How many solar panels do you need to go off grid?
Leaving the electric grid is a big decision, but thanks to simple off grid solar kits, it's easier than ever to become independent. Solar panels are the most visible part of any solar power system, and it’s usually the first thing you’ll need to think about. And the first thing most people want to know about solar panels is how many they need to go off grid and keep their home and appliances powered.
The number of solar panels you use will have a big impact on your output, the batteries you require, and of course, the cost. In this guide, we'll show you exactly how to calculate the number of solar panels you need based on your energy usage and offer a few handy tips and tricks to get you started with your off grid solar system.
What is off grid solar power?
On grid and off grid solar power systems are two different approaches to generating and using solar energy. On grid systems, also called hybrid systems, are connected to the utility's power grid, allowing the homeowner to still draw power from the grid when needed and pump any excess production from their solar system to be fed into the grid for credit or payment.
Off grid systems work independently, using batteries to store solar-generated electricity that can be used whenever the solar panels aren't actively working, such as during the night. Off grid systems are particularly well-suited for rural and remote areas where access to traditional power sources may be limited, making it an ideal solution for sustainable and independent electricity generation.
What do solar panels do?
Solar panels transform the energy from sunlight into electrical power using solar technology, including photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors.. The amount of energy you'll get from your solar panels is related to the amount of sun your home gets. You'll need more solar panels if you live in an area that doesn't get long hours of strong sunshine. Similarly, the higher your energy usage, the more solar panels you need.
How many solar panels do I need to go off grid?
The number of solar panels you need depends on a number of factors, including:
- Your typical energy usage measured in watts
- The climate and amount of sunlight your house receives
- The efficiency of the solar panels in your budget
- The physical size of the solar panels you install
There are a few simple steps you can follow to find out exactly how many solar panels you need:
Step 1: Figure out your energy needs
You will need enough solar panels to produce the amount of electricity you’ll need to last you through the entire day and night, because your solar panels won’t generate electricity when it's dark.
To determine the size of the solar panel system you need, you must first figure out how much energy your household or business needs. You can find this information on your electricity bill, which shows the total energy expenditure of your home measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).
Find your average consumption rate by adding up the total kilowatt hours used for the past year and dividing it by 12. Then, divide the monthly average by 30.5 to get the daily average, and divide the daily average by 24 to get the average hourly rate of consumption in kilowatts.
If you don’t have a power bill to work from, you can use an online calculator. An electricity usage calculator typically works by estimating the amount of electricity consumed by different appliances or devices in a household. The calculator calculates the total electricity usage in kilowatt-hours (kWh) based on the wattage of each appliance and the duration of its use.
Step 2: Choose your location
Next, decide where you will mount your solar panels. The precise positioning will depend on your location. Trees or buildings may partially obstruct sunlight, so take that into account. You may want to consider mounting your panels on the ground if you have a small roof.
A roof-mounted system is far less obtrusive, but if your roof is small or has a lot of strange angles, you might not be able to fit enough panels for your needs. It’s also much harder to install.
Ground-mounted solar panels offer several advantages over roof-mounted systems. You can orient panels for optimal sunlight exposure and better energy generation. They are also easier to access for installation, maintenance, and expansion purposes. On the downside, the array will take up more space on your property and may be an issue for some homeowners.
Step 3: Determine how much sunlight you get
You should also consider how much sunlight your home gets. If your home doesn't get a lot of sunshine, you will need more panels. Peak hours, also known as solar peak hours or solar insolation, refer to the period during the day when the sun is at its highest intensity and provides the most amount of energy to solar panels. This is typically between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM, when the sun is directly overhead and there are no clouds or shading blocking the sunlight.
When calculating how many solar panels you need, it's important to consider the peak hours of sunlight in your location. This information can help you to estimate the amount of energy that your solar panels can generate and how many panels you will need to meet your energy needs.
Use an online calculator to determine the peak sunlight hours in your location.
Step 4: Choose Your Solar Panel Size
Once you have calculated your energy needs, you can choose a solar panel system to sustain it. Remember that the total wattage of all of your panels must exceed the daily energy requirement that was calculated earlier on and that solar panels don't always operate at 100% efficiency due to weather and other factors.
Go with a system with at least a 25% higher output capacity than your average consumption rate to ensure it can handle the full load. Let’s say you use 9kWh a day to power your home and appliances, you will need panels that produce 9,000 watts during your peak sunlight hours. If you have the national average of 4.5 hours of peak sunlight, your total panel wattage must be 2000 watts. If you used 200W panels you'd need 10 panels, if you used 400W you'd only need 5. Factor in the extra 25% to find out exactly how many panels you need.
You can use a wattage calculator for a more accurate estimation.
What if I need to add more solar panels later?
Most solar panel kits are expandable, so you can add more panels if your needs change. Just make sure that the rest of the system can handle the increased output of the additional panels and that your property has enough space.
How much will my off grid solar system cost?
Everyone asks how much will it cost to go off grid? It depends on whether or not you purchase an off grid solar kit online and handle the installation yourself or hire a solar company. Installing solar panels yourself is a budget-friendly option for achieving off grid power generation.
Visiting a solar company is the typical route for most people, but almost half of the expenses associated with an off grid solar power system quote are for installation and operation costs.
By choosing a solar kit, and only paying for the cost of the equipment itself, you could potentially reduce your expenses by 50%. A 6000W off grid Solar kit, with twelve 390 W panels and a 12kWh Battery Bank (with back-up), will cost around $10,500 online, whereas the same system provided by a solar company would set you back about $25,000.
What is the best solar panel for off grid?
When you choose a solar company to do everything for you the choices are limited to the panels they use, which are usually just one brand. However, if you prefer to pay only half as much and choose the DIY route, you also get to choose what components go into your system and have access to a huge assortment of brands and models. Now that’s a great deal!
Your solar kit provider can advise you on which solar panel is best for your needs and budget, but we can highly recommend a 400W Tier-1 Monocrystalline Solar Panel. These solar panels come with numerous features, including a 25-year power output warranty, extreme efficiency, and long-lasting durability backed by a 25+ year performance warranty. They are built to withstand high shading and extreme temperatures, with a power temperature coefficient of -0.36% showing that even extreme heat won't be much of a problem.
We also have another article all about the best solar panels for off grid that you should check out.
Going off grid is easier than you think. You need to determine the number of solar panels based on your energy consumption, the amount of sunlight in your location, the efficiency of the panels you can afford, and the physical size of the panels you install.
You can follow several steps to determine the number of panels you need, including calculating your energy needs, measuring the wattage of your solar panels, determining how many hours a day you receive peak sunlight, and choosing your solar panel size based on your energy requirements. You find all of the calculators you need to make the right decision on shopsolarkits.com or speak to an expert directly to help find the right kit.
Still need a little help? Learn more with our off grid solar power guide.