How to Live Off the Grid on a Budget
People everywhere are talking about how to live off the grid. This lifestyle not only reduces your carbon footprint, but it also enables you to be more independent. You don’t have to worry about huge utility bills anymore. And no more reliance on fossil fuels.
Some homeowners have found good ways to live partially off the grid, but most do have to rely in part on water, gas or electricity from the city where they live. However, these days, it’s entirely possible to live completely off the grid by digging a well on your property for water, installing a septic tank for waste, and solar panels to power your home. Some people have done such a good job of this that they are selling their access energy back to the local electric company.
Systems with net metering
The returns on battery investment vary according to several parameters. For instance, in countries with net metering, adding batteries may not make a big difference in the savings. This is due to the fact that the grid acts as a storage device, thus providing the same benefits as a battery.
However, some utilities are changing their net metering policies and this results in lower rates for the electricity that homeowners send to the grid. In such cases, home energy storage can provide more savings than net metering. Additionally, battery storage provides backup power when there is an outage.
Time of use and battery storage
In places with TOU rates, the customer can charge batteries during the day when the solar output is high and electrical rates are low. The customer then uses energy during peak hours such as during the night when utility rates are higher.
Energy storage and demand charges
Customers on utilities with demand charges can add storage to their solar systems to avoid higher fees. By using stored energy during peak hours, the customer reduces the consumption of the expensive utility power.
Powering the home without the grid
There are some Photovoltaic system owners who do not want to connect to the grid for any reason. These individuals will often use fossil fuel generators to supply power when there is no solar power available.
Adding battery storage gives them the ability to store energy during the day and use it during the night, hence saving on fuel and reducing the cost of running the generators.
Customers without Feed-in Tariffs
Energy storage is also a better option for homes without a solar feed-in tariff since it promotes self-consumption. In addition, it may be a better option for unfavorable feed-in rates. Either way, it allows homeowners to store the extra energy instead of wasting it or exporting it to the grid at low rates.
Previously, most residential solar system owners relied on the grid or diesel generators for backup power. But with prices coming down, it is becoming easier to simply add batteries to provide savings on electrical bills and also provide backup in the event of a mains outage.
Factors to consider when sizing the battery storage system
Choosing the ideal energy storage capacity is sometimes more challenging due to the many variables involved. The major factors to consider include:
- The amount of electricity the home or facility is using
- The degree of energy independence that the PV owner desires
- Renewable energy generating capacity
- Electricity usage pattern
- Orientation of the solar panels
Sizing batteries according to the desired level of energy independence
Choosing the right size depends on the level of energy independence that a renewable energy owner wants. It may simply boil down to what you can afford. These levels range from 100 percent or completely off the grid (the most costly), to a simple energy backup for emergencies.
100% energy independence or completely off the grid: this requires a huge investment in terms of generation and storage. In addition, it may require other power sources such as fossil fuels or wind generators.
High energy independence: This requires a solar system with enough batteries to last a few days or even through the winter. PV systems are sized to enable the owner to have surplus energy to store during summer and be self-sufficient through winter without relying too much on the grid. The customer will still rely on the grid for backup just in case there are prolonged days of bad weather.
Summertime independence: Customer installs just enough panels and storage capacity to get through a normal summer day but will have to draw power from the grid during the winter.
Peak time independence: Battery size should be large enough to supply power during peak times when electricity rates are highest.
Reduced reliance on the grid during peak times: Some customers cannot afford to install enough storage to cover their entire peak time usage. In such a case, some will install a system that will enable them to at least reduce part of their grid usage during these times.
Emergency power backup: This requires smaller energy storage, enough to cover a short power outage. Some customers use this together with fuel generators. Battery storage is only required for the short duration from the time grid power goes out, to when the alternative power becomes available.
Life off the grid
Even though a solar energy system is a great investment that reduces your electricity bills, it is not possible to completely get off the grid without investing in large storage systems. However, adding modest battery storage to a grid connected to solar systems is a better way of increasing your independence from the grid without spending too much.
Most marketers have online tools that can help you get the right size battery based on various factors. However, it is advisable to consult professionals for the best advice.
Customers with solar systems are increasingly adding battery storage to reduce their electricity costs or become independent from the grid. With better technology and prices getting lower every day, battery storage is becoming an appealing component to many solar power system owners.
This type of storage allows the customer to charge their batteries during the day and then discharge them when there is no generation. This permits homeowners and businesses to have a backup power source and save on electricity bills. In addition, you can sail through cloudy periods or other times when power generation is low.