Want to learn more about off-grid solar survival? We've listed the top 5 questions you need to ask yourself before you start laying out the plan!
Off-Grid Solar Survival
— This post is courtesy of diyprojects.com and shared with permission —
If you’re considering going off-grid with solar and a battery bank, you’re probably wading through a jungle of questions and research. To decide if off-grid solar survival is right for you, let’s set the ultra-technical aspects aside (mostly) for a moment, and work through the top 5 questions to ask yourself before diving in, getting off-grid, and soaking up the rays!
1. What is your “payback period”?
“Payback period” is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot in regard to solar. So first, we need to break that down. Solar materials and labor cost (X) and your current electric bill costs you (Y) each month / year. What we want to know is: How soon will the solar system start saving me money? To determine how long that will take we just divide (X) by (Y).
For example, let’s say solar costs $1,000 (X), and your current monthly electric bill is $100 (Y). Because you paid $1,000 up front and you don’t have an electric bill anymore, after your 10th month you’ll be saving $100 per month. So in this example, your payback period is 10 months. (Hint: Solar prices have dropped dramatically in the past 10 years, but your payback period almost definitely going to be quite a bit longer than 10 months)
2.) Am I in a location that’s viable for solar?
Location, location, location. The more hours of sunlight that your solar panels can receive, the better. A big mistake that’s made all too often with solar is failing to consider an object like a tree, or chimney, or nearby pole that will cast a shadow on your solar array at some point during the day. Even though that shadow might only be covering a tiny portion of the one panel it can drastically reduce the performance of the whole array.
As the sun tracks from east to west throughout the day, and throughout the seasons, you want to make sure your array is in a location where it can receive maximum sunlight. A quick google search for “distribution of solar radiation in _______ (your country)” should show you what you’re looking for and you can narrow in from there.
3.) Are you self-installing, or hiring an installer?
Depending on your local laws, having a certified installer may be the only legal option. This comes with huge benefits of having someone to contact in the event of a malfunction, having an expert help determine your needs, and it will certainly decrease the time you have to wait before going off-grid. Even at the prices solar is now available for, this is not an investment you want to have to make twice if you make a mistake.
However, if you are free to do what you please on your land, you could save a significant amount of money by self-installing. Remember, that the self-installing route will involve a lot of research, and it can be extremely dangerous to work with electricity, but it can absolutely be done. It’s probably from growing up with an ultra safety conscious father, but I feel compelled to reiterate that working with electricity can be deadly and it is critical to inform yourself on how to safely work with it before attempting a project like a solar install.
Our power grid has become extremely vulnerable to disruption. Having a backup system will never be a waste of time and efforts. You may still have more questions in mind but these 5 questions listed should help you get started. Plan now while you still have time, you'll never know when disasters may strike.
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Looking for more solar power information? Check this out: How Solar Panels Work | The Science Behind Solar Heating