For most people, the scariest part of living off the grid is the lack of electricity. That is why most people scramble to purchase expensive solar panel systems to attach to the grid as a precaution.
Let’s think about it. Is electricity really a necessity?
While most energy-saving appliances can make things easy for you, they can also be space-consuming, loud, distracting, and anxiety-building. Do you want to see if electricity is really vital to you? Then consider spending some day’s off-grid. Not only will you learn about surviving with solar, but you will also connect with nature.
Why Electricity is Still Important
While it is good to stay without electricity for some reasons, there are instances where it is quite useful. Here are reasons why most people would want electricity:
- Lighting: This is probably one of the most important reasons why you may need electricity. Good lighting increases productivity, and you may not be able to do much when it’s dark.
- Communication: You need electricity to communicate with your friend and family, except if you’re going off-grid with them.
- Power Tools: Living off-grid may require you to use tools more often. And sadly, hand-powered tools are not as powerful as electrically powered ones.
- Internet: Having access to the internet will ensure that you are well-informed. This makes electricity vital.
- Refrigeration: While there are cooling and preservation off-grid options like iceboxes and root cellars, they don’t exactly compare to a fridge.
Off-grid electricity has three main options: Hydro, Wind, and Solar. Wind power is an impractical and costly option for domestic use, while hydro is only feasible if you live near a divertible water source.
How to Calculate Your Solar Power Needs
When it comes to surviving with solar, you first need to identify your power requirements. Most households in the U.S. use about 900kWh each month. One way to determine your solar power needs is by evaluating your monthly electricity bill.
The other tip is to note the amount of sunlight exposure in your area, which usually depends on the season and region. Typically, the hours of sunlight and winter may vary from one region to another.
With this information, you can easily estimate the size of the solar panels that you need. To do this:
- Note your monthly energy use and divide it by 30 days. This will help you know how much solar energy you’ll need per day.
- Next, take that energy number and divide it by the sunlight hours in your area. If you intend to use the solar system all year long, you need to divide it instead by your area’s lowest winter hours.
Let’s say that if your monthly electricity use is 900kWh, you use about 30 kWh per day. If you reside in Southern California, which has 3.4 hours of sunlight during winter: divide 30 kWh by 3.4 sunlight hours which will give you 8.82kW of solar panels for your winter electricity needs.
Although solar panels are now relatively cheaper than electricity, the initial cost of buying and installing them can be pricey. However, you can lower the costs of your solar panels by lowering your energy use/needs.
What are the Main Parts of a Solar Panel System?
Once you’ve estimated your solar energy requirement, you can begin to design your system. The solar panel system has 4 main parts, namely:
Solar panels generate the energy that is used by solar equipment. Generally, solar panels are available in two types; Crystalline and Thin-Film. Crystalline is more popular and considerably cheaper. On the downside, these solar panels are heavier and need a much more complex installation system.
Also, it’s important to know that solar panels vary based on energy generation or conversion. Furthermore, you should keep in mind factors such as tolerance, temperature co-efficient, PID resistance, and more when making your selection.
Also known as a solar regulator, a charge controller is designed to safeguards the battery from overcharging on very sunny days. A quality solar regulator will improve battery function and efficiency.
Although the energy source of off-grid solar systems is the sun, they still need batteries for solar energy storage. It is vital to only choose quality batteries to ensure the effectiveness of your solar system.
Most solar systems emit direct current (DC), while most appliances use alternating current. To use a DC panel with AC appliances, you will need to use an inverter to convert the current to alternating current.