Most solar electric systems that you see around are what’s called grid-tie, meaning that they’re tied into the power grid. They have advantages, primarily financial. One major disadvantage to a grid-tie system (with no battery back-up) is that when the grid is down from a storm or other type of outage, your power is down also.
One solution to that is a smaller, personal solar system with battery storage. In this type of system (battery-based off-grid), when the grid goes down, your power is not affected. There are limitations to this type of system. It would take a lot of batteries to be able to power an entire typical American house day and night. But having the ability to charge small devices and power tools, power a radio or other emergency communication equipment and a few lights, can make that dreaded power outage much easier to bear, or perhaps even go unnoticed, depending on your lifestyle.
I recently interviewed Joe Yoder of Tiny Solar Vermont for my podcast. Joe creates small solar power systems for folks with no grid power available (think camps, tiny houses, yurts, and sheds), or for people with unreliable grid power, or for those who just want to dabble in solar! TSV’s most expensive ready-to-go solar system currently sells for $ 707.84 – cheaper than most generators. Custom designs for the DIY-minded can get larger and more expensive.
Joe cautions that appliances that use a lot of power day and night, such as refrigerators and electric heaters, are not a great match for this type of solar system. But many of your daily power needs can be supplied by a small personal system with a panel installed on a roof, balcony, wooden stand, etc. Some folks even move the panel around during the day to catch better sun.
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