Towards Self-Sufficiency: How Off-Grid Solar Works

As governmental surveillance grows more oppressive and violent crime rates continue to grow in urban environments, living off-grid becomes increasingly appealing. But the lifestyle is not for the faint of heart: Along with possessing plenty of strength, grit, and determination, there are also logistics to consider if you want to go off-grid. One of your primary off-grid considerations involves finding sources of power. 

It may seem counterintuitive to have electricity while living off-grid, but alternative energy sources provide an ideal way to stay connected to modern society while also steering clear of it. How’s that for a win-win?

Solar power is one of the more popular forms of renewable energy, and installing a solar energy system on your property is a smart way to increase your self-sufficiency. And the solar energy industry has come a long way in recent years — where previously, solar panels were heavy and bulky, solar roof tiles offer a lightweight and compact alternative. Further, solar shingles can be customized to better fit the shape and size of your home’s roof, as well as your estimated energy needs. 

No matter the size and energy output of your desired solar energy system, however, planning and foresight are integral to the process. Whether you’re already living off-grid or want to work up from on-grid solar to complete self-sufficiency, you should have at least a basic grasp of what you’re getting into. What’s more, it’s important to understand how renewable energy can positively offset your carbon footprint, as well as save you money in the long run.

The Modern Off-Grid Movement

The definition of off-grid is relatively self-explanatory; when you live off the grid, it means that your home isn’t tied to any particular city or township grid, one which provides amenities including potable water and electricity — and that’s how humans lived for thousands of years. In a way, the off-grid movement is paying homage to a bygone era, but with a modern twist.

Many attribute the contemporary off-grid movement to the “hippie” counterculture of the late-1960s, but the movement is much more nuanced. While environmentalism remains a cornerstone principle of off-grid living, especially as we continue to see the effects of climate change, off-grid living can also be about fighting against capitalism, technological dependence, and/or Big Brother. Those living off the grid typically must learn to survive without many of the modern conveniences most of us take for granted. 

An anti-capitalist mindset combined with a minimalist off-grid lifestyle may be in your best interest financially, as you’re likely to shell out less money overall. And in the realm of solar power, you may even qualify for tax credits. There are a number of specific types of projects that are allowed under the residential renewable energy tax credit guidelines. The tax credits can only be claimed for energy-efficient improvements to your primary residence, for example, and a solar energy system installation would certainly qualify.

Harnessing Renewable Energy

In part due to tax credits, renewable energy has experienced a popularity explosion in recent years, as more and more Americans look to reduce their carbon footprint. Whether you live off-grid or remain tied to it, you can still reap the benefits of renewable energy. And there are a number of renewable energy solutions for your home, from wind turbines and hydropower to solar energy.

In the U.S., solar is the top dog when it comes to renewable energy, and its popularity continues to grow. In fact, the installation of solar energy systems has increased 10% year over year, according to realty professionals. The overall U.S. solar energy infrastructure has the capacity to power 12.7 million homes. Those numbers do not include existing off-grid solar systems across the U.S., which are also known as stand-alone power systems (SAPS).

No matter its capacity, a SAPS is comprised of a few basic components. In an off-grid system, solar panels made from photovoltaic (PV) cells generate DC energy from the sun. Next, that DC energy travels to the solar inverter, where it is converted into AC electricity for use in your home. In an off-grid system, you’ll also need something that your counterparts tied to a municipal grid do not: Batteries where excess energy is stored. 

Self-Sufficiency and Being Prepared for Anything

Even the most advanced solar energy systems aren’t infallible, and you must be prepared for the error contingency. What happens in the event of a system malfunction, for instance, or when your area experiences a prolonged bout of cloudy days? It’s a good idea to invest in a backup generator before problems start, or in the event of a natural disaster. You don’t even have to give up solar energy as many newer generator models can be charged via solar panels.

The process of choosing a backup generator is similar to that of designing a solar energy system. For starters, you’ll have to determine your power needs, measured in wattage. You should consider whether you’ll require a transfer switch, a device that essentially serves the same purpose as the inverters within your off-grid solar power system. 

Committing to a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle

The good news is that living a self-sufficient lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to go off-grid. Even if you live in a suburb or metropolitan area and living off-grid is just a pipe dream, you can still maintain a certain degree of self-sufficiency. Just make sure that you understand the relevant laws and regulations in your area before installing solar panels. 

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