Grid-Tie, Off-Grid or Hybrid ?
Solar power is more affordable than ever, making it an attractive option for many homeowners. If you’re considering installing solar power in your home (and you should, as it’s one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly power sources available anywhere), you may be wondering what type of solar system to choose.
Before we delve into the pros and cons of each type of system, let’s define them. An off-grid system is detached from the power company, and so it is meant to be entirely self-sustaining. A grid-tied system, on the other hand, is still attached to the power grid, which kicks in if the panels are not able to produce enough power due to a number of environmental factors. With a hybrid setup, the solar battery is used as a backup in the event the grid goes down.
Each type of solar system has pros and cons, and we’ll break down what you need to know to determine which is best for your situation.
A grid-tied solar system is directly connected to your power company’s electrical grid. The electricity generated by the photovoltaic (PV) panels is sent through a grid-tied inverter, which converts it to AC power that is compatible with the grid.
Grid-tied solar is generally the most affordable solution as the PV panels, inverter, and mounting infrastructures are the primary components required to complete the system.
In addition, since electricity is still pulled from the grid the exact same way it always has been, grid-tied solar is the most stable and efficient usage of solar panels. Instead of storing the power in batteries that degrade over time, you’re helping power your entire neighborhood in real time, decreasing how much energy you lose in storage.
One major downside to grid-tied systems is you’re still at the mercy of the power company’s maintenance capacity. When the company experiences a blackout, a grid-tied solar system is also taken off-line.
Pros: When some people first consider installing solar panels on their properties, their motivation is to live independently from the power company. Off-grid solar is the setup they’re thinking of, as perhaps its greatest draw is that you’ll receive no bill from the power company. This can be especially beneficial in remote locations, where installing traditional power poles requires a huge investment. By installing an off-grid solar system, you don’t have to worry about whether the closest power company can extend its reach out to where you live
Others choose this option because of energy-consciousness. Put simply, in producing all of your own power supply you can understand exactly how much power you consume in a given day. This method also eliminates the inefficiencies of distribution and allows the user not to feel responsible for the power company’s environmental footprint, for example, as well as their own. In other words, off-grid power represents local sourcing to the extreme.
Cons: If you want power on days where there is no direct sunlight reaching your solar panels, you’ll have to install batteries that kick in when you run out of solar power. Many systems require them, in fact. For some, batteries are a con due to the fact that they can be costly to replace (they typically last five to seven years), and are not particularly environmentally friendly, as many of them have a lead acid base. Batteries also might not produce all the power you need to replace the solar power you lost.
The other main con to an off-grid system is that you cannot rely on the power company as backup. For example, if you accidentally keep a light on throughout the night and use up all your power, you’re out of luck. So before you choose an off-grid system, make sure you consider whether your property can sustain itself without access to power for periods of time.
To get the best of both worlds, you can opt for a hybrid solar setup. With a hybrid setup, the solar battery is used as a backup in the event the grid goes down.
Since it’s being used as a backup instead of full-time dependence, the battery discharges less frequently, which extends its life. This means the battery needs to be replaced less often, and saves you the cost of purchasing a backup generator.
Keep in mind that the battery bank isn’t charged during a power outage. Grid-tied solar panels are designed to stop producing electricity during an outage in order to protect the electrical workers from working on live power lines. This means the same battery capacity is still necessary as with an off-grid system.
A hybrid system is still more expensive than a grid-tied system as you need to purchase a battery bank, but it’s cheaper than an off-grid system because it doesn’t require an additional backup generator. For those who want peace of mind and don’t mind the extra expense, it’s an ideal solution that ensures you have backup power in the event the grid stops working.
Whether or not you choose to remain tied to the grid or rely solely on solar power depends on your budget.
Still need help deciding? Optimus Energy has provided affordable and dependable energy systems for decades Contact Us Now.