How do on-grid systems work?
An on-grid system is connected to your local electrical grid. This system works by using a two-way electrical meter. When your house or building needs more energy than what the solar panels are generating, the system pulls extra electricity from the grid. When you system is generating more energy than your house or building needs, the system sends the excess electricity to the grid. On-grid systems sometimes include battery storage as well, but most system owners prefer to not use a battery as it increases the complexity.
The advantages of an on-grid system are:
COST. If you can’t afford a solar system to provide 100% all your needs, you can install whatever portion you can afford and pull the extra power from the grid. You can always increase the capacity of your solar system at a later date.
LIFESTYLE. With on-grid solar energy systems, you can continue your lifestyle without worrying whether you have enough electricity. The solar energy system will offset some your usage, and the rest will come from the electrical grid just like it always has.
RELIABILITY. If your solar energy system fails for some reason, you are still connected to the local utility grid and won’t be left without electricity. However, if your local grid goes offline then so does your solar energy system.
How do off-grid systems work?
An off-grid system is completely independent of your local electrical grid. This type of system will need to include some form of energy storage (usually batteries) so that one can produce energy during the day, and have enough stored for use during the night.
The advantages of an off-grid system are:
INDEPENDENCE. Your property will not be subject to the rules of the local electricity company. An off-grid system will continue to work even if the local electricity grid is down since it is not connected.
CONSERVATION. Having an off-grid system forces you to conserve your power use as there is not much you can do if you run out of power in the middle of the night.
FLEXIBILITY. Off-grid systems can be installed anywhere with suitable sun exposure. This type of system can be great for rural properties that are nowhere close to the existing electrical grid.
Which type of system should you go with?
Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages so you must choose which one is right for you based on costs and personal preference. Our advice here at Solar Consultant is to always tie into the grid if it’s available. Your solar energy system will still be producing green energy, and you’re only pulling power from the local grid if your system needs it. This is a great way to ease into renewables.
In general, an off-grid system with battery storage will cost 30-50% more than an on-grid system with no battery storage. However, if your property is not close to the existing electrical grid than the cost may be worth it – as the utility company may charge a hefty sum for extending their grid.
When it comes to personal preference, there are those who don’t mind paying extra for the independence that an off-grid system provides. There is something to be said for the satisfaction one gets from producing all of their own electricity.
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