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Pros and cons of off-grid vs hybrid

With a new-build home, you’re overwhelmed with decisions... location, heating, flooring, materials, and much more.

If you’re thinking about long term sustainability and energy efficiency - you’ll want to explore the ins and outs of  renewable energy system. If you're considering solar, you next need to decide between the three types of solar systems: off-grid, grid-tied or hybrid. Choosing the right system means minimising power costs and good return on your investment in the long run. 
While one system type is perfect for some homeowners, it could be bad for others. All systems are beneficial in their own ways, so knowing the facts and benefits of each will help you decide which is right for you. 

In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into the pros and cons of our most common system: the hybrid set-up, and compare it with going off-grid.

Hybrid solar systems: What is it, and what does it mean for homeowners?

A hybrid solar system is grid-tied with battery storage. They come with a special ‘smart’ inverter that can transmit direct current (DC) power to and from your batteries, and channel alternating current (AC) power between the grid and your home when necessary.

Hybrid systems allow for full control over your power, while keeping you grid-connected in case of emergency. 

Key benefits of hybrid systems

Here are some of the perks of a hybrid solar system:

  1. You’ll use less grid electricity than you would with a traditional grid-tied system. While hybrid setups are grid-tied, they come with solar battery storage, which means you can maximise consumption of the power generated from the panels.
  2. A hybrid system is possibly the most expandable, future-ready home solar setup. With some customisable hybrid systems, you can expand capacity by buying more panels or batteries. Hybrid systems may also be compatible with newer solar technologies — for example, an electric vehicle (EV) might function as one of the ‘batteries’ in a hybrid setup. 
  3. For even lower costs, you can use a power management system. These technologies can automatically optimise your power usage. (For example, larger appliances like dishwashers can be switched on during peak daylight hours.) The result: bigger utility savings and a quicker ROI.
Some cons of hybrid systems:

  1. There’s a lot to install upfront, making the initial investment bigger. While you can budget for a smaller battery bank than with an off-grid setup, the cost still needs some thought. Specialised equipment, such as a smart hybrid inverter, adds to the price tag. 
  2. Lots of space might be necessary for the required parts. With grid access, you’re likely not in an isolated rural area - even so, you’ll need space for hybrid solar equipment, including the battery bank and inverters.

Off-grid - what is it, and what does it mean for homeowners?

An off-grid solar system is a solar installation that isn't connected to the utility grid. This means you have to rely on your solar panels to generate all your power, all the time.

With an off-grid system, solar batteries are necessary for storing energy. It’s also smart to budget for a backup generator for extended periods of bad weather in case solar battery storage runs out.

Considering going off the grid? Here are some of the benefits:

  1. You’ll have complete energy independence. No grid connection means freeing yourself from the risk of power outages or fluctuating power costs. As you’re a producer of your own power you get a great amount of freedom... as long as your energy needs are low.
  2. It can be the most eco-friendly and sustainable home energy setup. Without the grid, you can minimise your carbon footprint. Your system won’t contribute to water pollution and greenhouse gases (except rarely, when you might depend on a generator).

Here are some of the cons of going off-grid:

  1. There’s no ‘security’ from using the grid as backup. You can’t rely on grid power during bad weather or if your system needs servicing.
  2. You’ll need more panels and a large capacity batteries if you intend to power an entire home. Batteries and generators are important to have, but they represent higher initial costs. Batteries have limited lifespans and can require maintenance, so those expenses factor in as well.
  3. You’ll have to tightly monitor your energy usage and lifestyle. With off-grid solar, you must use power sparingly. This might require big lifestyle changes, such as using most of your power in the daytime or tightly restricting night-time activities.

Both off-grid and hybrid systems are great ways go solar, but the right choice depends on your unique situation. Clearly, there are many details to consider... which is a lot to handle while you’re busy building your dream home. 

To make it easier, talk to a solar expert who can help you navigate all the issues involved. It’s the most effective way to learn whether off-grid or hybrid solar is best for you. Contact the expert consultants at World Solar today.

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