Why Product Reliability is Critical When You Live Off the Grid
Picture this: it’s 6pm and you’re making dinner. Someone’s on the computer doing homework or finishing a report for work. A load of laundry is going and the heat is cranked up because it’s cold and rainy outside. Suddenly the lights flicker, then go out.
You wait for the power to come back, then call your utility company to report the outage and find out when it’ll be fixed. You light some candles, grateful for those in the storm working to get electricity flowing again.
Soon enough, the lights and other appliances come back on, and your comfortable night resumes. You forget all about it.
Power Outages When You Live Off the Grid
Now picture this instead: same activities in your household, but now when the lights go out, you’re the one that has to diagnose the cause–and fix it–because you live off the grid.
So you start running through your checklist:
- Did we use too much power and drain the batteries?
- Did the inverter fail?
- Do we have enough fuel for the generator?
- Where are my rain gear and my tools?
- Who am I going to call if I need help?
This can happen at any time, which is why it’s critical to have reliable equipment in your off grid solar system. If a vital component fails, it’s unlikely that your local big box hardware store will have a replacement. And if your site is remote, reliability is even more important, because you may be far from any equipment or professional assistance.
Plan for Emergencies Before They Happen
This probably sounds obvious, and yet it’s surprising how many people wait until something happens before they create a plan. That’s why it’s impossible to find a window air conditioner two days into a heat wave. When you live off the grid, planning ahead so you have dependable power includes a number of things.
You don’t have to spend your children’s inheritance to get good quality–but you may need to spend a little bit more to purchase equipment that won’t let you down.
When it comes to power inverters and solar charge controllers, OutBack Power is our go to brand at FMS because of the features, durability and warranty. We’ve been selling their products since OutBack started, and we have thousands of clients all over the world who will confirm that their products are built to last. And we don’t just sell OutBack equipment, we’ve been using it in our own solar power system starting back when our office was off grid in 2001.
Today, we depend on OutBack equipment in our grid hybrid solar system so we have access to solar power when the grid is up or down.
Don’t Skimp on Your Batteries
In many off grid power systems, the batteries are the weak link. And if your batteries fail, out goes your power. So when it comes to the value and price of batteries, don’t just look at upfront cost; also look at cycle life, and the necessary maintenance and cost over the entire life of the batteries.
For example, some flooded lead acid batteries seem like a great deal, but when compared to those made specifically for solar, and especially when compared to lithium solar batteries, the replacement costs over the same period can add up so much, they become more expensive in the long run.
- Trojan Battery
- FullRiver Battery
- Centennial Battery
- SolarOne HuP Batteries
Consider Lithium Batteries
Really want to make your off grid life easier? Consider going with lithium solar batteries. Lithium solar batteries are maintenance free, have more usable capacity, and have a significantly longer life than deep cycle lead acid batteries.
Here at Fire Mountain Solar we depend on RELiON lithium iron phosphate batteries (LiFEPO4 or LFP) batteries in our system, and many of our clients who live off the grid have also switched. We also love EG4 and SimpliPHI LIFEPO4 batteries for off grid.
Check Your Product Warranty
Not all products are warrantied for off grid. Don’t find out the hard way that your equipment warranty excludes off the grid use.
Be especially careful with your generator, as most are not warrantied for use off grid due to the significantly higher run time most get in this application. And know who in your area services your brand of generator, and if they will visit your site to service it. We’ve had clients with permanently installed propane generators who couldn’t get a servicer to come to their site so they had to remove it and haul it in.
Prevention is Best
No matter how good your equipment is, if you don’t maintain it and know how to properly operate it, at some point you’ll run into trouble. Even if you have maintenance free batteries they do need to be protected from the elements. If the charge settings for your batteries are incorrect, you may run out of power unexpectedly. Additional, if you don’t change the oil and filter in your generator regularly, it may not start when you need it.
Put together a list of things to check on your system and set reminders so you don’t forget. Because an ounce of prevention…can save you a pounding headache.
READ: Off Grid Solar System Maintenance.
Know Who to Call in Case of Trouble
When you live with an off grid power system, chances are at some point you will have a question or need technical support. Trust us: that is not the time to be trying to find a qualified contractor.
If you got all your DIY solar products from a click and ship website because they offered a screamin’ deal, they may not have the expertise to assist you in your time of need–leaving you screaming for help. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding who to buy your equipment from. It’s much better to build a relationship with off grid experts before you need assistance, than to not know who to turn to in an emergency.
Reach Out To Fire Mountain Solar For Your Off Grid Solar Energy Needs
Looking for reliable products for your off grid solar system? Need expert off grid design or technical support? We’re here to help. Contact us at 360-422-5610 or use our contact form.
The brands mentioned in this article have not paid for any inclusion or sponsorship. We vet the brands that we sell, and only recommend the best based on our personal and professional experience, and feedback from our clients. There are no affiliate links in this article.