Video & Blog by Randy Anderson: Technical Sales & Training Manager
The first step in determining what you're going to need to live off-grid would be to sit down and determine what the AC loads are going to be in the house or cottage. This is really the scientific approach to determining what your power needs is. So one would sit down, go through each device whether it be lights, entertainment devices, TVs, fridges, whatever it is, and determine how long each one of those components are going to be running for each day and what their power draw is.
Obviously this all involves a little bit of a lifestyle change. We're not going to live the same way off-grid as we do on the grid; when we can come in and turn power on without any thought. We're going to be generating our own power, so we need to keep that in mind all the time.
One of the questions we get is how long is the system going to last? There's really no black and white answer to that. All of the components are different. The solar panels and modules are typically 20 to 25 year design life. Inverters can be 10 to 20 years depending on how they're sized.
What components do we need for a system?
DC to AC inverter
Batteries or battery pack (to power the DC to AC inverter)
Solar panels (to recharge that battery pack)
Charge controller (to regulate the amount of charge and voltage going from the solar modules into the battery pack)
Racking or mounting for the solar panels
Balance of System components (BOS) which includes cabling, fuses, breakers, distribution panels
Once the system is installed, what do we have to do? Most systems, depending on the battery chemistry, are going to be very little maintenance. Certainly they're going to be more maintenance than being connected to the grid, but generally there's not a lot of maintenance to the electronic components.
Check back for more videos in the series on the specific system components.