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Cost of Off-Grid Solar System

By Benjamin Strusnik September 09, 2022

The cost of an off-grid solar system depends on which components you want to include in your system.

Some components are cheaper than others, but that tends to come with a drop in quality.

We’re going to break down the price of the individual components in an off-grid solar system, as well as give a brief description of each component.

Before we can begin thinking of how our off-grid solar system will work, we need to have a look at all the off-grid solar system components that make up such a system.

Off-grid Solar System

off the grid solar system cost

In an off-grid solar system, all the power generated and used in your home comes from on-site solar panels and batteries.

These kinds of systems aren’t connected to the local utility grid, meaning you can’t take advantage of net metering and sell the electricity you generate back to the grid.

Morning

The solar panels in your system generate power to meet the home’s energy requirements, especially in the morning.

Users who aren’t careful with their electricity usage in the morning will find themselves without enough power when they wake up.

It also doesn’t help if you have power-hungry appliances installed around the house and use them simultaneously in the morning.

Afternoon

The afternoon sees the solar panels reaching their maximum output and when the energy needs are at an all-time low.

Any surplus energy not being used at this time is sent to the batteries so that they can charge.

This is the time when the previously mentioned power-hungry appliances should be used as the solar panels are receiving the most exposure to the sun.

As the sun sets, solar panel output decreases but it doesn’t halt energy production completely. 

So if your batteries haven’t fully charged yet, there should be enough energy during the late afternoon to ensure that they do.

off grid solar system cost

Evening

Once the evening comes, solar panel output drops to zero and this is the time when power usage is generally high. Family members are returning home and want to make use of their appliances.

This means your batteries need to do the job of keeping your house powered during the night, finishing the solar cycle.

Having the best off-grid solar system means you need the necessary components, and you need to know the prices.

So far, we’ve covered the battery and solar panel, but other costs include the inverter, solar charge controller, and installation fees.

Let us go over the costs.

Price of a Solar Panel

The price of one of the key components of the off-grid solar system – the solar panel – varies depending on the wattage as well as the materials they’re made from.

Types of Solar Panels and Their Prices

When it comes to off-grid solar systems, the solar panels used can either be polycrystalline or monocrystalline.

We’re not going to cover thin-film as an option, since they’re more for smaller, portable off-grid solar systems like you would use for an RV.

Polycrystalline

how much does an off grid solar system cost

Polycrystalline solar panels have a lower efficiency rating than monocrystalline, clocking in between 13% and 16%.

This means that they aren't as space-efficient, producing less power per square foot compared to monocrystalline panels.

Polycrystalline solar panels are also cheaper to produce making them cheaper to purchase.

You can find a polycrystalline panel in the price range of $180 and $230 with the price increasing as the wattage increases.

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline panels have the highest efficiency rating, reaching upwards of 20%. So, these panels will produce more power per square foot.

While they are the most efficient, they are also the most expensive, clocking in anywhere between $250 and $400.

For example, a 200W Monocrystalline solar panel is around $240.

Most home solar panel kits used for off-grid systems contain monocrystalline solar panels, so buying a panel in a package would be cheaper than buying the individual components.

how much does an offgrid solar system cost

How Many Solar Panels are Needed

You need to size your solar system before figuring out how many solar panels you would need to purchase.

The calculation begins by looking at your monthly electric bill. From this, you need to find your kilowatt hours used per month. This is normally found at the bottom of your power bill.

You should add up your kWH over a fixed number of months (usually a year, since that covers the changes in seasons too). Then, divide it by the same number to get your average monthly use. 

The next step is to check how many sun hours you receive every month. This can be determined by viewing a sun hour map online. This value should be multiped by 30 days.

You then need to use the derate factor of 0.77 to account for electrical losses that occur during the conversation phase. Some power will be lost once the system converts DC to AC.

The size of the solar system will then be determined by taking the kWh per month, dividing it by the sun hours per month multiplied by the derating factor.

You will end up with the total KW needed to offset an electricity bill. Multiply this value by 1000 to get the watts.

So, if you end up with 6,000W, you divide this by the 200W solar we mentioned before, and you get the value of 30.

In other words, you’re going to need a solar panel array made up of 30 200W solar panels if you want to meet the power requirements of your home.

If you are using 200W monocrystalline solar panels, having 30 of these adds up to around $6,000.

how much offgrid solar systems cost

Price of a Battery

Similarly, to solar panels, the price of a battery depends on the type you use for your system. The two most common batteries used for off-grid solar systems would be lead-acid and lithium-ion.

Lead-acid Batteries

The first lead acid battery is known as a wet cell or flooded battery, and it’s the cheapest battery you can get for an off-grid solar system. They cost around $80 but be cautious with your purchase.

These batteries require time-consuming maintenance like regular equalization checks. They also require ventilation as they’re known to produce hydrogen gas.

The other lead acid battery that people turn to once their wet cell battery gives in is AGM, or Absorbant Glass Mat battery.

These cells are placed between two pieces of fiberglass meaning that less maintenance would be required since the battery is sealed.

They offer more charge cycles than wet cells while being lightweight. Where they don’t excel is the ability to repair them.

These batteries are so difficult to repair that you’re better off buying a new battery, but constantly having to purchase new batteries means you are going to be breaking the bank.

AGM batteries are priced at around $125, making them slightly pricier than wet cells but overall better quality.

However, one battery that is not lead acid is commonly found in most off-grid solar system designs

Lithium-ion Batteries

cost of off grid solar systems

These batteries are considered to be the best of the best when it comes to an off-grid solar system.

Where lead-acid batteries require constant maintenance and ventilation, these batteries are the safest and the most reliable.

They are designed to have more charge cycles than any lead acid battery. This means you will not constantly need to buy more or worry about it dying on you sooner than expected.

Lithium-Ion batteries have features like a built-in battery management system that monitors the health and performance of the battery.

Another feature would be the battery shutting off once it becomes too hot. This prevents it from burning out or overheating.

These batteries outweigh the lead acid in terms of quality and overall features, so that means they will be more expensive.

They cost around $5000, more than 10 times the price of a lead-acid option. However, the features and quality make for it.

Price of Solar Charge Controller

offgrid solar system cost

The solar charge controllers are necessary for regulating the power that’s sent to the battery. 

Just like before, there are choices or types of solar charge controllers, each with different prices.

The two primary options are MPPT and PWM Solar charge controllers.

PWM Controller Price

These controllers generally have a conversion efficiency rate of around 75% and are the cheaper option of the two.

If you’re using a single 300W or two 100W solar panels connected in series for your off-grid system, these controllers are perfect.

They’re not designed to be used in solar systems powering entire homes and are instead geared towards smaller systems.

These controllers go for around $25 a piece and are often paired with lead-acid batteries, making for a more budget-friendly off-grid solar system.

It's not uncommon to see these controllers used in outback off-grid solar systems, but it's more common to see it in the smaller setups.

However, opting for the cheaper choices means you’ll run into problems with maintenance and efficiency.

MPPT Controller Price

These solar charge controllers are the more efficient option, having a conversion efficiency rating of around 95%.

What makes these controllers more expensive is their ability to be connected between a battery and a solar panel, each with different voltages.

With PWM, you want to make sure that the voltages are the same or somewhat close. Otherwise, they aren’t as effective.

This means that MPPT controllers are more efficient and there isn’t a need to connect multiple MPPTs.

They come in at around $200 and you only need to buy one so that ends up being cheaper than buying multiple PWMs and connecting them in series.

Inverter

cost of off-grid solar system

The final piece of the puzzle is the inverter. They convert direct current coming from the battery into alternating current.

This means you can power the AC appliances in your home along with with the batteries.

They also track the solar system’s voltage, maximizing the power at which systems can operate under the safest conditions.

The two common types of inverters are string inverters and micro inverters.

The former is mounted onto a wall and converts the energy from a string of panels commonly found in residential areas.

Micro inverters are installed on the back of the solar panels. This means that the power coming from each panel exists independently from the other panels.

A standard string inverter can range anywhere from $600 to $6,000 depending on its amperage and size.

Total Cost

Now that we’ve broken down the prices of the individual solar system components, let’s look at the total cost.

For these prices, we’re going to assume that the off-grid solar system we’re building is meant for a typical US home.

An array of 30 200W monocrystalline solar panels will cost you around $6,000.  

Assuming we want to have the best picks of all our components, we’re going to take a lithium-ion phosphate battery. So that’s another $5000.

For the charge controller, we’ll use the MPPT solar charge controller, which is around $200.

We’re also going to use a standard string inverter, specifically the MPP Solar LV2424, the all-in-one, 80A inverter that goes for around $650.

off-grid solar system cost

Finally, we need to consider installation fees. 

This isn’t a fixed price as different contractors give you quotes and suggestions. Depending on the contractors you work with, you could end up paying under $1,000 or above $4,000.

We aren’t going to include the labor costs so with everything added together, the total is around $12,000.

Purchasing the components individually is always more expensive than buying home solar panel kits.

Solar Panel Packages

When it comes to installing an off-grid solar system, to ensure that you get all the components you need, you can’t go wrong with a solar panel package or kit.

The complete off-grid solar kit from Shop SolarKit.com includes everything you need. 12 365W solar panels, 2 pure sine wave inverters, 12 200Ah deep cycle batteries, a fuse kit, and much more.

how much does an off-grid solar system cost

This clocks in at around $14,000. Although it’s more expensive than the example we used earlier, the components in this kit are more powerful and of higher quality.

If you were to purchase everything separately, you’d pay for an arm and a leg.

Conclusion

The cost of the solar panel depends on the components being used as well as the size of the system.

If you don't want to power your entire house and keep the lights on strictly through off-grid power, then you can purchase the components separately.

Purchasing them individually is more for the smaller systems.

However, if you want to power a home, a barn, a shed, or any other big system, you should invest in a solar kit.

Having to individually buy components for such a big system won’t be cheap and you save a lot of money if you buy a kit. 

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