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As energy costs rise and concerns about the environment grow, homeowners are seeking their own energy solutions. Many homeowners have started installing solar panels to go “off-grid” and reduce their dependence on traditional electricity. Going completely off-grid or creating a stand-alone power system involves more than installing solar panels. Those who accomplish it untether their homes from the standard electrical power grid.
The cost to install an off-grid solar system varies based on your home’s location and the amount of electricity you use each day. The standard home uses a minimum of 7kW of electricity per day, which could require a system of six panels and three batteries. This system ranges from $30,000 to $60,000 to install before tax credits and rebates, with most homeowners spending around $50,000 total. If you have a home in a sunny climate with backup systems installed, you can complete the off-grid process for $20,000. A home in a moderately sunny climate with excessive energy needs may require a 10kW system for $70,000.
|Off-Grid Solar System Costs|
|National average cost||$50,000|
|Average range||$30,000- $60,000|
An off-grid solar system is a multipart setup producing energy for homes or businesses. The system is designed to harness the sun’s energy using solar panels, which are mounted on the roof, a pole near the home, or both. The energy harnessed by the panels charges batteries via a charge controller, and the batteries store the energy until needed. Then, an inverter converts the charge from the batteries into electricity.
Many people use solar panels to offset the cost of electricity, but this does not mean that they have gone off-grid. Using solar energy to offset energy costs means you are still connected to the local power supply and can use it if you need more energy than your panels produce.
To go completely off-grid, your entire home must run on electricity or energy that you produce yourself using solar panels and batteries. Your home cannot use any electricity from the town power supply. Installing solar panels is not enough to be considered off-grid, and most people who use solar energy still rely on electricity from an outside source. To go completely off-grid, you also need a storage system to smooth out energy production and usage over time. Finally, you need a way to transfer energy into the batteries and convert it to electricity.
You can purchase solar systems in many sizes. However, not all of these systems can go off-grid. If you live in a very sunny climate and you have a backup system, you can go off-grid at 3kW or 4kW. The minimum for most homes is 5kW to 7kW, and if you have higher-than-average electricity demands, expect to need at least 10kW.
There are smaller systems, and if you want to go off-grid with them, you need to use them as a supplemental system. Below are the average costs for a range of system sizes:
|System Size||Average Costs (Material Only)|
|1kW||$12,000 - $15,000|
|2kW||$20,000 - $25,000|
|3kW||$30,000 - $35,000|
|4kW||$35,000 - $40,000|
|5kW||$40,000 - $45,000|
|10kW||$70,000 - $80,000|
|20kW||$100,000 - $120,000|
|30kW||$120,000 - $150,000|
You cannot go off-grid with a 1kW solar system with most houses, but having this system may assist you. If you have a tiny house or are using it as a backup system for wind or hydropower, it might be possible to use a 1kW system to complete your off-grid home. Your electricity usage would need to be very small for this system to work. This size system is better for lowering grid dependence rather than getting off it. This system costs around $12,000 to $15,000, including all the panels and batteries required.
2kW systems are also generally too small for people to go off-grid. It may be possible to use a 2kW system with another system to take your home off-grid in very sunny climates. These systems are best suited to reduce energy use while staying on the grid. You need exceptionally low energy usage, a tiny home, or another main system to take your home off-grid with this system size. This system size costs around $20,000 to $25,000, including all parts.
At 3kW, smaller homes can go off-grid in very sunny climates. It would be best to have a good backup system, but you can go off-grid without one. If you live in a moderately sunny climate or have higher energy needs, this system is too small. The majority of homes using this system size are still connected to the grid. A 3kW system costs around $30,000 to $35,000 if you are using it for off-grid or partial off-grid purposes.
At 4kW, it is still probably not enough power for most homes to go off-grid. Small homes in very sunny climates can go off-grid with a 4kW system. If you have higher than average energy usage, you may need a backup system. Likewise, if you live in a moderately sunny climate. 4kW systems cost around $35,000 to $40,000 for off-grid or partial off-grid use.
The average home located in a very sunny climate can easily use a 5kW system to go off-grid. A smaller-than-average home with a backup system could also go off-grid with a 5kW solar system in a moderately sunny area. At this size, the system can generate sufficient power for most homes. If you have excessive energy needs, it may still be too small. A 5kW system costs around $40,000 to $45,000 for off-grid use.
Nearly any home size in a moderately sunny climate can go off-grid with a 10kW system. This system is also large enough for average-sized homes with higher-than-average energy needs. This is a good system if you do not want to invest heavily in a backup system but want to go off-grid with just solar power. For some homes, this system easily provides everything you need, provided you get enough sun. These systems cost around $70,000 to $80,000.
If you live in a lower sun area, have excessively high energy needs, or want to eliminate the need for a backup system, a 20kW system can do that. These systems are often much larger than what the average homeowner needs. However, if you want to ensure independence from the grid, this system achieves that. At this size, you may have more panels than a standard roof can hold, meaning alternative mounting. The costs for a system this size start at $100,000 to $120,000, including all parts and components.
If you want to run a business off-grid, such as a farm or ranch with extensive energy needs, you need a commercial-sized system. At 30kW, you can meet your commercial needs while staying off-grid. With any commercial system, make sure you have a backup system. Likewise, ensure you have a moderately sunny or predominately sunny climate. These systems cost between $120,000 and $150,000 for all parts and components.
|Type||Average Costs (Material Only)|
|Only DC||$6,000 - $10,000|
|Mixed DC and AC||$10,000 - $50,000|
|AC with Wind||$20,000 - $80,000|
|AC Solar||$30,000 - $60,000|
|AC System with Back-up Generator||$40,000 - $70,000|
Most traditional solar systems are DC or direct current systems. They do not use inverters or batteries but supply power to your home. If you use a DC-only solar system and want to go off-grid, you need a tiny home or cabin with very few electricity needs. This system can power lights and a few small appliances. If there is no sun, there is no electricity because there are no batteries to store power. They cost between $6,000 and $10,000 on average.
A mixed DC and AC (alternating current) system can be used if you have more electrical needs than a DC system can handle but do not want a fully involved system. With this system, you can use fewer panels and batteries to power more heavy-duty appliances than a stand-alone DC system. This system is designed for low energy usage, but you still have batteries to provide electricity when the sun is not out. With this system, you still need a backup system. Expect to pay between $10,000 and $50,000, depending on the system size you need.
If you do not want a large solar-only system, use an AC solar system with a wind generator. In this case, you can scale down your solar array and use wind as your backup system. This is ideal for areas without consistent sun and frequent winds. When the AC system is down, the wind system generates electricity. Both use batteries and inverters. Expect to pay between $20,000 and $80,000, depending on the system size.
An AC solar system is great if you want to go off-grid with solar energy. You need a full array of panels, several batteries, and an inverter to convert from DC to AC. The system needs to be large enough for your needs, which depends on sunlight and energy usage. For most who use solar energy off-grid, choose this system with at least 7kW. Costs range from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the size.
This is the most common setup for homes that use solar power off-grid. The AC system is sized to handle the entire load of the home. The backup generator is there in case of a prolonged period of little to no sun. It is also there as a standby system in an emergency because the propane it needs can be expensive. If there has not been enough sun for the system to store for several days, the backup system kicks in to meet the home’s needs. Expect costs for this setup to range from $40,000 to $70,000 on average.
Going completely off-grid means adding several components to your system to make sure it functions. If you use an AC setup and solar to power your home’s electrical needs, you need more than the panels. You also need the batteries, inverter, and charge controllers for each battery. If you choose to use a backup energy source, such as a generator or wind power, you have additional costs. If you use a DC system with another main system as your primary power source, you do not need inverters, batteries, or controllers, only the panels.
|Component||Average Costs (Material Only)|
|Solar Panels||$10,000 - $18,000|
|Solar Batteries||$4,000 - $14,000|
|Solar Inverter||$7,000 - $8,000 each|
|Solar Charge Controller||$550 - $600 each|
|Alternative Energy Source||$4,500 - $11,000|
Solar panels make up the bulk of off-grid system costs. This component harnesses the sun’s energy and starts the production of electricity. The number of panels, cells, and type of cells vary, depending on your location and needs. Expect to pay around $10,000 to $18,000 just for the panels. Most solar off-grid homes need a solar panel array. This is a set of several panels designed to meet your home’s energy needs.
The batteries make it possible for a home to go off-grid. They collect excess energy and store it for later. This stored energy powers your home at night and when the sun’s energy is insufficient. Batteries cost between $4,000 - $14,000 for each installation. Several battery types can be used as a backup system with on-grid setups, but going off-grid can currently only be reliably achieved with flooded lead-acid batteries (FLA) and lithium-ion batteries.
|Type of Solar Battery||Average Costs (Material Only)|
|Lead Acid (FLA)||$4,000 - $6,000|
|Lithium-ion||$12,000 - $14,000|
Lead-acid was once the only type of battery for solar power. They came in two types - sealed and flooded. Sealed is a safer and lower maintenance type of battery, but it has less depth of charge and cannot work for full-time use. Flooded batteries are more maintenance, and they do not last as long, so you need to replace them more often. However, they are less expensive than lithium-ion batteries, lowering upfront costs. They cost between $4,000 and $6,000 on average.
Lithium-ion batteries are the most recommended battery for off-grid systems. They are safer than FLA batteries and do not require maintenance. It lasts much longer, so you do not have to replace them two or more times like an FLA battery. Lithium-ion batteries are smaller and take less space. However, they cost much more, between $12,000 and $14,000. You only need 2 of these batteries versus 8 of the others.
The inverter converts solar energy into electricity. The required type, size, and number of inverters depend on the number of panels, number of batteries, and amount of electricity you need. The energy produced by your solar panels needs to convert from DC to AC to be effective and stored. The inverter does this, making the energy usable, and the more energy you have, the more inverters you need. Costs range from $7,000 to $8,000 but can go higher, depending on usage.
The solar charge controller charges your batteries. The batteries cannot handle the energy on their own at this time. The charge controller helps convert the energy into a storable form. Each battery needs its own controller, with costs of around $550 to $600 each. You may have 2 to 8 batteries in your home, depending on the type of battery you have and the system size you need.
Prolonged periods of insufficient sunlight or other issues may cause your system to fail, so you need a backup or alternative energy source. Some people like to install hydro or wind turbines, which cost between $6,000 and $11,000. Others prefer to use a backup generator, which can be powered by propane and costs around $4,500 to $9,000.
Labor costs make up a large percentage of the total cost to install an off-grid system. The cost to map out the best position for the panels, install the panels and batteries, connect the various components, and get the system up and running comes out to about 10% of the system’s complete cost. For a $50,000 system, the labor portion is usually around $5,000. However, many companies roll labor costs into the overall package rather than pricing it out separately.
Labor costs vary depending on several things. These include the general layout or setup, if your roof requires additional reinforcement to support the panels, the pole type for mounting the panels, and the project’s size.
5kW systems can meet the needs of smaller homes with average energy use in a moderately sunny climate. They can reduce grid dependency in larger homes or work with a backup system for larger homes going off-grid. A 5kW solar system includes an array of panels, inverters, batteries, and controllers. This is a whole-house system, so it requires space inside and outside. These systems typically cost $40,000 to $45,000, with installation usually included for an additional $4,000.
The number of panels in your system is tied to your home’s power needs. The average off-grid home requires 7kW if you do not want to rely on a backup system or if you live in a very sunny climate. To produce 7kW for this home, you need 27 solar panels. This is an array. The panels may not be fixed to your roof because there are too many to fit. Arrays may be fastened on poles nearby or partly on a roof.
Many factors determine the system type and size to go completely off-grid. These include location, sunlight, home size, and your average energy usage.
Your daily energy usage varies, depending on the time of year. For example, your daily usage in March may look different than in July, when you have an air conditioner running.
Calculate your total energy usage to establish the size and number of panels you need. Also, factor in your location. This solar calculator from Energy Sage helps you determine your solar energy requirements. Once you decide on the number of kilowatts needed per day, calculate the number of panels and batteries needed.
Many people going off-grid choose more than one energy source. This is a good idea because you have a backup system in case of failure. Hybrid systems may include wind and solar or solar with a backup generator. The total system cost depends on the hybrid type, home size, and your power needs. Expect costs to range from $20,000 to $80,000 on average for a hybrid solar system.
If you plan on going off-grid in an RV or for a small cabin, you can use a solar energy kit. These kits have at most 1kW, and most have much less. They can handle low energy needs and can be used in conjunction with another system if you want to go off-grid in a larger home. The following brands make small kits that can be purchased as one unit. If you plan on going off-grid in a full-sized home, you want a custom setup.
|Brand||Average Costs (Material Only)|
|WindyNation||$500 - $1,000|
|Eco-Worthy||$1,500 - $2,000|
|Renogy||$4,000 - $7,000|
If you are looking for a small supplemental system or package for an RV or boat, consider the solar kits from WindyNation. These are very small kits capable of handling the energy needs of an RV when off-grid. They can run appliances, charge devices, and electricity without a hookup. You can purchase some pieces individually too. Their small kits run $500 to $1,000 on average.
Eco-Worthy is another good system for going off-grid in your RV or boat. They also offer kits to help you get off-grid in a small cabin, but they work best as a supplemental system. They are not designed for powering the entire house. These are fairly small kits, but they offer a good depth of charge, so you get a lot of energy out of one full charge. They are good for areas with moderately sunny weather. Kits cost $1,500 to $2,000 on average.
Renogy off-grid kits are made for small cabins and vacation homes. They do not meet everyday needs, but they are a good choice if you want to go off-grid for the weekend. They power most appliances and generate the electricity typically used for a short stay. They are not designed for longer use or full-house power. They cost between $4,000 and $7,000 on average.
Most currently installed home solar systems are considered on-grid. These systems offset traditional electricity usage but do not replace it. With an on-grid system, you remain connected to your local utility company. Your system may or may not have batteries. When the system cannot meet the electricity demands of your household, you use purchased electricity.
With an off-grid solar system, your home’s electricity is completely dependent on the power you produce. When you disconnect your home from the local power grid, you likely need backup power like a generator in case of an emergency.
On-grid systems are usually less expensive. Most people spend around $18,000 - $20,000 for an on-grid solar panel system versus the $50,000 it costs to go entirely off-grid.
Once they are installed, off-grid solar systems are easy to maintain. They need to be kept clean, and the batteries, inverters, and controllers must be replaced every 5 to 11 years. The body only needs cleaning once every few years. Scheduling a checkup once every 3 years and replacing the parts as needed is necessary to keep it running properly.
Not every home is right for solar energy. Some homes are too shady, or the climate may not be ideal, making the installation and system costs prohibitively expensive. The ideal candidates have good sun exposure and above-average energy needs. They also have occupants who intend to stay in the home long enough to see the financial benefits of reduced or eliminated energy bills.
Like any project, installing an off-grid solar system has positives and negatives to consider. Off-grid solar systems have high start-up costs, but tax rebates and credits are available to lower costs. These systems also eliminate your monthly electric bill, saving money long-term. Furthermore, while traditional energy costs continue to rise, your system’s costs remain constant.
If you live or want to build in a rural area where electrical lines do not reach, an off-grid solar system allows for many modern amenities that would be impossible without electricity.
Going off-grid can also be better for the environment because many areas use fossil fuels to produce their electricity, contributing to climate change.
On the other hand, going off-grid means anticipating all potential electricity needs ahead of time and making sure your system can handle them. Electricity needs can fluctuate throughout the year. You may have to install a larger, costlier system than you originally planned for.
If you go off-grid for electricity, you may still have other utilities connected to the grid. If you eliminate those too, you may find that you have higher insurance costs or that your home is no longer insurable. You should speak to your home insurance agent to find out more before you begin going off-grid.
Going off-grid can come with some complications. While a solar system can help to cover your needs for energy, and you can rely on the likes of wells to get water, chickens and gardens for food, and septic tanks for waste management, one aspect of life that is difficult to maintain in an off-grid environment is internet access.
The internet is a key part of life for many people in more ways than one. It allows us to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as being essential for many people's jobs. Some people say that going truly 'off-grid' means that you have to give up on internet access, but there are many people who live off-grid in a lot of ways but still stay online for personal or professional reasons.
Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to keep your internet access while living off the grid, and there are a few possible ways you can stay online without having to have wires and cables connected directly to your own house.
One option you might consider for off-grid internet is satellite internet. There aren't many companies offering satellite internet at the moment, but the popularity of this service is rising in certain rural areas. The average cost of satellite internet ranges from $50 to $150 per month.
If you're living in an area that still gets cell phone coverage, you can simply invest in a cell plan that gives you unlimited data or a sufficient amount of data to be able to carry out your usual online activities. This lets you use your phone as your main internet access point, which is useful for keeping in touch with loved ones. Unlimited data plans tend to cost between $50 and $120 per month.
If you're looking for a more affordable way to stay online, you can also access the internet via free-to-use public Wi-Fi hotspots in various places like food fast restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, parks, and so on.
Your batteries last between 5 and 11 years on average. Keep an eye on how much they are holding so that you know when to replace them. A battery monitor keeps track of the battery’s health so that you are not caught unaware. They cost around $100 on average.
If you live in a lightning-prone area, you need to install a surge suppressor on your system. If a lightning strike occurs, solar systems can get easily overwhelmed and malfunction. A suppressor grounds the excess energy so that the system does not overload. Suppressor costs start at around $1,000.
If you are living off-grid, you need a septic tank. You do not rely on any outside utilities, including waste management. A septic tank requires pumping and maintenance, but it is still not a fully dependent system. The average cost of a new septic tank and leach field is around $10,000 to $25,000.
If you want to be self-reliant, you may want to look into starting a chicken coop and a garden. Chicken coops can give you access to daily fresh eggs. You can raise chickens for meat as well. Gardens give you fresh vegetables, which can be stored. The average cost of building a chicken coop is around $650.
To have running water on your off-grid property, you need to drill a well and install an electric pump. If you have a ground spring on your property, you can dig a well about 10 - 15 feet deep. Otherwise, you need to drill at least 50 feet or more. The cost of drilling a well and installing an electric pump is around $7,000 to $10,000.
Composting or compostable toilets are designed to naturally dispose of human waste with significantly less water than regular toilets. The waste gets mixed with a substance like wood shavings or peat moss, and most composting toilets don't need any water at all. They make use of natural processes to transform waste into compost which can then be used on the land to help make it more fertile.The costs of composting toilets can vary quite a lot. You can even potentially make your own basic composting toilet for $50 to $150, but if you want a professionally made one, you'll need to pay between $500 and $1,800, on average.
Growing your own food is also a key part of going off-grid, as it allows you to simply live off the land and step right out into your backyard whenever you need fresh ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. A greenhouse is essential in many climates for growing different kinds of plants, helping to keep them safe from the elements while still providing the light and warmth they need to thrive. Building a greenhouse can cost between $1,000 and $35,000, depending on various factors like the size and type of greenhouse you choose to build. Small and simple greenhouses can be constructed quite cheaply, whereas bigger greenhouses with more elegant designs, tougher frames, and stronger insulation can cost much more.
If you want to have your own swimming pool for exercise and recreation, without the need for complex chemicals and machines, you can create your own natural pool at a cost of between 70,000. Various factors can influence the price, such as size, materials, and features.
This depends on location, home size, and energy usage. Expect to need at least 7kW per day.
On-grid systems rely on purchased energy when the sun’s energy is not enough. Off-grid systems are larger, have batteries for storing energy, and do not rely on outside energy sources.
Yes, you can. Make sure your system is large enough to suit your needs and location.
The setup cost can be very high, depending on the location and amount of energy you use. Also, the sun’s energy is not constant or consistent. You must produce more energy than you need on sunny days to have enough stored up for cloudy days.
This depends on the amount of sun, but expect between 12 and 28kW per day of AC power.
Yes it is possible to live off the grid legally, and many of the aspects of off-grid living are completely legal. However, it's important to do your research as laws can vary from state to state and certain zoning restrictions and property regulations can complicate the situation.
Yes, in most cases, you'll need to get a permit to build any kind of dwelling or structure, even on your own land and even if you're living off-grid. Your structures must also meet building codes. You may also need permits for other parts of your off-grid home, like the septic tank.