Off-grid living can mean different things to different people. Basically, it means disconnecting your home and all the appliances within it completely from the national power grid. The energy consumption will depend substantially on the number of appliances that you run and your individual energy needs. You will need to consider the types of devices you will run, the wattage required to run these appliances, and how long you can go between charges.
Since there is no utility power to fall back on, solar generators for off-grid living are usually paired with gas-powered generators to recharge the battery when solar cannot keep up with your demands. Here is a brief guide on generator sizing for off-grid systems.
Generator sizing for off-grid systems
As a rule of thumb, the generator should be around twice the capacity of the continuous output of the inverter. So, a 1000 watt inverter will need to be paired with a 2000 watt generator. The main reason behind this is that the generator needs to recharge the batteries while it is powering the appliances.
If the total load is 1000 watts, and the charger specification is 20 Amps at 48 V, the continuous power demand comes out to be 1000 W + 960 W = 1960 W. So, you will need at least a 2000 watt generator to power the battery bank and run the appliances at the same time.
A smart move here will be to keep a slightly higher headroom for the generator to ensure that you do not run out of power in the middle of the day. If your generator is placed higher, you will lose energy due to the elevation and you need to account for the same when purchasing your devices.
If you want to run larger and more demanding appliances like an air conditioner or high-TDP power tools, you can opt for larger generators. You can easily find generators from 12kW to 25kW, which will burn more fuel but power all your appliances easily.
Going off-grid with solar panels
Solar generators rely on entirely clean and renewable solar power. As long as you do not live in a cloudy area, solar energy is readily available and essentially unlimited. Solar generators for off-grid living do not release any fumes and are much safer to use indoors, meaning they can be used without the users having to worry about health concerns.
For the most part, going off the grid with solar panels is entirely possible, but the situation is more complex than that and solar panels are only one part of the puzzle. In order to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, you will need to invest in the correct solar batteries too.
The number of solar panels you need will depend on the amount of electricity you use, available roof space, the amount of sunlight your house receives daily, and the type of solar panel and generator that you use. An average off-grid house requires about 7000W of power to sustain on its own energy production, meaning you will need to ensure that your solar panels can deliver this type of energy without breaking a sweat.
Solar panels are available in several shapes and forms. Since the performance of these solar panels is rated under standard testing conditions, the larger the panel, the better its performance. More photovoltaic cells can be fitted in a larger framework, allowing better performance.
On average, if you were to hit the 7000W mark mentioned above, you will need around 20 350-Watt solar panels to meet these demands. If 20 solar panels take up 300 square feet of the roof space of your house, you should ideally have more than enough space left to add more in the future.
How to buy solar generators for off-grid living
A basic formula that you can use to calculate the number of solar panels needed is as follows:
[1000 * (monthly electric usage/monthly peak sun hours)] / power rating of the solar panel
- One of the first things you need to do is get an estimate on how much electricity you use in a month. You can find the same on the latest electricity bill and take an average of the last three months for a more accurate measure.
- Next, you need to calculate the peak sun hours in your region. Note that peak sun hours do not equal the time between sunrise and sunset; peak sun hours mean the amount of time for which the sun can deliver 1000W per sq. m. In areas with a high peak sunlight rate (i.e., more than 5 hours), you will not need a giant solar power system.
- Once you know the monthly electric use and the peak sunlight hours, you can calculate the number of solar panels you will need for your situation.
For instance, if your monthly electricity usage is 7000W, and your house receives 160 peak sunlight hours in a month, using the formula, you will need around 4.5 kWh solar power system to sustain the entire house.
Benefits of switching to solar power
As long as you do not live in a cloudy area, solar energy is readily available and essentially unlimited. Even on the cloudiest days, solar generators will produce some energy that can last a couple of hours. In such situations, you can pair the solar panels with gas-powered generators for fallback.
Conventional fossil-fuel-powered gas generators release carbon monoxide, which is a serious health hazard. As a result, they can only be used outdoors and at a safe distance from the house. On the other hand, solar generators do not release any fumes and are much safer to use indoors, meaning they can be used without the users having to worry about health concerns.
Quiet and low maintenance
Unlike gas generators, a best solar generator for off grid living is quiet as does not have any moving parts. The only noise you will hear is from the inverter, which is also minimal. Another significant advantage of no moving parts is that there is a reduced chance of parts breaking down, which keeps the maintenance cost and effort of solar generators relatively lower compared to their gas-powered counterparts.
With this buying guide, you should be able to make an informed purchase decision when buying a solar generator. For more information, get in touch with an expert and discuss your requirements.