One of the most common misconceptions of people who want to go solar is that it always means “off the grid.” While full independence is possible with this clean energy source, remember that it is not always the best option.

 

On-Grid Solar System 

Also called grid-tied, this type of solar system means your solar or PV panels are connected to the utility grid that acts as your “battery” since you can store excess power supply in their facility. 

During the day, your home is powered by your solar panels, which are typically mounted on the roof or ground. Meanwhile, at night or on cloudy days when your solar panels cannot meet your home’s energy demand, the utility grid delivers electricity to you.

With on-grid solar, you get to enjoy net metering in which you are only billed for the “net” energy–or the difference between the energy you produce and the electricity you use–over the monthly billing period. 

When your solar panels produce excess energy, it is sent to the power grid to supply the nearest homes or commercial buildings. This is more cost-efficient than sending electricity to long distances in which there is an average of 5% transmission loss. 

Several comprehensive studies have even shown that homeowners with on-grid solar panels can reduce the electricity bill of their neighbors because they eliminate the transmission loss and decrease the infrastructure dollars that utilities must spend.  

 

Benefits of an on-grid solar system: 

  • You can reduce your electricity bills. Studies have shown that on-grid solar units, on average, can slash $1,300-$1,500 off your energy bill per year. 
  • You don’t have to spend on batteries, which cost more than the solar unit itself. 
  • You can help local utility companies by reducing their need to invest in infrastructure, which in turn lowers the overall cost of electricity in your area. 

 

Its downside: 

  • You will still experience outages because you’re connected to the grid. Hence, you may want to have your own battery if backup power is a necessity for you. 
  •   You need to pay a fixed monthly fee for access to the power grid (and to store your solar energy), whether you use this service or not. Nevertheless, the significant reduction in your energy bill still makes on-grid solar systems a worthwhile investment.

 

Who can benefit from an on-grid solar system? 

If your property has access to power lines, the on-grid solar system is generally the best option because the upfront cost is significantly cheaper than off-grid in which you have to invest in expensive batteries to store your energy.

 

Off-Grid Solar System 

Going off-grid means you have no connection to the utility power grid, which means complete energy independence. In general, it suits people who live in an area far from power lines that makes transmission installation and distribution too expensive by comparison. 

This type of solar unit may also suit you if you have unique electrical installation needs. For example, you have a remote cabin, a boat, or an RV. 

With off-grid, you should have enough battery units to store all your power. Take note that batteries, on average, account for 30-40% of the total cost of your solar system, which means the upfront cost is significantly higher compared to on-grid “arrangement.” 

When you choose off-grid systems, the additional cost of the battery pack is not the only thing you have to consider. For instance, you will also need a charge controller, which is a device that prevents overcharging and over-drainage, two factors that have a detrimental effect on the lifespan of batteries. 

Oftentimes, people with off-grid solar units complement it with residential wind turbines to make sure that they have sufficient energy at night and on cloudy days. Others opt for a fossil fuel-driven generator as their backup power source. 

If an off-grid system appeals to you, make sure that you calculate your power needs for a specific length of time, ideally a minimum of one week. 

 

Benefits of an off-grid solar system: 

  • Full energy independence means you can eliminate electricity bills for good.
  • If you live in a remote area that receives large amounts of sunlight, an off-grid solar system is an excellent option. 
  • Many companies offer complete solar panel kits to set up your own off-grid system. 

 

Its downside: 

  • Because off-grid is not connected to the power utility grid, you need batteries to store your energy. On average, high-quality battery packs cost $8,000-$12,000 and it doesn’t even include the installation fee or any additional equipment. 
  • Since there’s no grid to save you, you may end up without power for an extended period–unless you have a power backup like a generator or a wind turbine. 

 

Who can benefit from an off-grid solar system? 

If you live in a far-flung region, an off-grid solar system is an excellent option instead of using a fossil fuel-driven generator that is noisy and polluting. But if you live near power lines, this is generally not the most recommended choice because of its high upfront cost. 

Aside from investing in batteries–on average, homeowners need 12 of them to store their energy needs–you may also have to spend on backup power sources like a residential wind turbine since there is no grid to save you. 

 

Hybrid solar system

combining the best of both worlds.

In a nutshell, this system means you are connected both to the utility grid and a battery pack, which will serve as your power backup source in the event of outages.

 Meanwhile, the utility grid and your solar panels can both charge your battery pack. 

With a hybrid solar system, your units can send any energy surplus to the grid, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of net metering. But when the grid is down, your house can draw power from your battery pack. 

One drawback is that you have to invest in batteries, although not as many as you may need if you go entirely off-grid. 

 

Benefits of a hybrid solar system: 

  • You can keep your critical appliances or equipment running during power outages. 
  • You can meet your energy needs even on cloudy days or during inclement weather conditions. 

 

Its downsides: 

  • To store your energy, you need to purchase 13.5 kWh-capacity solar batteries that typically cost $8,000-$12,000. Remember, most homes need at least 30 kWh per day. 

 

Who can benefit from a hybrid solar system? 

The hybrid solar systems are ideal if you live in a region that frequently experiences outages due to unreliable power supply or inclement weather. However, backup power is not a worthwhile investment for most homeowners due to its high price tag. 

 

The basic parts of on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid systems

The difference between these types of solar systems largely depends on their core parts. 

 

  • On-grid solar system
    Solar Panels → Grid-Tied Solar Inverter → Power Utility Meter
  • Off-grid solar system
    Solar Panels → Grid-Tied Solar Inverter → Charge Controllers → Battery Pack
  • Hybrid solar system
    Solar Panels → Grid-Tied Solar Inverter → Power Utility Meter → Charge Controllers → Battery Pack 

 

Conclusion

For average homeowners looking for a clean energy source that can help them reduce their dependence on fossil fuel, the most economical is the on-grid solar system. However, this may change in the future when solar batteries become more affordable and efficient. 

 

To learn more about the different types of solar systems, call Yorkshire Roofing at (800) 794-7444. They are a licensed solar and roofing contractor that only partners with reputable solar technology companies to ensure that their clients’ units can last 20-25 years or even longer.