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The national average cost of an off-grid system is $55,000*, though your investment could range from $20,000 to $100,000 based on your system design and energy needs. Going off-grid reduces your energy usage, lowers your carbon footprint, and enables you to live more independently. However, it requires a substantial up-front investment.
Learn what you’ll need to start your off-grid solar system and how much the required components cost below.
*Unless otherwise noted, all cost data is based on figures from EnergySage and Fixr.
What Is an Off-Grid Solar System?
Most people who choose solar panels as their energy source remain grid-tied. This provides backup power when the solar panels don’t generate enough energy, such as on cloudy days or at night. As the name suggests, an off-grid solar panel system doesn’t connect to a power grid. That means what it generates is the only energy available to fulfill your electrical needs.
People choose this route for a few reasons. Many homeowners who opt for an off-grid system live in remote areas without electric service. Some want to be completely off-grid as a lifestyle choice geared toward sustainability. Off-grid systems can also be ideal for those who have detached workshops or sheds they want to power and those who frequently travel via a recreational vehicle (RV).
Off-Grid Solar Benefits
Some of the top benefits of not connecting your solar energy system to the grid include:
- Cost savings: Having an off-grid system means you’re not paying anyone for electricity.
- Design flexibility: Forgoing interconnection with the grid and the permitting that goes along with it allows you more freedom in the design of your system. You can tailor the components, brands, and production levels to your preferences.
- Energy efficiency: A desire for environmental sustainability motivates many homeowners to install solar panels. Sourcing electricity from solar energy alone reduces your carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, and dependency on fossil fuels. Plus, when the only electricity you have is what your system generates, you’re likely to be more mindful and conservative with usage.
What Are the Parts of an Off-Grid System?
To understand the cost of an off-grid system, you must first know all the components required to go off-grid and how they’ll add to your total cost. Necessary system components include:
- Charge controllers: Solar charge controllers help you manage the electricity generated. They regulate the current that flows from your panels to your battery so there’s no overcharge or discharge. You’ll need one for each battery to protect its life span.
- Inverters: A solar system generates direct current (DC) power, but your home uses AC (alternating current) power. An inverter converts DC power to AC power.
- Solar batteries: One of your biggest costs will be the solar battery. You’ll need at least one battery to store the energy your system generates. Adequate battery storage prevents you from blackouts. Remember, you won’t have the electrical grid as a backup at night or during cloud coverage like you would with an on-grid system.
- Solar panels: Solar panels are the basis of the system. They absorb solar energy and use it to generate DC power. The type of panels you get and how many will have the biggest impact on overall system cost. You’ll need enough panels to power your needs during the day and charge your solar battery for nighttime usage.
These are the basics of an off-grid solar power system, but many people decide to expand their setup with equipment such as generators or wind turbines. The company you get your panels from may offer a mobile app to monitor system performance or ongoing maintenance services you might want to invest in.
Off-Grid Solar System Costs
The average off-grid solar system costs $55,000 for a 7-kilowatt (kW) system. Smaller properties with low energy needs, such as an RV or shed, can get by with a smaller system and may require an investment as low as $20,000. Larger properties, those with high energy needs, or those in cloudy climates that require more panels and backup energy storage may need a system closer to $100,000.
|Price Level||You’ll Pay|
$55,000 (Avg. range: $45,000 to $65,000)
See average price breakdown by component:
$4,000 to $14,000 each
Solar charge controller
$550 to $600 each
$7,000 to $8,000 each
$10,000 to $18,000
Most solar companies offer a combination of the following solar financing options:
- Full cash purchase: Paying in full up-front is the easiest option since you don’t have to enter a contract and will own your system from day one.
- Solar loan: A loan gives you the financial cushion to make monthly payments while still owning your system.
- Solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA): Leases and PPAs work similarly in that a third party owns your system and sells you the electricity it produces at a predetermined rate. We don’t recommend these options because not owning your system disqualifies you from many solar incentives.
Solar incentives are available at the state and federal levels to help you save money when you invest in renewable energy. Incentives vary by state, but common ones include:
- Federal tax credit: You can dramatically lower your total solar expense using the federal solar tax credit. This allows you to take 30% of your solar investment off what you owe on your federal income taxes the following tax season. You must own your system to qualify.
- Sales and property tax exemptions: Many states waive sales tax on solar equipment. Many also don’t increase your property tax if installing solar panels increases your home value.
- State tax credits: States often provide a tax credit that reduces your state tax bill by a percentage of your overall solar expense.
Solar power system costs vary greatly depending on several factors, so it’s best to speak with reputable solar companies in your area and get a few estimates to compare.
Energy Consumption and System Size
The more energy you use, the bigger the system you’ll need. If you need to power many appliances or run electricity all day and night, you’ll need a system designed to meet this capacity. You’ll also need more batteries to store energy during low-sun hours. With panels and batteries being the biggest factors in total system cost, going bigger means investing thousands more dollars.
Your solar installation company should analyze how much energy you need and what system size and number of batteries will suit you.
The brand and off-grid home features you choose affect the price. Some solar companies are more expensive than others due to their reputation, years in business, or inventory performance. Not all panels or batteries are the same, either. The design and degree of energy efficiency will increase the price.
Don’t forget that you’ll need a team to design and install the system. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates labor to be around 7% of the total solar cost. Using the average system cost of $55,000, that’s $3,850. You can forgo labor costs by installing your system using a DIY solar panel kit. However, we don’t recommend this option because it requires extensive skill and disqualifies you from solar incentives.
Since off-grid systems supply 100% of your electricity, you need one that can soak up plenty of sun. You’re in luck if you live in an area with abundant year-round sun exposure. If not, you’ll need more panels, increasing the price. Your solar installer can assess your solar exposure, how to make the most of it, and what system size you’ll need to cover your electricity needs.
You have several options when choosing an off-grid system. Common types include:
- AC systems: AC systems are the most popular option and come with a higher cost. They use panels, batteries, and an inverter to convert DC to AC power so you have electricity for everything in your home.
- AC systems with a backup generator: With this option, you have a generator as an electricity backup. Purchasing a generator in combination with a solar system is often quite pricey.
- AC systems with wind: This is an option for those who live in areas with lots of wind but inconsistent sun exposure. Wind energy serves as a backup source. Setting up a wind turbine and a solar array is often the most expensive route.
- DC systems: DC systems are the most cost-effective and limited option. They don’t rely on a battery or inverter, so you only have the energy generated on sunny days, which isn’t super reliable.
- Mixed DC and AC systems: Mixed systems are best for small-scale energy needs since they lack a battery and inverter capacity to power an entire home’s appliances, lights, etc. They have a more midrange cost.
Is an Off-Grid Solar System Worth It?
Whether an off-grid system is worth it depends mainly on your energy needs and budget. If your home uses excessive electricity to power many appliances throughout the day, then installing solar panels and backup batteries may be too expensive to justify leaving the grid.
On the other hand, if your energy needs are more conservative, then you may need only one battery and fewer panels, lowering the cost. The lower your cost, the shorter your payback period, and the quicker you’ll enjoy no electricity fees. A solar company can assess your electricity needs and help you determine if going off-grid will make sense for you based on what you’ll spend and save.
Going off-grid isn’t right for everyone. However, if you think it’s right for you, you can spare yourself a lifetime of high electricity bills. You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and usage of fossil fuels by relying solely on clean energy.
We recommend starting with a reputable solar company to analyze your electricity usage and advise you on the best setup for your needs. We suggest looking at different solar providers’ warranty coverage, customer reviews, and reputation before deciding. It’s also a good idea to get price estimates from at least three companies to compare.
Off-Grid Solar System Cost FAQ
How big of a solar system do I need off-grid?
The system size you need depends on how much electricity you require to power your home. A large home with multiple floors, numerous appliances, and frequent overhead lighting requires a much more powerful system than a small home with a few appliances.
How much do off-grid solar batteries cost?
Solar batteries typically cost between $4,000 and $14,000. The Tesla Powerwall, the industry’s most popular solar battery, starts at $8,700.
How long do off-grid systems last?
The Department of Energy estimates that most panels last between 30 and 35 years. Solar batteries and charge controllers typically last 5 to 10 years, while inverters can last as long as 25.
What components do you need for an off-grid solar system?
An off-grid solar system requires solar panels, at least one solar battery, a solar inverter, and solar charge controllers.
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