Whether it’s your neighbor that talked you into the solar energy or you just read an article about it and you’re already thinking about going solar, involving in a big plan like running your home exclusively on solar power may be a bit more complex than anticipated.
Why does it in the first place?
You need to give a thought or two when going solar as it’s essential to see if the solar electric system may completely replace the utility grid and truly satisfy your daily energy needs.
When your house is already connected to the utility grid, going entirely with a PV system may not end up being cost-effective for you, which is why you need to write down the pros and cons.
The best part when it comes to solar system is that your electricity bill is going to get a dramatic change (for you and not for the electrical company), which may be enough of a reason for many.
Lowering your electrical bills by using a solar system may be, on the long run, the best method to keep an eye on your budget.
The first main step
Even though your connection to the local utility grid is so handy and at ease, solar produced electricity may not come cheap in the beginning simply because the costs for the solar electricity production are higher than those from the utility grid.
First thing first, you do need to check a bit more carefully your daily electrical consumption before going solar. It’s important to get more energy efficient at home and in your office as well. This basically means that it’s time for you to lower your electrical consumption so that your monthly electricity bills lower accordingly.
No matter which way you go, in the end, saving energy is ultimately less expensive than producing energy. Getting better at energy efficiency is going to cost you less even if you don’t install a photovoltaic system.
Every heating appliance comes with both energy-efficient and cost-effective options and heat is an expensive source, no matter how you put it.
There is not device that can’t use solar electricity. But you’re not going to go solar all the way as heating devices are all the time amazingly “power-hungry”. Therefore, powering some heating devices by solar power isn’t going to worth in the end.
Write down the numbers of your daily consumption
You do need to calculate your daily electricity consumption in order to get to energy efficiency and to install your new solar electric system.
As you’re not going to be connected anymore to the grid, it doesn’t make sense to talk about offsetting a part of your energy to the PV system. After all, the PV system is supposed to match all of your regular energy needs.
Going through your daily electrical consumption means you have to do a load analysis, identifying your daily electrical energy consumption in Wh (or kWh). This is essential if you want to go solar as you don’t want to end up with a PV system that is either oversized (you spent way too much money and time) or undersized (unable to serve you).
In order to calculate your average daily load, it’s important to know the amount of energy (in kWh) consumed by every AC load. So you have to know the rated power for every load, how much you’re using it daily and how many days a week you’re using it too.
The power rating of every device in your home should be written on its label. Sometimes, it’s only current (in Amps) stated, so you have to multiply it by the voltage to find out the power it consumes. You get to the energy that every device needs by multiplying the power by the numbers of hours your device is actually on.
You write down all the numbers, put them in a chart so it’s easier for you to see which device sucks in the most energy. You also get the chance like this to figure out how you may reduce your consumption and what your other options may be.
Is your daily consumption too high?
After doing all that math you may come to the conclusion that your consumption of electricity is more than 2.5kWh, which is too much for a solar system to sustain. Also, if you live in an area with less sunlight for a long time, a purely photovoltaic off-grid system may not be the solution for you.
This brings us to the hybrid systems that use a backup power generator, turning a purely photovoltaic system into a hybrid one.
Luckily for many, this doesn’t mean you can’t go without a backup generator, as you can, but you may have to pay the extra buck. After all, you have to oversize your stand-alone PV system and to use a battery bank with a large capacity.
Here’s what to think about though, before you go ahead with the purchase:
- You do need to pay a lot for the batteries
- A system like this is going to work the best a few months a year and quite below its maximum efficiency the rest of the time.
Which is why you may realize that the electricity produced isn’t going to cover the spending you need for taking care of the battery bank.
What about a hybrid system?
Combining a photovoltaic generator and an alternative power generator operating by wind or fuel, a hybrid system is a good solution for many.
The generator is going to charge the batteries when there isn’t enough sunlight and you may use it as a backup or in case the whole PV system simply can’t match your energy needs.
There are some good things to consider when going with a hybrid system:
- You may use it for powering the power-hungry devices in your house
- You don’t need to buy the big and expensive battery bank and inverter, as a smaller and cheaper one will do as well
- Energy isn’t that expensive on the long periods of cloudy/rainy weather on in the wintertime
There are some downsides too though:
- You do need to buy fuel for the generator and a bigger battery charger
- You may need to pay extra for maintaining the fuel and the generator
When is a hybrid system a choice for you?
Hybrid systems are great if you can’t go entirely solar and here are the situations where it can meet your needs better than a solar system:
- If you want to lower your initial costs
- If the access to your home is a bit difficult
- If you don’t have enough sunlight many months a year, which causes a PV system not to meet alone your energy needs
- If the maintenance spending isn’t that important to you
- If you do want electricity at all time.
Some final thoughts
If you’re leaving away from a utility grid and you want to get a stand-alone PV system, you need to know how many applications you’re going to use it for. This is because a PV system isn’t that worth it if you’re planning on using it for some heating appliances. So finding some reliable alternative solutions for heating, refrigeration and cooking are essential before installing a PV system.
You also have to make your house energy-efficient, and this means to really give a thought on how much and when you’re spending time in that house. In some cases, your energy consumption may be as high in the winter and in the summer time too, so a hybrid system would be the better choice.
Either way, first thing to begin with is to sit down and write the numbers. It may be that you’re simply using too much energy anyway.