The short answer: Yes! But you need to have a solid grasp of how much energy your household consumes. Otherwise, you risk running out of power— which can have some pretty inconvenient consequences.
In most cases, homeowners with residential solar power will remain grid-tied (meaning, if their solar power runs out they can pull from the local electricity grid). But if you’re thinking about going completely off-grid, it’s important to do some planning first.
To help you successfully go off-grid with solar, below we’ll review some key preparation items, including:
- How to Estimate Your Daily Power Usage
- How to Determine How Many Solar Panels You Need
- Why You Should Install Solar Batteries
When set up for success, you can safely go off-grid and enjoy all of the benefits that renewable solar energy provides!
How to Estimate Your Daily Power Usage
The easiest way to estimate your daily power usage is by reviewing your current home’s power bill.
Most homeowners are billed on a monthly basis, based on the number of “kilowatt-hours” they used. (Note: A “kilowatt-hour” or “kWh” refers to the number of kilowatts of energy you consume per hour.)
Once you locate the total kWh usage on your bill, divide by 30 days to learn your daily power consumption. Then, divide your daily kWh’s by 12 hours of sunlight (remember: solar panels don’t work at night). Finally, multiply that number by 1,000 to calculate the amount in watts. Since solar panels are sold in watts, it’s a lot easier to gauge how many solar panels you need this way.
Pro tip: Because your heating and cooling systems will eat up quite a bit of your energy costs per year, we recommend reviewing power bills from the winter and summer months. That way you can prepare for peak energy consumption, and won’t be left hanging when the seasons change.
If you’re not planning to use the same amount of electricity in your off-grid setup, another way to calculate your daily power usage is by tallying up the wattage of every single appliance, electronic, and/or lighting product you plan to use off-grid.
While this may seem daunting, keep in mind that wattage is stated on every physical label or online product description, often with “average kilowatt-hour” estimates.
And after adding up the wattage, you’ll know precisely how much power you need to live comfortably off-grid.
How to Determine How Many Solar Panels You Need
Solar panels typically come in 100 – 400 watts of power per panel. So once you’ve assessed how many watts of power you need per day, you can begin to plan your solar panel setup.
For example, if your total daily power needs are 2,400 watts, you would need at minimum six 400-watt panels (6 panels times 400 watts = 2,400 watts).
We say “at minimum” because the sun doesn’t shine 100% of every day. You may have cloudy days where the sun’s rays only provide half of your power needs. To make up the difference, it’s wise to double or even triple your solar panel array.
Moreover, the sun only hits your panels with direct sunlight for a few hours per day (usually at high noon). Even with no clouds whatsoever, your solar panels may only produce 30 – 40% efficiency for most of the day.
Again, to accommodate for the decreased power output, we recommend installing 2 – 3 times the number of panels you think you may need.
Why You Should Install Solar Batteries
When going 100% off-grid, you should definitely consider battery storage. Why? Because you won’t have any electricity at night when the sun is gone and your solar panels are reduced to 0% efficiency.
Some off-griders choose to supplement their power needs with a wood stove, propane refrigerator, cooktop, and water heater. However, this still doesn’t cover other electricity needs such as the dishwasher, laundry machine, air conditioner, TV, computer, or Internet usage.
So, to be completely comfortable off-grid, we recommend installing a backup battery such as the Tesla Powerwall.
During the day, your battery will store excess solar power energy. Then, you can draw from the battery at night (or on cloudy days) when your panels aren’t producing electricity.
To learn more, check out our blog, “Backup Battery vs. Generator for Your Home — Which is Better?”
Want a FREE Off-Grid Solar Installation Quote?
Call Photon Brothers at (720) 370‑3344 (Colorado) or (805) 351‑3371 (California) or book directly through our website. Our solar engineers will carefully review your energy needs, and then design a custom solar system tailored to your solar goals and budget.
For more information about our 5‑star installation service, visit our residential solar power page.