.00
4) Grape Solar GS-2300-KIT Residential 2,300 Watt Grid-Tied Solar Power System Kit
This Grape Solar 2,300 Watt Kit generates 210kWh to 420kWh of electricity per month for use in your residence. The kit consists of Grape Solar CS-P-230-DJ PV modules, PVP2000 Inverter and roof-top mounting system for mounting the modules.
This system is easy to install, and the ideal size for future expansion. You have the option to generate a portion of your electricity consumption or the entire daily/monthly consumption of your household. Unlike other generators, once the system is installed, there are no mechanical moving components; therefore, maintenance is not an issue.
The kit is eligible for receiving federal/state/local rebates and incentives. A complete high-performance solar PV system designed for USA/Canada/countries that use 120/240 AC, 60HZ.
This kit combines Grape Solar’s industry-leading solar panels with a top-of-the-line inverters and racking, specially designed for the highest system-level performance and most cost effective solution. Package DC power output: 2,300 Watt.
- (10) Grape Solar CS-P-230-DJ 230W Poly-Si panels. Panels are UL, CEC and FSEC certified. Panel output tolerance: 0-Percent +3-Percent. Panel dimension 64.9-Inch by 39.0-Inch by 1.57-Inch. Total roof space required: 180-squar feet. Impact resistance: hail diameter of 28mm with speed of 86km/h.
- (1) PVP-2000 inverters from PV Powered. AC/DC system disconnects and 10 year warranties are included.
- (1) set of Regular Roof Mount racking system, wind load up to 80mph. Recommended Electrical Wiring: 2 strings x 5 panels/string with PVP-2000 inverter. Combiners, cables, and fuses are not included. Solar Panels: 25 years power output warranty, 10 year material and workmanship warranty. Inverter: 10 year warranty. Racking: 10 year warranty.
High-Performance Kit Designed for Durability
Solar Power InverterThe solar panel system uses Grape Solar Polycrystalline 230-watt PV solar panels. Faced with high-transmittance, low-iron tempered glass, these panels feature enhanced stiffness and impact resistance. The panels are designed to withstand heavy rainfall and hail, while the rack is built to withstand high winds.
Each panel contains 60 high-efficiency silicon cells to generate a reliable and stable output of electricity even under high temperature or low sunlight conditions. The combined 10-panel array produces 2,300 watts of DC power output, yielding 210 to 420 kWh per month. The system is designed for the United States, Canada, and other countries that use 120/240 V, 60 Hz wiring. Panels are UL, CEC, and FSEC certified.
Easy to Install and Maintenance Free
The Solar Power System comes complete with everything you need to rack-mount the 10 solar panels on your roof. The entire system requires 180 square feet of roof space. Unlike typical generators, there are no mechanical moving parts–once the system is installed it’s completely maintenance free. Should you decide to expand the array, connecting additional kits is easy. Combiners, cables, and fuses are not included.
Good for the Earth, Good for Your Wallet
Saving energy is both good for the environment and good for your budget. With its field-proven technology, the Grape Solar Residential Solar Power Kit gives you the option of generating some or all of your monthly electricity consumption. Once you take advantage of the many federal, state, and county incentives and rebates available in different areas, the cost of your initial investment is reduced and your payback time becomes shorter.
Starting at $9238.00
5) DMSOLAR – 10,000 Watt Complete Photovoltaic System
This 10,0000 Watt Grid-Tie with Enphase M215 system costs $2.22 per watt!
This is a large system that produces a huge amount of power.