What does it take to go "Off-Grid"?
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Over the years, Morton Solar has been asked by countless customers to ‘unplug’ from the grid. More often than not, the customer is merely asking to be ‘net-zero’ energy, which we have been doing for homes and businesses since our founding. In fact, Morton Solar is nationally recognized for some of the first net-zero buildings in nation such as the Chrisney Public Library and Richardsville Elementary School. Knowing the difference between going 'off-grid' and being 'net-zero' is crucial. Making a home or business ‘net-zero’ energy is relatively easy when the utility company offers ‘net-metering’ which essentially allows you to use the power grid for your battery. However, completely unplugging a home or building from the grid is a very different matter.
Going "off-grid" takes involved engineering of not only the solar system and battery bank, but the home’s HVAC, appliances, and critical loads center. Some things to keep in mind when you are considering living "off-grid" is that you normally can’t do it with just solar energy alone. You will need a combination of solar panels AND either natural gas or propane. Reason being, it's very difficult to operate electrical resistance heating loads off of battery banks. These loads typically require a lot of current and can drain most battery banks quickly. For this reason, we recommend that furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, and cooking stoves be converted to natural gas. These types of loads are more efficient and cost-effective when using propane or natural gas as a fuel.
Converting heating loads to propane, natural gas, or wood is also ideal because the sun is least available when you need it for heat in the winter months. Those cloudy periods in December and January can be a problem for solar energy production in winter. For example, if you were solely reliant on your solar panels during an ice storm, you wouldn't be ecstatic to be scraping snow and ice on the following day for survival. Propane, Natural Gas, or a generator are crucial for these cloudy periods. Morton Solar is a Cummins Power Generation dealer and we recommend the Cummins product to all of our customers, both off-grid and on.
Battery technology has improved dramatically and storage cost per KWH has decreased c in recent years. The Lithium Ion battery is currently winning the race in being the most effective, and advancing technology on the storage market. Tesla has made some of the most significant research and product-refinement contributions to the Lithium Ion battery in the industry, and it's only fitting that Tesla has the most refined Lithium Ion product: the Powerwall, with the best features and capabilities. To learn more about the Powerwall, stay tuned for our next blog post!