Off the Grid Solar Versus Grid Tie-In Solar

DecisionData Team
October 03, 2019

Once you decide to use solar energy for your household or business, the next big decision to make is whether you will be on or off the grid.  Off the grid is when you are completely powered by your own solar energy. A grid tie in is when you still use solar power for your electricity, but you are also still connected to the power grid.  There are pros and cons to both.

Solar Power Off the Grid

Off-the-Grid Solar Pros

If you decide to be off the grid, you are completely run by the power created by your own solar panels.  This means that you aren’t relying on anyone or anything else for your electricity. You never pay a utility company or get an electric bill.  Once your solar panels and battery are set up and running, you are good to go until the sun burns up. 

There’s little to no chance of experiencing a power outage when you are off the grid.  The only reason that would happen is if your solar panels get severely damaged in some way, which is rare.

You are also saving money by having solar panels in general.  The initial purchase can be a bit of an investment depending on your income, but it is worth it in the long run.  This is especially true if you live somewhere that has high electric costs.

Off-the-Grid Solar Cons

The downside of being off the grid is not having a backup.  If your panels are damaged or your battery stops working for some reason, you will not have electricity.  Completely disconnecting from the power grid takes time, as does getting reconnected. If there is some sort of long-term fluke in your solar power, it is possible that you won’t have access to electricity for a good while.

Another downside to being off the grid is that you could end up wasting power or not having enough power.  Solar panels can convert tons of electricity, much more than a single household typically uses. Of course, some of this energy can be stored in your battery to use at night, but there is still a lot more power available from your panels that you won’t be able to utilize.  On the other hand, if you live in a climate where your solar panels will rarely get direct sunlight and be able to work at max capacity, you might not be able to generate enough power. This depends on the size of your home or business, of course, but is a serious consideration when thinking of going off the grid.

A big con of going off the grid is the cost of batteries.  A battery bank is 40 to 50 percent of the cost you will spend on converting to solar energy.  They can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. While some might consider this a good long-term investment, other won’t think of it that way or won’t be able to afford batteries.

Solar Power with Grid Tie In

Grid Solar Pros

If you choose to use solar energy but stay connected to the power grid, you are all but guaranteeing that you will always have electricity available in your home.  If your panels stop working, you can use the power from the grid. If the power goes out, you can rely on solar energy. You could even have a backup battery in addition to your grid tie in for extreme emergencies like if the grid goes down for a long period of time.

Being tied into the grid can also save you money.  While solar energy is cheaper than the average household’s electric bill in general, on the grid solar users can take advantage of another opportunity to save called net metering.  This is the amount of extra energy your solar panels are producing. Because solar power is so efficient, most places that use it produce way more electricity than they need. This extra energy gets pumped back into the grid to be used wherever it is needed.  You as the owner of the solar panels and basically the creator of that extra energy get credits on your electric bill for the electricity you are providing. You can use these net metered credits to “buy back” energy from the grid when you need it, like at night.

The grid is also a great storage system for solar energy.  It makes sure all of the power being produced is used either by you or by other homes also connected to this grid.  This means that you can potentially spread the environmentally friendly energy around your neighborhood depending on how much your panels produce.  You also aren’t wasting any power. Your panels don’t have to shut down when you don’t need any more electricity in your house or battery because the grid can always hold more power.

Grid Solar Cons

A downside to staying on the grid is that you are still subject to the same blackouts as everybody else during the night.  If the power grid is your only storage source, you won’t have electricity in the dark when it is down. You can have your own battery to store extra power, but most people are either connected to the grid or have their own storage.

Another con is that net metering is not available everywhere.  While solar power is growing in popularity, not every power grid is able to connect with this type of energy.  If you live in a place where solar energy is popular, this should not be an issue for you, but if you are the first person in your area to get solar panels, it is highly unlikely you will get compensated for connecting them to the grid.

A lot of factors go into making the choice between staying on the grid with solar panels and going off of it.  These include location, cost, the amount of energy your panels are able to produce, and more. Whichever you choose, solar power will save you money in the long run and help the environment along the way.