6 Things You Must Know Before Going Off-the-Grid
1. Going off-the-grid doesn’t mean no more power bill.
There is a common misconception that when you go off-grid you buy your renewable energy equipment and never have to pay for electricity again. While it’s a lovely idea, it is somewhat inaccurate. By choosing off-grid renewable power you don’t have a utility bill anymore, but you will have ongoing costs associated with powering a home off the grid – mainly fuel for your supplemental generator, and battery replacement costs.
2. Being energy efficient when you’re on the grid is very different than being energy efficient off the grid.
In this day and age, being energy conscious is part of our culture. We turn off lights we’re not using, we buy Energy Star appliances, and we put on a jacket instead of turning up the thermostat. All these steps are important whether you’re on or off the grid.
When you’re off-grid, however, every light bulb, charging cell phone, and appliance clock matters; a lot. If you use more power than your solar produces or than is stored in your batteries, you can’t just buy a little extra this month from your utility – you must generate it yourself, or out go the lights. Being your own power company doesn’t mean you have to go without, it just means you need to pay close attention whenever you’re using electricity.
3. Don’t ditch your electrical service if you already have it.
Many people want to cut ties with the local utility because they don’t want bills or because they want more control over their power. But depending on your location, disconnecting your home may be illegal and may invalidate the certificate of occupancy for your home. Even if you can legally disconnect, you’d miss out on the convenience that utility power offers.
Does that mean you’re stuck? Definitely not. Instead of going off-grid, opt for a grid-tie solar system with backup power. This type of system provides the best of both power worlds. You get the flexibility and convenience utility power offers and can reduce or eliminate your what you pay to the utility (except for your base fee), and you will have emergency power during any utility outages.
4. Off-grid solar is a great solution when utility power can’t be brought in, or when bringing in utility service is cost prohibitive.
Being unable to get power to a site is pretty straight-forward. Cost prohibitive to bring power in is more relative. Some people consider $10,000-$20,000 to be very expensive. Yet at this price bringing in utility power is an extremely good value. Cost prohibitive for running a new electrical service to a full time home is more in the $75,000+ range.
Now that may seem like a lot of money but think of it this way: when you’re on the grid you share all the costs of generating and transmitting electricity with everyone else connected to the grid. When you’re powering your home off grid, all of those expenses are yours and yours alone. And it’s not just the upfront costs to keep in mind, there are also ongoing expenses to factor in. Things like fuel for a generator to provide supplemental power at night or in the darker months, and replacement batteries can add up over time. So, unless you only need power for small items like lights, cell phones and maybe a small refrigerator, grid power may still end up being the more cost effective solution long-term.
But, when you are comparing options, remember that bringing in grid power isn’t just the price your utility charges for laying the lines and installing the transformers. There might also be site work (like trenching) and the cost to run wire from the utility line to your actual structure. Be sure to factor all costs into your decision about which way to go, while also remembering that site work may also be required if you do an alternative power system.
5. Off-grid power is only for the adventurous in spirit.
Yes and no. You don’t need to be the type to climb mountains or sail the seven seas to go off grid. You do need to be ready for a little work. An off-grid power system can be high maintenance or minimal maintenance, depending on the equipment you select. This is especially true about energy storage options. If when it comes to your power source you prefer a totally hands off approach, off grid power probably isn’t for you.
6. Go where you want to go, have the power to do what you want to do.
There are so many places to enjoy that are beyond the power lines. But that doesn’t have to mean roughing it at your weekend getaway cabin or out-of-the-way home. Off grid power systems allow you to have all the comfort and convenience electricity offers, without being confined to the footprint of the electrical grid. So go ahead and leave the beaten path. Many of our clients have done it, and so can you.