Solar energy is becoming an increasingly widespread choice for homeowners and businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint and save on energy costs. There are two main types of solar systems: on-grid and off-grid.
On-grid systems connect to the electric grid and supplement the power you receive from your utility company. In contrast, off-grid systems are entirely independent and rely on battery storage.
Despite their differences, they offer similar benefits. A solar system’s suitability for your household or business depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Learn what makes them different and whether on-grid, off-grid, or hybrid systems are better for you.
What Is an On-Grid Solar System?
On-grid solar systems, also known as grid-tied systems, connect to the electric grid. They provide a reliable power source, supplementing grid power and—in some areas—even feeding unused energy back to the grid through net metering. Grid access is useful when your photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are not producing enough energy or when the batteries that store unused solar power have been depleted and need time to recharge.
The recharging process requires inverters, which convert your solar panels’ direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) for use in your home or business. The inverters are also responsible for sending excess energy back to the grid through a process called “reverse power flow.”
Grid-tied systems provide a reliable source of electricity while also allowing you to take advantage of net metering and savings on your electric bills. In addition, they offer the benefits of solar energy while still being connected to the grid. Having grid power as a backup can provide peace of mind to homeowners concerned about whether they can generate sufficient solar power to go completely off-grid.
What Is an Off-Grid Solar System?
Off-grid systems are not connected to the electric grid and are instead entirely self-sufficient. As a result, they are often helpful in remote locations where it is not practical or feasible to connect to the grid. They’re also popular among homeowners who want to be completely independent of the grid.
One advantage of off-grid solar systems is that they are not affected by power outages. The solar energy captured by solar panels is converted to electricity and stored in a solar battery (or batteries). Off-grid solar power gives you energy independence. As long as you generate and store sufficient solar power, you’ll have electricity even when the grid goes down. Options like the EcoFlow DELTA Pro Solar Generator allow you to expand your battery and output capacity as your power needs grow.
Older residential off-grid solar power systems typically use deep-cycle lead-acid batteries to store energy from renewable sources. However, lead-acid batteries are becoming obsolete as new technologies using lithium-ion or lithium-iron-phosphate batteries are far more efficient. The price of advanced battery tech like LFP (LiFeP04) continues to fall and is well within the budget of many homeowners.
The solar panels capture the sun’s energy to charge the batteries during the day. The solar battery provides power for your home at night or during periods when your electricity consumption outweighs the amount of solar power you generate.
Many off-grid systems have multiple charging options, such as household AC electricity. Different charging options give you more flexibility to access electricity even when your solar panels are not producing enough energy. However, this backup charging option is typically only for emergencies, as the goal of an off-grid system is to rely primarily on solar panels to generate electricity.
It is important to note that off-grid systems require a considerable investment in battery storage, as they must store enough energy to power your home for several days without sunlight. In addition to the upfront cost, you should also factor in the cost of maintaining and potentially replacing batteries over time.
Off-grid systems with LFP battery technology, like the EcoFlow Power Kits, can run for up to 10 years or more without diminishing efficiency and typically don’t require maintenance.
Set-up for off-grid systems is also much easier since you don’t have to worry about hooking the system up to the electrical grid.
Overall, off-grid systems offer the benefits of independence from the electric grid and protection against power outages. The cost savings of not paying electric bills can be significant, but you also need to consider the initial investment and long-term costs of an off-grid system. Under most circumstances, you will see a positive return on investment (ROI) over time.
Off-grid systems are a good choice for homeowners who want to be completely self-sufficient and are willing to make an upfront investment in solar panels, battery storage, and balance of system.
Considering your electricity consumption needs and the cost of an off-grid solar power system that meets them can help you decide if off-grid solar is right for you.
What Are the Differences Between On-Grid and Off-Grid Solar Systems?
When deciding which type of solar system is right for you, you must carefully consider your specific needs and circumstances. For example, if you live in an area with frequent power outages, an off-grid or hybrid solar system is an excellent choice to ensure a reliable source of electricity. On the other hand, if you want to partially reduce your carbon footprint and save some money on your electricity, an on-grid solar power system could be a solid choice. It may allow you to participate in net metering and can also be more secure in a location that has a reliable electricity infrastructure and doesn’t get much peak sunlight.
Ability to Access Grid Power
Grid-tied homes don’t need to rely exclusively on solar energy. During extended periods of cloudy weather, off-grid systems have the potential to run out of power. On-grid homes can always draw electricity from the utility company as needed.
On-grid systems can pay dividends when the system produces power in excess of your needs. If your utility company supports net metering, sending excess energy back to the grid can make you money. You will typically receive credits on your electric bill for the energy you contribute back to the grid.
Off-grid solar systems provide peace of mind to homeowners who live in areas with a history of power outages or extreme weather. They can continue to have access to electricity even when the grid goes down.
Another advantage of off-grid solar systems is that you do not have to pay electric bills as long as you produce your own power. Eliminating electric bills can be a significant cost saving for homeowners, especially in areas with high electricity rates. You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually by producing your own electricity.
While you will not have to pay electric bills with an off-grid system, they require a significant upfront investment. Luckily, there are many government programs and tax incentives to help defray the initial costs.
Off-grid systems with LFP batteries require little to no maintenance, and solar panels routinely last over 25 years without needing to be replaced. If you’re in it for the long haul, off-grid solar can be an excellent investment—especially as the price of traditional electricity sources like fossil fuels continues to rise.
What About a Hybrid Solar System?
A hybrid solar system combines the benefits of on-grid and off-grid solar. Hybrid systems offer battery storage like off-grid systems but can also connect to the grid. Both battery storage and a grid connection allow you to use the grid as a backup power source when your batteries run low while potentially taking advantage of net metering.
Hybrid systems can provide a reliable source of electricity when the grid is down, or your solar panels are not producing enough energy. The batteries in a hybrid system can store excess solar energy during the day and provide power to your home at night or during periods of low solar production. In addition, the system can draw power from the grid when the batteries run low to ensure a continuous electricity supply.
Hybrid solar systems can be an option for those who want the benefits of both on-grid and off-grid systems. Live in an area with frequent power outages? A hybrid solar system can provide a reliable source of electricity while also allowing you to take advantage of net metering and save on your electric bills. They can also be a good choice for homeowners who want to be as self-sufficient as possible but still want the peace of mind that comes with a grid connection.
The downside is that hybrid solar systems are much more difficult to install and expensive than comparable on-grid or off-grid solutions.
On-grid and off-grid solar systems are viable options for homeowners looking to incorporate solar into their energy mix.
On-grid solar systems may allow you to participate in net metering and save some money on your electric bills.
In contrast, off-grid solar systems offer complete energy independence from ageing infrastructure and protection against power outages.
No matter which option you choose, generating clean, renewable energy, reducing your carbon footprint, and saving on energy costs is a win.
It’s essential to carefully consider your specific needs and circumstances before deciding which type of solar system is right for you.
EcoFlow has a variety of solar products to fit anyone’s needs.