Why Don’t More Homes Go Off-Grid?
There’s something liberating about the thought of going off-grid with solar. Why stay grid-tied when you can generate all the power you need right at home?
Well, there are actually several reasons why the majority of people who go solar stay connected to the power grid. The main one being that staying grid-tied, in most scenarios, allows you to generate the most savings.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Staying grid-tied saves you the additional cost of battery storage, a feature which most off-grid installations require. Grid-tied systems also give you access to valuable financial benefits that aren't available for off-grid installations.
You also get peace of mind by staying grid-tied, since you always have the option to use the grid if you need it.
Drawbacks of Battery Storage
A solar array only produces energy when the sun is shining. If you go off-grid, you'll need a way of storing the energy you generate during the day. Otherwise, you won't be able to run your refrigerator and other appliances when the sun isn’t shining.
Specialized batteries allow you to save your energy so it’s available 24 hours a day. Your solar professional can install these batteries and connect them to your array. During daylight hours, you'll power your property as well as charge your batteries. Once the sun is down, you'll draw on the energy you have stored until the morning when the sun comes up again.
There are two drawbacks of relying on batteries. First is the cost. Though these batteries are quickly dropping in price, they’re still rather expensive. Right now, they increase the upfront costs of going solar, and in most cases, lengthen your payback period.
The second drawback is the risk of being without power. Your Renewable Energy Consultant will assess your daily usage to determine how many batteries you need. But you can still drain them any day that you use more energy than normal.
This could happen say, on an especially cold night when you’re forced to use an electric space heater. Once your batteries are drained, you’ll have to wait until the sun comes up to use electricity again.
If you opt to stay grid-tied, you can always draw electricity from the grid in the event of an emergency.
Financial Incentives That Off-Grid Systems Give Up
*Disclaimer: Financial incentives vary depending on your state and utility provider. A Simpleray Renewable Energy Consultant can tell you about the specifics of going solar in your area.
You've probably heard about net metering before. It's a huge part of saving money with solar for most installations. But what exactly is it?
Net metering has to do with the way utility companies bill you after you've gone solar.
If your array is grid-tied, you can send your excess electricity back to the grid. Once that energy is part of the grid supply, it can be used by nearby homes and businesses. Obviously, you want to be compensated for that energy—this is where net metering comes in. It's essentially a special billing structure for homes and businesses that feed the grid with their excess electricity.
Net metering ensures you’re credited for the excess energy you send back to the grid at the same price your utility company charges you for electricity. Thus, you only pay for the "net" amount of electricity you use.
Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to snowball these credits from one month to the next. Many homeowners that benefit from net metering can fully offset their bills for the entire year.
For a deeper explanation of net metering, check out our Resource Center article.
Tax Credits, Renewable Energy Credits, and Other Incentives
Federal, state and local governments encourage people to go solar by offering tax breaks and other incentives. Many of these programs can save you thousands of dollars. While the valuable Federal Investment Tax Credit is available to off-grid installations, there are other incentives that are not.
For example, in Illinois there’s an incentive that compensates homeowners and businesses for going solar. They’re paid based on the amount of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) they generate. RECs are measured units of clean energy. Utility companies will purchase RECs from solar owners to meet their renewable energy requirements.
The program in Illinois is based on the idea that your solar array will be generating RECs, offsetting your electricity consumption, and contributing clean energy to the grid. But only grid-tied installations are eligible for this program. Off-grid solar in Illinois will miss out on these payments.
For many homeowners and businesses, state and local incentives are a crucial part of their solar investment. These benefits may be of significant value to you, and may not be worth giving up.
When Does It Make Sense to Go Off-Grid?
In most scenarios, a grid-tied system allows you to generate the most savings. But if saving money isn't your only objective, going off-grid may be a good idea for you.
Off-grid solar is a great fit for remote properties that would have to install new power lines to get electricity. It's also a useful option for people that are striving to become independent from fossil fuels.
There are several roads you can take to solar power. Fortunately, a qualified solar installer will do all the calculator work to find the specific path that will help you meet your goals. Most solar companies are willing to provide you with a comprehensive quote totally free of charge.
Simpleray has been a trusted solar installer in the Midwest for more than a decade. We have several NABCEP certified engineers on staff, and we take pride in offering transparency about the installation process from day one. If you’re curious whether solar is right for you, please reach out to chat and ask about getting a free quote.