Thanks to rapid technological improvements in the past 20 years, the costs of installing a solar energy system have dramatically been reduced. It’s now a lot cheaper to make a home entirely solar-powered. Solar power means lower bills, a reduction in fossil fuel production, and a potential increase to your home’s value – amongst other benefits.
Before making a commitment to go completely green, however, be sure to understand both the economic and social factors involved. This article offers comprehensive information to answer your “can you run a house on solar power alone?” query.
How Much Energy Do You Use?
One of the first things you’ll need to be clear on is how much energy your home uses on average per month. This will let an energy advisor know how much energy the panels need to generate to keep your home powered each month.
You’ll also need to consider the weather and that some months will be better for generating power than others. This is where solar batteries play an essential role. Whenever the sun doesn’t shine as bright or for as long as usual, your solar batteries will capture and store the excess energy gained on long sunny days. Without this reserve, you’ll need to use energy from the grid when your own supply runs out.
What Is the Climate Like Where You Live?
Climate also plays a crucial factor. If the weather is typically cold and cloudy it may be more of a challenge to rely solely on solar. For example, if you reside in a state with mostly good weather all year round – like Arizona, Hawaii, or California – you may experience weeks without an overcast day.
Alternatively, during the winter in the Pacific Northwest, you may go weeks without any direct sunlight. The climate will be hugely important in deciding whether you’ll be able to cut ties with the energy company.
The physical location of your home also will play a part. If you’re surrounded by huge trees that block out the sun, the amount of energy your panels generate will be compromised.
The main cost of setting up a solar-powered home comes upfront when purchasing the equipment. This includes:
- Solar module/solar panels are expensive. This component will most certainly represent a large proportion of your overall expenditure.
- An inverter. It turns the energy produced by the panels into alternating energy required for your household appliances.
- Metering equipment. If you want to monitor how much power is produced, a meter is important.
- Housing components along with wiring and cables kit.
- Battery storage. Traditionally, batteries have been excessively expensive. However, you can make money by feeding your excess energy into the grid – but more on that later. The installation cost should be included.
An off-grid solar system requires careful planning, design, and installation. While the utility grid is connected to your home via a single-entry point, you’ll now be installing all of your own infrastructure. During the initial planning phase, your discussions with an off-grid consultant will include:
- The size, weight, and location of the solar module required
- The location of batteries, inverters, generators, and other associated equipment
- Any trenching or cabling requirements
- Energy requirements of other sheds, buildings, or equipment like water pumps
- Any plans to add extra appliances or extend your home
- Maintenance required
Additional costs are associated with operating and maintaining your solar panels. In addition to getting them cleaned regularly, if you decide to install batteries and inverters, they’ll generally need replacing after a few years of use. The solar installation company you decide to work with can give you a quote.
Government Incentive Programs
Verifying the support available from the government and/or your local utility can be challenging. Though government incentives often change, traditionally the US government has permitted a tax credit of up to 30% of the overall cost.
For more details on incentive programs within each US state, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website. Also, check your local utility company to see whether they offer financial incentives for solar power installation. Also clarify their policy for grid interconnection and for selling your excess to the grid.
Types of Solar Power Systems
Here are the three main types of solar panel systems.
This system is generally the cheapest and most commonly used by homeowners. With this setup, your home is directly tied to the system and the grid. It allows you to seamlessly switch between the two for your power requirements. When more energy is produced than your home needs, the excess can be sold back to your utility company or used to pro-rate your bill.
Grid-Tied With Battery
Comparable to the grid-tied setup, this type connects your home and the grid, but also includes a battery bank. As mentioned earlier, the excess energy produced from your panels is stored in the battery for use once the sun goes down. Again, the excess can be sold to the company. This method is more expensive due to the cost of the batteries.
This setup is not joined to the utility grid at all, only to a battery bank. The battery bank is necessary to provide round-the-clock electricity. The off-grid system is the costliest since you’ll need an extreme volume of batteries to collect the quantity of backup energy your home may require.
Other Things to Consider
Here are a few other points to consider in preparation for full-time eco-living.
The Need to Compromise
A complete move away from an unlimited power supply will require some compromises. For example, you may need to live without an electric kettle. A quick hot drink could mean investing more in batteries. The good news is, you’ll find plenty of other ways to get your hot water. When considering your monthly energy consumption, the only factor is the things you’ll absolutely need electricity for.
Time to Roll Up Your Sleeves
Life on-grid means a utility supplier does all the work. They take care of all the maintenance to ensure that your home is constantly supplied with electricity. All you have to do is pay for the service. When you go off-grid, you’ll be taking that work on, which will involve lots of physical work on a daily basis.
How to Make Money
If you’re considering 100% self-dependency, you may have thought about leaving your job. Don’t worry. There are plenty of creative ways to make money. You’ll still have access to the internet, right? So why not set up your own internet-based business selling things that people need like freshly grown organic food. You can get freelance work, sell photos of nature, create an online class, and lots more.
Alternatively, depending on your location, you could build small cabins to rent to vacationers. You can also sell hiking, camping, hunting, or fishing experiences.
There’ll be plenty of opportunities to do something you enjoy for a living whilst in nature.
Can You Run a House on Solar Power Alone?
Yes, you absolutely can.
To those accustomed to a more conventional life, the idea of living off-grid seems impossible. If you’re considering it, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not all freezing winters and grueling treks across the wilderness to collect firewood.
Thanks to advancements in technology, setting up your home for a completely self-sufficient lifestyle is a lot cheaper than it once was.
Essentially, you’ll need to live somewhere with lots of sunshine, have a comprehensive infrastructure plan, and the finances to cover the upfront and ongoing costs. In addition, you’ll need the grid to keep up with the demands of providing energy full-time to your home.