Have you ever had the dream of having electricity even when the local power station was out? It’s nice to have that reassurance that you’ll be able to wash clothes, have food in the refrigerator, and keep your home at a comfortable temperature no matter what. If so, an off-grid mounting system is what you need.
Off-grid mounting systems are complete kits that include everything you need to be self-sufficient when it comes to energy consumption. Solar energy is captured and stored, so it can be used even when the sun isn’t out, whether at night or on a cloudy day. As long as you’re getting enough sun to store the energy you require, you’ll have what you need to run your home.
Benefits of Using an Off-Grid Mounting System
Everyone’s reasons for deciding to go off-grid will be different. Here are some benefits many may consider when doing so:
- It’s beneficial to the environment. The sun is there spouting out energy, so why not use it? It’s a renewable energy source, and with the proper system, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint.
- As mentioned above, going off-grid eliminates your dependence on the local electronic utility. You no longer need to worry about blackouts, which is a big deal if you live farther out. The farther you live from a town or city, the longer it takes for the utility to repair lines to your home.
- It may make economic sense to go off the grid, especially if you’re planning on staying where you are for years and years to come. The longer you stay where you are, the more money you’ll save.
- To provide electricity, period. It could be that the location of your dwelling is so far out, there is no grid to connect to. This is especially true for a cabin in the woods or mountains.
What’s Included in Off-Grid Mounting Systems?
Once you’ve decided that the benefits outweigh the costs, the next step is to choose an off-grid system that will work for your home. Off-grid mounting systems come with everything you need to go off the grid. This includes:
- Solar panels. Depending on the kit you get, these panels will be designed to attach to your dwelling’s roof or to the ground. The type of system you get will depend on how much land you have and what works best for your situation.
- A charge controller. This is an important component to your system because it regulates the voltage so the batteries don’t overcharge. Even if you get 12-volt solar panels, they put out about 16 to 20 volts, and batteries can be damaged because they only need around 14 to 14.5 volts to get fully charged.
- Batteries. The batteries you have will hold a charge that can be used when there’s no sun out. The more batteries you have (or the higher the capacity), the more you’ll be able to use at night or when the weather isn’t cooperating.
- An inverter. Inverters take the energy from the battery, which is a direct current, and invert it to an alternating current, which is what commercial appliances use.
Determining Your Electricity Consumption
So what system should you get? The first thing you need to do is figure out what your current consumption is. There are two methods for this.
Looking at Your Bill
The easiest way to do this is if you’re currently connected to the grid. Each month you receive a bill that shows exactly how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) you use each month. You’ll need to look at a year’s worth of bills so you can see what your highs and lows are. Divide the kWh by the number of days that month to achieve an average daily usage and then divide that further by 24 to get an average hourly use.
If you’re looking for more detailed information or you want a better idea of how many kWh each appliance is using, you can get an estimate of consumption. This is done by first looking on the back or bottom of the appliance where it lists the wattage. Some will have a range of numbers, showing that the wattage used varies depending on the setting.
If you have a pretty good idea of how much the appliance is used (refrigerators are used 24 hours a day, while TVs might only be used three hours a day), then you can estimate the energy used that way. If you aren’t sure, try keeping a log to give you a better idea.
Once you’ve calculated how many watts something uses and how often it’s used, the next step is to calculate the kWh. This is done with the following formula:
(watts x hours used per day) ÷ 1000 = daily kWh consumption
Choosing Your Off-Grid System
Now that you have an idea of your energy consumption, the next step is to choose the right system.
Cabin systems are designed for locations that need less than 1 kilowatt each hour. This would be if you have a remote cabin in the woods and you’re looking for something basic, such as something to run the lights, a small heater, and possibly a mini refrigerator. If you’re looking for something that can handle 1 to 2 kilowatts per hour, you’ll want to invest in a small house system.
Homesteads and ranch systems will more likely be your choice if you’re looking for something at your own home. Homestead systems are for households that use 2 to 4 kilowatts per hour. This is typically the consumption for an average size home with typical needs such as a refrigerator, central heating/air conditioning system, washer/dryer, and so on. Ranch systems, on the other hand, are for more substantial households that need more energy output than the average family. Output for ranch systems are 7 kilowatts per hour or more, depending on the system you choose.