Solar power systems come with plenty of benefits. First and foremost, you’re saving the environment by switching to solar power. Besides, it doesn’t emit any harmful gasses or carbon dioxide, thus reducing air pollution. Next, it provides you with a near-constant power source, even if you live in cold areas with moderate sunlight. But when it comes to the electric bills, things get interesting. Are you separated from your local utility company using solar power? Well, that’s what this article is here to help you find out.
Off-Grid and On-Grid Living
Getting some panels and installing them does not mean you’re completely disconnected from your utility company. In fact, every single solar power system installing company, including our own Atlantic Key Energy, will offer you plenty of different options. Depending on the connectivity with your utility company, you can either be on-grid or off-grid.
The names themselves are self-explanatory. When someone is on-grid or grid-tied, they connect their system to the overall electrical grid, i.e., they still use some power from the town or city. Off-grid living, on the other hand, means that you have zero connection to the main grid. In a sense, you’re self-sufficient.
Major Differences Between Off-Grid and On-Grid Living
When you live off-grid, you don’t use the main power grid as a source. Instead, you get electricity in two main ways:
- The sun shines onto the solar panels, which convert the energy into electricity.
- The battery bank, or any other storage device, provides you with any electricity it might have stored while it was sunny outside.
As you can see, having these batteries is crucial for any self-sufficient person who wants to live off the grid. If you don’t have these battery banks, you will have no power. In addition, there will be no power on extremely cloudy days or during the night.
On-grid solar power systems involve a connection with the main grid. Your main power source is still the electricity generated through the solar panels or the battery banks. But with on-grid systems, you can always have a reliable source of power during nighttime or if your battery bank has some issues.
Most solar power systems deliberately produce a bit of extra energy due to their design. With an off-grid setup, that extra energy will go directly to your battery banks. Depending on the size of your system and the number of batteries, you can store quite the amount of solar electricity and use it later. However, since the weather is so unpredictable, you might end up without any power several days in a row.
However, if you’re going on-grid, you can actually use the excess power to earn some money, or rather some credit. When your system stores the energy, you can send it directly to the grid. And once you need to use it during windy days, you can draw the same amount of energy you helped store. The electric company will either provide you with credits regarding the energy input or simply lower your bill based on it. In the United States, we call this process net metering, and ¾ of the country is currently employing it.
One massive advantage that off-grid systems have over on-grid systems is reliability during power outages. If there’s nasty weather outside, for example, a storm or heavy snow, the electric grid might go down, and you won’t have any electricity until everything is fixed on their end. Now, with an off-grid system, you can continue to have power during exceptional circumstances since your setup is constantly storing it in the batteries. That’s not the case with on-grid systems, which have to be shut down so that the experts can conduct any needed repairs safely. Naturally, you can remedy this problem by installing additional battery banks in your home.
Most people who research off-grid systems do so wondering if they will have to pay their electric bills. So, if you have a completely off-grid setup, you will not pay a single dollar to the utility company. Still, you might have massive expenses on extra equipment for the system or any potential repairs.
On-grid system owners will still pay their electric bills, but the rate will be much lower than it would without a solar panel setup. For instance, you would still have to pay the so-called service fee, which has a flat rate across the board for any power user. You might also be charged a demand fee, i.e., a fee for the considerable electricity output during the day. Luckily, unlike with service fees, demand fees drop if you switch to solar power and use it during peak hours.