All-solar town (Frieburg – Germany).
Going off the electricity grid appeals to many. An alternative is to retain it – but have the supplier pay you. This article explains all.
Going off the electricity grid – why do it?
If already connected, going off the electricity grid makes no financial sense. Its cost soared in 2018, but due mainly to commercial greed. That rise is unlikely to continue. Consumption is falling as appliances become increasingly more efficient. Apart from rare peaks, many countries have more generating capacity than needed. You can go off-grid – but a better way is to retain that grid connection and have the supplier pay you. We do that right now!
Going off the electricity grid – reliability
A well designed and built solar system is ultra-reliable. We designed and self-built the system shown below in 2000. It is now 2019 – and still works much as when new.
Our previously-owned (3.8 kW) solar array – north of Broome (Western Australia)
Going off the electricity grid – being free of Big Brother
Many consider going off the electricity grid to be free of Big Brother. Whilst it has a ‘feel good factor’ that comes at an extremely high price.
We recently thought hard about doing this for our current home (in Sydney). Instead, we upgraded our system (from 2.4 kW) to 6 kW plus a Telsa 14 kW/h battery. This produces three to four times more electricity than we use on almost all days.
We are thus not entirely free of the grid – but have yet to draw from it. At night, (or when overcast) we run from battery power. During each day we sell 15-30 kWh (at a current 20 cents per kWh). That too is a ‘feel good’ factor.
Even when substantially overcast that 6 kW system still producs enough for our daily needs. The grid provides back-up in case of rare periods of little sun. It may rarely be used, but is far cheaper than any other way of generating your own.
Control centre and battery of our current system in Sydney. It is on-grid but the electricity company pays us.
Going off the electricity grid – is wind power worthwhile?
Small-scale wind-powered electricity generation has its supporters (mainly from vendors selling it).
Small-scale wind power is only worthwhile close to the coast. Its rarely revealed downside is that when wind speed halves, output decreases eight times. Further, most such units develop their claimed maximum output just before wind forces blow them apart. The large systems are fine – but wind-power is not recommended for home systems.
Going off the electricity grid – act as if you were now
Excepting that the cost is recovered inside (in Australia) about ten years, if a reliable grid supply is available, there is currently no financial gain. Unlike grid electricity, however, the cost of solar systems constantly falls. By 2030 it is almost certain to be financially worthwhile. As any good solar system (battery life apart) lasts for at least 25 years – it is thus viable right now.
Regardless of retaining or going off-grid or not, reduce energy usage. Slash heating costs by installing high-efficiency reverse cycle air conditioners used in the winter for heating. The top units produce up to four times the heat energy of the electricity drawn. Installing LEDs lights slashes energy cost four to five times. The latest washing machines work well on their cold water cycle and thus draw far less. A good quality 2019 TV draws under half that of its 2014 equivalent.
Replace any fridge made before 2000. Never have more than one fridge. Two of the same size will draw close to four times the energy (not twice).
Our current (Sydney) solar system produces many times the energy we use. That excess is sold to the grid.
Eliminate ‘phantom loads’ those little boxes (wall warts) that enable remote switching. All draw energy unless switched off at the wall socket outlet. Each draws only a small amount – but each for 24 hours a day. A typical three-bedroom home has over 30 of them. Each draws only a few watts (but 24/7). Collectively they typically account for a third of your usage.
Buy Solar Success. This totally up-to-date book explains all you need to know. It shows how to slash energy use by 30-50%. It will save you countless times its price. If not ask for your money back (no one has yet). You cannot lose – that offer is non-conditional.
Our books are now available in both digital and print format. The digital version can be bought and downloaded right now. Click on Solar Success to order. Our print versions are available from all branches of Jaycar in Australia and New Zealand or ordered from any bookshop in both countries. They may be bought via email from booktopia.com.au.