How People Are Using Solar to Live Off the Grid in the US

Guest contribution by Tim Smith,

For some people, living off the grid is a conscious decision; given the choice between energy independence and an electricity bill, they get all the energy they need from a free, renewable, environmentally-friendly source. For others, living off the grid might be the only choice.

Whether you’re a suburban dreamer with green inclinations or a forest-dweller living off the land, a solar photovoltaic array of sufficient size could conceivably source all the energy that you need from the sun so that you’re no longer tethered to a local grid. Or, conversely, so you can have some electricity in that rugged mountainside cabin of yours. Here’s how people are using solar energy to live completely off the power grid.

A Sufficient Solar Energy System

The first step to living off the grid is to determine what size solar photovoltaic array you need to ensure your system can provide all the energy you need plus extra for breathing room. According to an estimate by the United States Energy Information Administration, the average American home uses 903 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity each month, which is roughly 30 kWh per day. In short, the average American household needs a solar energy system that can provide more than 30 kWh of energy per day.

Via Simple Solar Homesteading

You could require more energy to power your fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer, cell phones, computers, televisions, and other power-hungry devices. Additionally, there’s a difference between the amount of energy generated and the energy available for use. There’s a loss in energy when it’s converted from energy stored in the battery into usable AC power. In other words, your solar energy system has to generate more energy than what you need to account for the loss.

These and the many other considerations are why many have have professionals assess the energy requirements of their homes to find the solar energy system that best fits their needs. If your solar system doesn’t provide sufficient power, you risk intermittent blackouts until your system can generate more usable power or having to rely on the local grid and noisy generators to supplement your solar energy system.

Living the Solar Lifestyle

Living off the grid requires you to be conscious of your energy consumption and make efforts to conserve. However, off-grid living doesn’t mean you can’t own or watch television, listen to your stereo, or use a hairdryer after a shower; you can still enjoy your electronics and gadgetry and keep your same everyday routine while using solar energy, but certain lifestyle adjustments or tweaks will ensure that your living off the grid is a success.

Appliances plugged into an outlet should be routed into surge protectors and power strips that can be switched off whenever you go to bed or leave the house. This prevents devices from continuing to consume power while they’re turned off and not being used, which is sometimes referred to as “trickling”. Making sure lights, televisions, and computers aren’t left on even when they’re not in use also conserves energy so your well of power doesn’t run dry.

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