Solar For Off-Grid Living: Complete Guide

Many individuals seeking an eco-friendly approach towards life are attracted to Off-grid living culture. Solar for Off-grid Living is one of the most popular alternatives available to power your home.

Off-grid living is a solution for those who live in isolated locations where normal utilities are still not available. Individuals who want freedom and control over their lives and get deeply connected with the environment are also preferred by individuals who want freedom and control over their lives.

This article will learn why we need solar for off-grid living and know the energy requirements before going off-grid. We also guide on how to go forward with the installation of the Solar system.

What Is Off-Grid Living?

What Is Off Grid Living?
What Is Off Grid Living?

Off-grid living means that you choose not to use the public utility services for your power requirements. “Grid” is basically the public utility system that supplies electricity to your residence.

Going Off-grid is to choose an alternative energy source to generate your electricity depending upon the site and the available resources. 

So, to put it another way, it’s building a life where you’re not dependent on the electrical grid and instead generate your own energy, store or pump your own water, and sometimes grow your own food.

Do You Really Need Solar For Living Off The Grid?

One of the most important factors to consider while moving to Off-grid living is choosing alternative energy sources to generate power for your daily needs like indoor and outdoor lighting, heating, cooling, water, cooking, etc.

There are three major options available for alternate power sources: Solar, Water, and Wind. While the choice should ideally depend upon your location and availability, solar power could be the best choice due to its availability and cost.

There are several reasons why solar for living off-grid is a better choice, such as

  • Available in an abundance
  • Environmentally friendly and economical 
  • Durable and straightforward
  • Reduces power, service, and maintenance costs.

How Much Energy Do You Need For Off-Grid Living?

The first step in moving off-grid is to calculate your energy or power usage. You must know how much power you consume while using household appliances every day.

There are two simple ways of calculating the total energy requirements of any household.

1. Check the monthly power consumption on the electricity bill expressed in terms of kilowatt-hours or kWh. To calculate the daily usage, divide your monthly usage by the number of months. 

Note: Your monthly usage may vary depending upon various factors like seasons, functions, etc. So, it is good to check the usage for multiple months before reaching a final figure.

2. Second method to calculate the power consumption is the “Bottom-Up” approach. In this method, you need to make a list of household equipment that you use and multiply the wattage of each with the number of hours you use it every day.

Note: Most of the standard manufacturers will provide the power usage by electrical appliances in their product description and the nameplate.

You can use these basic formulas to make simple calculations.

  • Per day energy consumption of any appliance (in kWh) = (Rated Wattage of appliance × No. of usage hour per day) ÷ 1000
  • Daily energy consumption (in kWh) = (Total Wattage of all used appliance × No. of usage hour per day) ÷ 1000
  • Monthly energy consumption (in kWh) = Daily energy consumption × No. of days in a month
  • Monthly electricity bill = Monthly energy consumption (in kWh) × utility rate per kWh

Alternatively, there are some online calculators available for estimating energy use according to the appliances. 

How To Determine The Size Of A Solar System For Your Off-Grid Living?

The size of a solar system you need will depend upon your family size and the number of appliances you use. These two factors will determine the total energy requirement for your house.

Calculate how much solar for off-grid living
Calculate how much solar for off-grid living

To calculate the size of your solar system, you can use this simple formula:

Size of Solar System = (Daily Consumption in kWh ÷ Average sun hours) x Efficiency factor where,

Average sun hours are the number of peak hours per day that you get sunlight. This will vary depending on your location and local climate.

The efficiency factor is the percentage of solar energy converted into usable electricity and is determined by the type of solar panel you use in your system. 

Consider a small or nuclear family having a daily energy requirement of 5.2 kWh, and on average, there are 6 hours of peak sunlight in a day in their locality. So, taking the efficiency factor as 1.15, the small family will need a 1kW Solar System.

One of the best tools available for estimating the correct size for your solar system is a Solar Calculator. Based on that calculator, here is a chart to show the average size of the solar system required for different family size and the total price for such systems:

Family SizeDaily energy requirement (kWh)Size of Solar System requiredPrice (Average price in US$)
Small5 kW1kW$2000
Medium15 kW3 kW$5000
Large25 kW5 kW$7000
Power needed for a family

Did you know that you can even have an RV on 100% Solar Power? Check out how? 

What Are The Components Of A Solar Off-Grid System?

You need four basic components for a Solar Off-Grid System.

Solar Panel

Solar Panel or the PV (Photovoltaic) Module is the main component of a Solar System that converts sunlight into electricity. There are two types of Solar Panels:

  • Monocrystalline: These panels are made of single-crystal silicon and have higher efficiency compared to Polycrystalline panels. However, the price is high due to the premium quality.
  • Polycrystalline: These panels are made up of several crystals of silicon that have been molded together. They have lower prices, but the efficiency is also less in comparison to monocrystalline panels.

You can compare the features and choose the one that fits your needs and budget. 

Battery

Batteries are used to store the electricity generated by the Solar Panels. It acts as a constant source of stable and reliable power that can be used anytime.

There are various types of batteries available. Keep the following in mind while selecting a battery for your system:

  • Batteries should be large enough to store at least a full day of charge.
  • You are advised to go for the deep-cycle battery to provide a constant rated voltage to all the appliances.
  • Select the battery voltage (12V or 24V, or 48V) as per the system you have installed.

Charge Controller

A solar charge controller is placed between the solar panel and the battery to regulate the voltage and current coming from your solar panels. It maintains a proper charging voltage for the batteries.

There are three types of Solar charge controllers available.

  • ON/OFF Type: They are considered as least efficient.
  • MPPT: These controllers are costly but highly efficient.
  • PWM: They deliver satisfying results at an affordable price.

Note: It is advisable to go for either MPPT or PWM as they are much more efficient than the On/Off Type.

Inverter

The electricity generated by the Solar panel is stored as DC in the batteries. An inverter is a device that converts the direct current into alternating current (AC) to power all your home appliances.

There are three types of inverters available for Solar systems.

  • Square Wave Inverter: These inverters are the cheapest but are not suitable for all appliances.
  • Modified Sine Wave Inverter:  They are not suitable for capacitive and electromagnetic devices, such as refrigerators, microwaves, and various motors.
  • Pure Sine Wave Inverter: These inverters are adequate for the majority of appliances and are more efficient.

Note: The rating of the inverter should be higher than the total power consumption of the appliances.

How To Get Your Solar Off-Grid Living?

Now that you have a clear understanding of the daily energy needs, the type of solar system required, and the components involved in a Solar system, your next step is to set up your system.

You can set up your solar system for off-grid living by choosing one of the two options:

  • Go DIY way
  • Hire a professional contractor.

Go DIY Way

Designing your Solar System yourself can be fun and will give you a sense of accomplishment. You need to put some effort and follow a correct design approach to save time and money, making the transition to off-grid living more enjoyable.

The correct approach to DIY your Solar Off-grid living is by following these simple steps.

  • Educate yourself about the Solar Off-grid system.  
  • Determine your power needs.
  • Choose the correct solar system for your requirements.
  • Get the right components for the system.
  • Install the system as per the maker’s instructions.
  • Enjoy your Solar Off-grid Living and carry out routine maintenance for trouble-free power.

Hire A Professional Contractor

You can hire a professor to install solar for off-grid living
You can hire a professor to install solar for off-grid living

Professional contractors are specialists with years of experience in the Solar System. They can guide you about the correct type of system depending on your requirements.

Many professional contractors provide you Solar Installation services, but you need to select the best suited for your needs. Here’s a quick tip before hiring a contractor.

  1. Determine your budget.
  2. Make a list of top-rated Contactors in your area.
  3. Contact them and discuss your project.
  4. Ask about their after services and quotations for the project.
  5. Select the best contractor suiting all your requirements and budget.

If you decide to use a professional service, you should proceed with caution. They will attempt to sell their most costly service. Don’t get carried away.

Complete Solar System For Off-Grid Living

Going off-grid with solar power is not as hard as it seems. Even though there is a lot of terminologies involved, knowing the basics is more important.

You have already learned about how to calculate the energy need for a family, the types of systems, and how to select the major components of the solar system.

Let us now combine all our knowledge to prepare a step-by-step guide for installing the Off-Grid Solar System.

Step 1: Mount your Solar panel.

  • Choose a suitable location to mount your solar panel where there is no obstruction to sunlight.
  • Prepare a stand and rigidly fix your Solar Panel.
  • Adjust the angle of your Solar Panel to get the maximum efficiency. 

Step 2: Mount the Battery, Charge Controller, and Inverter.

  • Select an appropriate space to install the battery, charge controller, and inverter in your house.
  • Prepare a stand to install these components.

Step 3: Connect all the components together with correct type of wire.

It is advisable to use wires of different colors for ease of installation. For example, a red color wire is generally used to connect the positive (+) terminals, while a black color wire is used to connect the negative (-) terminal. In the case of the earth, a green color wire is recommended.

  • The wiring should ideally start from the Charge Controller. The charge controller has one connection (positive and negative) for the wire coming from Solar Panel.

The second connection is to connect the batteries, while there is a third connection for direct DC loads.

  • Connect the wire coming from the charge controller to the batteries. This will light up the LED indicator to indicate the Battery level.
  • Now, connect the inverter to the positive and negative terminals of the battery.
  • Connect the wire from the charge terminal to the small junction box at the back of the Solar Panel. A green LED indicator will glow when the sunlight is present, and the Solar Panel starts generating electricity.
  • At last, connect the inverter to consumer load.

Note: While using Solar Off-Grid Systems, you are dealing with DC. So, connecting the correct terminals is critical as there is no second chance. If you mix it up, the equipment will burst and may even catch fire. 

Step 4: Switch ON and Test Your Solar System

The final step is to switch ON the power and test the installed solar system. Once the Panel starts generating power and your appliances start running on this power, your Solar Off-Grid Installation is complete.

There are few manufactures like MPP that sell a “complete off-grid system in a box.” This all-in-one Solar power system contains an AC Inverter, Solar Charge Controller, Automatic Transfer Switch (if grid power is available), and Circuit Breakers/ Temperature Protection, all inside a box.

Check out this video to know all about the new “ALL-IN-ONE” Solar Power System.

Final Thoughts

Solar systems are environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and a great choice for Off-Grid living. For trouble-free, long-lasting performance, you must make a move to this cost-effective investment.

Hope you could find all the essential information on Solar for Off-Grid Living in this article, and you are ready to take your step towards a new style of living.