Electricity: The Off-Grid Idea
The source idea of off-grid living originated from people who were exploring alternative sources of electricity. This “colorful” term has evolved into the description of an alternative lifestyle by now, including much more than electricity sources.
This discussion is however focused on the original idea, namely Off-Grid Electricity supply
The development of solar cells, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, made the whole concept of going off grid much more attractive. Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight into electricity.
Photovoltaic, or PV involves the process of converting light (photons) into electricity (voltage) and this is called the photovoltaic effect. …to me, it is amazing that it is at all possible, but then I am not a solar power engineer 😉
Today it is fairly easy to build your own diy solar power system, or choose to form the many diy solar power kits that are available for sale.
Components of a PV System:
A basic solar power system consists of the following:
– Solar panel stack
– Battery charge controller
– Battery bank
– Solar power friendly lights and other power consuming items.
The questions that always comes to mind when contemplating a diy solar power system, is size, capacity and cost.
There is no best solar power system that you can buy off the shelf for your needs. Each solar power system must be designed and build around a specific consumption need.
How to go about:
Initially one might think of converting the normal household electricity supply as we know it, to solar supply. You will soon find that you will then have to make use of a huge and very expensive solar supply system. The highest electricity consuming items in a normal house is normally everything that make use of a heating element. These include electric hot water cylinders, kettles, stove plates, oven, heaters, toaster and even a hairdryer. Most of these could be replaced with household items that are making use of alternative power sources.
Some alternative power sources that might be considered are:
Hot water cylinder: Change to solar pre-heat system combined with electric geyser / Propane hot water geyser.
Kettle & Stove plates: Change to propane burning stove / Induction cooker / Wood burning stove
Oven: Wood or coal burning oven.
Once these power-hungry items are taken care of, consideration should be given to fridges, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers and all appliances that are making use of an electric motor. Older units tend to consume more power. Find out about the energy consumption of newer appliances and think about what your basic needs are, compared to what you want. Get a fair balance between the two and scale down.
Its getting technical 🙁
The consumption of appliances is normally indicated in Amps.
PV or solar panel systems are rated in Watts.
Batteries specs are given in Volts and AH. …Confusing for the layman, isn’t it?
This is a basic discussion on the topic.
A broader discussion on these technical details can be read in the post: Powering up your off grid freezer / fridge.
The point that I want to close with, is that when you decide on a diy solar system, do your homework properly. You don’t want to end up with an under designed system. On the other hand, these systems can become very costly when you try to cover all your electrical needs that you are used to in the on-grid electrical supply system.
……Some serious electrical use adjustment is necessary when you think of going off-grid.