Households depend on many home appliances for a comfortable lifestyle. However, each one of these appliances puts a significant burden on the monthly electricity expenses, not to mention the serious environmental harms of using conventional energy sources. At the same time, we put up with the disadvantages of using grid electricity, like unreliable power supply, unpredictable outages, and high annual energy costs.
Consider switching to renewable energy sources like solar. Off-grid solar systems, in particular, are a great energy source because of their high efficiency. Solar energy proves to be the most sustainable and reliable energy that offers a series of economic benefits while catering to your heavy loads.
Let’s understand what an off-grid solar system is and how adopting solar will translate into savings for the next 25 years for you.
What is an Off-Grid Solar System?
Also known as the stand-alone PV system, off-grid solar systems for homes are a remarkable alternative energy source to use in remote locations. As this type of system doesn’t depend on the utility grid, it enables homeowners to become power independent in areas where accessing the grid electricity is costly or impractical. As the grid is not a part of the structure, batteries become a critical component in the working of off-grid solar systems.
The modern off-grid systems are robust and manufactured to survive inclement weather. Your solar installation company will ensure to provide you with a tailored system design tailored to suit the style of your home and can give and maintain a reserve of ample energy output to power your home throughout the day, at night, and even on other days when energy generation falls below the required standard.
Components of an Off-Grid Solar System
An off-grid solar power system is composed of four key components – solar panels, a solar inverter, batteries, and the equipment needed for the balancing of the system.
- Solar panels and mounting
Solar panels are a major and most obvious component in a solar system. A solar panel is made up of solar cells, which can be recognised as small squares. Determining the size and number of solar panels required is a serious consideration in designing a perfect off-grid solar system for your home. When you have the right number and size of panels, they are configured in series strings, and multiple strings are connected to form a substantial solar array.
- Charge Controller
This device is responsible for controlling the energy flow between solar panels and batteries, facilitating the optimum performance of the latter. It allows for proper charging of the batteries while protecting them against overcharging.
- Solar inverter
Using a battery-based inverter is the industry standard in putting together a functional off-grid solar power system. Picking the right size of the inverter depends on the load required by your off-grid system. A battery-based system not only converts the direct current (DC) electricity from solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity but facilitates the AC to DC conversion for battery charging.
In a stand-alone solar system, having a reliable battery bank is indispensable. It is the second most expensive component in an off-grid structure after solar panels. Moreover, you may need several batteries if your electricity consumption needs are higher. There are a few types of batteries available on the market, and an experienced solar installer will be able to guide you towards selecting the right option.
The Working of an Off-Grid Solar System
Off-grid solar systems are self-sufficient solar structures working independently of the grid. They consist of all the key components, which are solar panels plus mounting structure, batteries, an inverter, and other supportive equipment, all functioning in one single unit to ensure optimal power generation.
Stand-alone solar systems can ensure power is available for critical loads while allowing you to achieve absolute grid independence. Let’s understand how off-grid solar systems work in four simple steps:
- Your roof-mounted solar panels act as a power hub where the critical process of energy generation takes place. Solar panels absorb maximum sunshine during the day and convert it into direct current energy.
- Then comes the role of the solar charge controller-cum-solar inverter that is wired with solar panels. As the DC power passes through the inverter, the controller regulates its voltage. It also monitors and measures the total energy production of the solar array while ensuring that the solar panels harvest maximum energy.
- When there is surplus availability of this controlled DC power after meeting the load requirement, the excess energy gets stored in the batteries, which are connected to the charge controller.
- Now this stored energy is used later on when solar power generation is below the required level. The inverter automatically draws power from the battery bank to run appliances as needed at night and during inclement weather.
Is an Off-Grid Solar System a Sound Investment?
Considering that solar is a huge financial investment that will impact your life for a long time (over 25 years), it’s wise to evaluate the viability of an off-grid solar power system. And for most homeowners, solar panels turn out to be an advantageous investment. With solar energy, you reduce your monthly energy bills, increase home value, enjoy better energy security, and feel amazing about doing your bit for the environment by cutting down on your carbon footprints.
Amongst all these benefits, another key factor is to determine what the sound return on investment (ROI) is on an off-grid system for your unique situation. Below is a method of figuring out approximate ROI for your system.
- Determine the price of an off-grid solar system for your home.
- Divide this price by your current cost of per-watt electricity.
- Divide the figure by the hours of electricity consumed in a year.
- This final number will decide how many years it will take to break even on your initial solar investment. If you further divide the number by the solar system’s average lifespan, i.e., 25 years, you will get an approximate total number of times the system will pay for itself during the expected performance life.
If this sounds challenging, you can partner with an experienced solar installer to guide you. They will not only provide a more accurate ROI estimation but also guide you at every step of your solar journey.
Benefits of the Off-Grid Solar System
The biggest perk of getting an off-grid solar system is that installation is possible virtually anywhere. You set yourself free of common electricity problems homeowners face. You do away with unexpected and prolonged power outages as well as high electricity bills.
- Absolute energy independence
Power outages are the most inconvenient. Unavailability of electricity can sometimes last for hours or even days, depending on the cause of the power cut and the time required to restore the supply. Inclement weather, such as sleet and storms, lightning bolts, and heavy downpour can damage grid-related utility lines and equipment. Such damages can mean loss of electricity across several localities.
The working of off-grid solar systems is independent of the government grid. It makes your home self-sufficient in producing and storing electricity. Your home will still have power when the entire locality is in darkness due to hours of power cuts. The battery bank in your stand-alone solar system will always maintain enough surplus electricity to power your home when the sun isn’t visible.
- Reduced electricity cost
There is no denying that solar energy is highly cost-effective in the long run, promising significant return on investment and savings. As finite resources remain the primary energy source and are depleting, sooner or later, it’s going to be inevitable to switch to green energy sources due to the cost and negative impact on the environment.
The initial cost of getting an off-grid solar system is relatively high as the buyer is required to pay for more components like batteries and several panels. However, you can rest easy knowing that solar has a great payback period. Through savings, you can expect your solar panels to pay for themselves in 6-8 years, depending on energy output, the method of financing your solar, etc. Moreover, your system promises over 25 years of cheap electricity, with no monthly electricity bills.
- Suitable for any location
There are still many areas that don’t have access to the local grid. Thankfully, with an off-grid system, you don’t have to depend on DISCOM companies to power your home. The system is the best choice for homes in rural or remote locations, which either can’t access the government grid or suffer from intermittent and prolonged outages. Regardless of where you are, if the sun shines on you, solar can be immensely beneficial for you.
How Much Do Off-Grid Solar Systems Cost in India?
Off-grid systems cost the highest among all three types of solar system setup. Several factors like energy usage patterns are important in determining the right solar system size and costs. Hence, only an experienced installer can help you know for sure after an on-site assessment.
Regardless of the off-grid solar system prices in India, these systems are worth the price if you are looking to achieve absolute energy independence in a remote location.
Facts About Off-Grid Solar Systems for Home
If you are considering a cost-effective, eco-friendly way to power your home, switching to an off-grid solar power system could be a smart choice.
When you are investing in solar equipment that is practically going to stay with you for a lifetime, you would want to know the key facts to make the right choices for your home and family. If you partner with an experienced solar installer in Delhi, they will be able to guide you at every step of your solar transition journey. The main thing to focus on is getting the right system for your situation.
- How much does an off-grid solar system cost? Apparently, a dime! It costs the highest amongst all types of solar systems since they require batteries. However, don’t let the initial investment scare you. Instead, learn all about the benefits that outweigh the cost.
- Unlike an on-grid system, you go for a much higher capacity model when investing in off-grid solar. Your stand-alone system must be able to generate enough energy to power your home but also maintain ample surplus for storage to use during zero energy production hours.
- The extra energy that your system produces during the daytime is not sent to the government grid but is stored in batteries to be accessed during rainy or cloudy days, at night, and in the winter weather.
Subsidy on Off-Grid Solar System
There’s no subsidy applicable to purchasing an off-grid solar system for your home. You can only avail government subsidies if you are purchasing a grid-connected solar plant.
The government of India is pushing residential rooftop solar installations by offering subsidies on the solar system’s benchmark cost. A 40% subsidy is available on a solar unit of 1 kW to 3 kW capacity, whereas the subsidy is 20% for units of higher capacity (up to 10 kW).
However, it is important to learn about what all types of solar systems are and which systems are eligible for government subsidy. The three types of solar power systems in India are:
Although you would want to select your solar system that best meets your home’s electricity needs, the solar subsidy is also a major consideration for individuals planning to buy solar. So far, the subsidies are available on grid-connected units and hybrid solar systems (the cost of batteries will not be included in calculating the system’s total cost).
As per the latest updates from MNRE, there is no provision for subsidies for off-grid or stand-alone solar systems.
FAQs About Off-Grid Systems
Do solar inverters work at night?
No. The solar inverter’s job is to convert DC energy coming from solar panels into AC energy. When solar panels are not capable of generating electricity due to weak solar radiation, the inverter in your off-grid solar system turns off during this period.
Does the power outage affect the off-grid solar system?
Not at all. An off-grid solar structure isn’t connected to the government grid. So any power failure related to the grid will not influence the working of your inverter or any part of your off-grid solar system for your home.
Which solar system is suitable for me: on-grid or off-grid?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using on-grid and off-grid solar power systems, and making the best choice varies from one home to another. You might think an on-grid system is suitable for your home until you recall all those days when outages disrupted your routine. Or you might lean towards off-grid as you would rather choose to disconnect from the grid. If you are not convinced about either of them, you can customise a hybrid solar system to work specifically for your situation.
How do I determine if my home gets enough sunlight for solar panels to work?
Off-grid solar systems for homes require an uninterrupted supply of sunlight to generate enough power for your daily needs. However, it does not mean high temperatures during peak summer days. Solar panels absorb sunlight (not heat) to create energy and, thus, work more efficiently in clear skies. Your solar installer is likely to be familiar with standard calculations to help you with the sizing of the solar system and estimating ROI and savings.
What is the main difference between living off-grid and on-grid?
If you have a professionally designed and installed solar system, there is little difference in living with either type of solar structure. Both the systems ensure that you have the power needed in your home. In an on-grid system, you depend on the grid for additional electricity, whereas you use electricity stored in the batteries in an off-grid system.
Do I get warranties to cover my off-grid solar power system?
Yes. Most solar companies in India are able to provide 25 years of performance warranty on solar panels. Other components, such as inverters and batteries, are also covered by a limited warranty of 5-10 years, depending on the brand. This means that you are protected against unexpected failures and performance issues if any occur in your system.
Is solar maintenance costly and time-consuming?
No. The modern solar equipment is highly efficient and robust to provide users with years of hassle-free, low-cost solar energy. With routine cleaning of solar panels and period maintenance of all solar components, you can keep your off-grid solar system for home working at its peak efficiency level. Moreover, several installers top your solar system with the convenience and protection of AMC maintenance packages. This ongoing solar service plan ensures that your system’s service needs are always fulfilled on time.