Getting your solar electric correct from the start can be one thing that will make off-grid living much easier.
You are completely self-reliant when you live off-grid, so here’s some things to consider:
KEEP IT SIMPLE.
- Keep your heating/cooling systems simple, your house small, and your appliances basic. Remember why you want to live off-grid in the first place.
- Design your house around your basic needs first– electricity, heat, water, food, etc.
PROPER HOUSE ORIENTATION.
- Aligning the house along an east-west axis provides more than just a south facing roof for solar panels, it also can make your house 10 degrees cooler in the summer and 10 degrees warmer in the winter.
WHAT TO AVOID.
- Avoid electric heating loads like base board heaters, electric dryers, electric water heaters, heat tape, etc.
- Avoid air-conditioning. A properly designed home in most of Northern Arizona has no need for any air conditioning. Swamp coolers are a good alternative.
COLLECT YOUR DRINKING WATER.
More and more off-gridders are realizing that they can collect their drinking water off their roof. There is more than enough precipitation in Northern Arizona to provide all the water needs for a typical family. This avoids the need for an expensive well or the hassle of hauling your water. Quality filtration systems make this a safe and great-tasting source of water.
GET A QUALITY BACKUP GENERATOR.
Look for a generator that is capable of Automatic Generator Start (AGS) or at least electric start, and doesn’t require constant maintenance. Brands like Kohler, Onan, Honda and Robins-Subaru are the best, in our opinion.
CHOOSE ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTING.
Compact Flourescents (CFL’s) or LED bulbs will work great. The extra money you pay for these type bulbs will more than pay for themselves in terms of the electricity needed to keep them on.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE IN BATTERIES.
There are a lot considerations when it comes to batteries. Whether you’re deciding between sealed or flooded, golf cart or fork lift, we cover the basics in our battery 101.
KEEP UP WITH GENERATOR MAINTENANCE.
Generators always have problems at the worst possible times. With a well-designed solar-electric system, you can virtually eliminate the need for a backup generator. We always recommend you have one for emergencies, but we have many off-grid customers who almost never use their generator.
YOU MAY NEED A LARGER SOLAR ARRAY AND A SMALLER BATTERY BANK.
When it comes to off-grid solar-electric systems, we recommend larger solar arrays and smaller battery banks. We see a tremendous number of systems with huge battery banks and very small amounts of solar. It is easy to think that if you can’t get through the night without losing power in the house, then your battery bank must be too small.
However, most of the time the problem lies in the fact that the batteries aren’t getting enough charge. It is similar to having a large fuel tank in your vehicle, but only filling half full at the gas station. The problem isn’t that you need a larger tank, it’s that you need to fill it properly.
PROPER SETTINGS ON YOUR SOLAR EQUIPMENT ARE REALLY IMPORTANT.
Proper settings can make all the difference in your batteries lasting 3 years versus 10 years. They can also save you tons in generator fuel costs and maintenance, not to mention the time and hassle in constantly running a generator.
We can’t tell you the number of solar-electric systems we have seen that have been installed without the proper settings. A system can consist of the greatest solar equipment on the market, but if it is not set up properly, it can operate very poorly. If you are unsure that your system is set up properly, contact us for a performance evaluation.
GET EDUCATED ABOUT YOUR SOLAR-ELECTRIC SYSTEM.
Being educated on your system is extremely critical to your happiness living off-grid. You will have peace of mind and the confidence to deal with any potential system problems.
SOLAR PANEL MOUNTING MIGHT BE BETTER ON THE GROUND.
When living off-grid, it can sometimes be more important to have some adjustability in your array’s tilt angle. However, you can avoid this hassle by slightly oversizing your solar array and avoiding the extra cost of adjustable mounts. We recommend you check out Roof Vs. Ground Mounting.
Good design, high-quality equipment and smart choices will save you money, time and hassle, making off-grid lifestyle more enjoyable.