Living Off-Grid 101 - Off-Grid or Grid Tie?

Written by: Randy Anderson Technical Sales & Training Manager

In this post, we're going to be talking about off-grid or grid tie, what's right for you in terms of a battery based grid tie system.

Essentially, a battery based grid tie system would have solar panels, an inverter, and a battery pack, and it would be tied to the AC grid in your house, and feed back to the meter in your house. Why would we have a system like this? For a few reasons.

We may be in a jurisdiction that allows us to feed or sell power back to the grid, often referred to as net metering. The other reason that we might have a system like that is if there's time of use billing, which means you’re paying different rates for energy at different hours of the day.

Why wouldn’t we choose to just go off grid? In most situations, if we have utility power available, or grid power available, we're not going to go off grid because it's generally more expensive to generate your own power than it is to buy from the utility. Now, that's changing as the price of utility power continues to increase, and many of the components in solar systems continue to decrease, especially solar panels.

Why would we go off the grid? In most cases, it has to do with being remote. If the local utility hydro transmission lines are too far away from the house/structure you want to run them to, it could cost less to install your own solar system than it would to run the lines that distance.

Grid parity, what does grid parity mean? Essentially, that means that it costs the same or less to generate your own power than it does to buy it from the grid. There are not a lot of places in North America where this applies, except Hawaii, and in northern Canada, many, many small towns and villages are at grid parity. So, people who live in those areas would choose to go off grid because they can generate their own power for less than it costs to get it from the grid.

The other reason that we might do grid tie is to be self sufficient. We want the reliability and backup if anything ever happens like a natural disaster. We're starting to see more and more power outages from ice storms, windstorms, trees down or branches, hurricanes etc. So with a grid tie system, there’s solar panels to generate electricity and inverters and batteries to run the components in the house if grid-power ever goes out. Whether its the entire home or just critical components, a grid tie system would have you covered.

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