Moving off the grid doesn’t mean that you have to give up every modern convenience you enjoy today. If you don’t want to. And you don’t need to rely on having gas for your generator.
Solar power has become a popular option for many people in cities and suburbs hoping to save money. But it can also be a great option for those who don’t want to be connected to a traditional source of power.
Those who truly want a life of self-sufficiency away from the power grid can enjoy it with solar power in many locations.
This is off-grid living.
And while solar power can be a great option and prices have generally been going down, it is still pretty expensive for most families. Depending on the size of the system, it will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 before any state or federal tax credits or rebates.
If you want to live off-grid and save money, you can get started with do it yourself solar power. Is that really possible? You might be thinking solar power sounds pretty complicated. But with the right planning in place, you can create a DIY off-grid solar system that will give you the self-sufficient off-the-grid lifestyle you want.
However, if you want a smaller system for backup and emergency power or if your power needs are relatively small then you can set up a system for under $5,000, which is what I did.
You can even buy a portable system like the Genex Nature’s Generator or a Humless for portable power which is what I have. These portable solar systems are great for extended fishing, hunting, and camping trips and are also an option if you have a remote bug out location but can’t set up a larger system at the site because of the possibility of theft or vandalism.
Ready to begin? Here are seven steps to getting started with do it yourself solar power for your home, homestead, or survival retreat…
Your needs are unique
The first step is more of a warning. When it comes to the solar power that your house will need, there is no one size fits all solution that will work for every house. You can’t just go to Amazon and buy a solar power kit and expect that it will work for you before doing any other research.
The system that you will need will vary depending on your location, the size of your house and how much energy you will be using. So as you begin this process, make sure you know that you will need to customize your projeMDCreekmore.comct to your individual needs.
The first part of that process is the calculation of how much power you will use. What does that mean? Think of every item that will be powered by solar power in your house. And know that any little change or anything you forgot can make a big difference.
You can utilize a load evaluation calculator to help you get started. There you will enter your appliance, quantity, watts and hours on per day. To make sure you have the right data an electricity usage monitor will be a valuable tool. You can find more general data on individual appliances here.
If you’ve had electricity in the past, you can refer to past bills to find the kilowatt-hours (kWh) used. I suggest going with the highest usage seasons depending on the climate in your area. That will be easier, but it’s not going to be an option for everyone.
Either way, just remember it is very important that your numbers are right.
Once you know how much power you need, you can then figure out how many batteries are needed to store it. You don’t want to run out of battery capacity and be forced to use a backup generator. But you don’t need to waste your money on batteries you aren’t using that will just require maintenance.
To make this determination, there are a couple questions to ask. How many days worth of energy do you want to store in your battery bank? Is it a day or two or more like four or five? Are you storing the batteries in a cold location? Generally, the colder the room the bigger battery bank you will need. Do you have a power source for days you go without sunshine? This will certainly be impacted by where you live. What voltage battery bank do you need? Your battery will be 12V, 24V or 48V and a large system usually requires a higher voltage.
You can use this battery bank calculator to get started.
One other consideration is cost and maintenance. The two batteries most commonly used for off-grid solar power are Lead Acid and Lithium. Lithium will be the most efficient, have the longest lifespan and will not require maintenance or venting. However, it will come at a cost. Lead Acid batteries, on the other hand, will cost less. But they may also require maintenance and have a shorter lifespan.
By knowing how many hours of sunshine you receive each day, you will be able to determine the number of solar panels you need.
Your sun hours will tell you how much sunshine you will be able to harvest. Now, all sun is not created equal. Sun will hit your panels at different angles and will be brighter at certain times of the day. Since you don’t want to be overly optimistic on this calculation, use the season that will give you the least amount of sunshine so you don’t run out of solar energy.
This calculator will help you find the average hours of sun in the city closest to you.
Once you’ve determined the number of sun hours your panels will receive, you will be able to calculate how many panels you need to purchase using this calculator.
Solar charge controller
Your solar charge controller will properly charge your batteries so they will enjoy a long life. Therefore, you will need to make sure you have chosen the right controller. You can do this by taking the wattage of your solar panels and dividing it by the battery bank’s voltage. This will give you a calculation of your needs.
One other important point to note is that controllers come in two types of technologies: PVM and MPPT. If the voltage of the solar panel matches the voltage of the battery bank, you can use PVM. If they are different, you need to go with MPPT.
An inverter is basically the “brains” of your solar panel system. It will direct current from the batteries into alternating current for your appliances.
To select the right inverter, you need to start by knowing what type of AC power you have. Once you do that, you need to know how many watts you will be powering (which you’ve already done). And then pay attention to your voltage battery bank as the inverter is designed for a specific voltage.
Now that you’ve invested in your solar power system, there is some good news. A federal tax credit is available for solar power.
You can talk with your tax pro or find more details here, but this is a quick rundown. You can qualify for a credit equal to 30 percent of your total cost. This credit is currently available through the end of 2019. Then, the percentage will decrease each year and stop after 2021.
Because this is a credit, and not a deduction, you take the amount directly off your tax payment.
And yes, this credit is available for a DIY system.
By following these steps, you will be able to build the off-grid solar power system that is right for your specific needs. And you will finally be able to enjoy life where you would like without a reliance on the power grid.
It’s a great feeling.