Preparing to take the leap and go all in on solar energy and off the utility grid is an exciting, yet nervous and questionable time. More often than not, you feel you have more questions than answers. And trust us, it’s totally normal.
One of the main questions people have is all about grid-tied solar systems as their sole source of renewable energy. Like when considering off-grid solar systems, you will obviously ask yourself how they work, what they do, if they’re worth it, their benefits… there are many valid questions that tend to get people confused.
To keep things as simple as possible, we’ve put together a guide that will help you understand just what grid-tied solar systems are. From what they are to how they work, you’ll understand everything by the end of this guide—and you’ll be ready to start on your own grid-tied solar energy system project.
What Are Grid-Tied Systems?
A grid-tied solar energy system turns sunlight into electricity to power your house while your house is still connected to the local electric grid—meaning it is still “tied.” This differs from off-grid systems, which aren’t connected to the grid at all.
Through solar panels that you can install on your roof, as well as other components that make the grid-tie solar energy system whole, you can efficiently power your house in a green and clean way. However, you are still tied to the electrical grid.
Why Should You Install a Grid-Tie Energy System?
For the most part, many people choose to install grid-tie systems because they want to reduce their utility bills while also helping the environment in whatever way they can. Your grid-tied system, once it’s all bought, hooked up, and installed, is free. You don’t have to really worry about maintenance or upkeep, as it has a long lifespan and doesn’t require much maintenance at all. This can help lower your utility bill astronomically. Also, if you have any excess power produced, it’s pushed back into the grid which can help turn your meter backward.
Also, having a solar energy system really helps raise the value of your property. Solar is really attractive to potential homeowners and potential home buyers. If you’re looking to sell your home in the future, the solar energy system you have installed can really make the difference to potential investors.
And, of course, being able to help keep the environment free of pollution and keeping it as clean as possible is always the number one reason why you should install a grid-tie system. It’s amazing that you could have a cost-efficient, clean, reliable way to power your house!
How Does a Grid-Tied Solar Energy System Work?
This is really the meat of learning about grid-tied systems. They work differently than off-grid systems and it’s always important to actually understand how a system works before investing in it.
To put it as simply as possible, sunlight shines on solar panels, more than likely installed on a roof, that produces Direct Current, also simply called DC. The DC is then converted into AC power, which can then be used in your household daily. You don’t need to do anything to make this conversion happen. Once you have a grid-tied system installed, this conversion happens quietly and automatically every single day. You don’t have to lift a finger.
As we mentioned before, when you produce more power than you’re actually using in your household, the extra electricity is then sent out into the grid that you are connected to. This can really help spin your meter backward and helps give your neighbors clean solar power.
Now, what happens if you need more power than your solar energy system is able to produce? That’s what’s great about staying grid-tied. If you need more power than is being produced through your own solar energy panels, your system will automatically pull the extra electricity and power needed from the grid. Again, you don’t have to lift a finger. Your system does this automatically without you even realizing that you needed extra power.
How Much Power Do You Need for Your House?
This really depends on how much power your house uses daily. Everyone is different. To find out just how much power, or how many solar panels you need on your roof, you should always plan ahead. Deciding to convert to a solar energy household is all about planning, planning, planning!
If you’re really lost about how many panels you need, you can always ask someone locally that is an expert to help you out and take a look at your house. This way, they’ll be able to give you an exact number and estimate of overall costs.
The Main Components You’ll Need
A grid-tied solar energy system can come with a lot of components and it’s always good to have some knowledge about what each component is and does. A simple breakdown of the elements is as follows:
- Solar Panels: Any off-grid solar power systems will need solar panels. They are the main component of a grid-tied energy system (and really any type of solar energy system), as this is where the sunlight is absorbed, and the energy is converted into DC electrical power.
- Solar Panel Mounts/Racks and Solar Trackers: Solar panels need all the stability they can get, especially if it’s particularly windy in your local region. By having panel mounts or racks, you won’t have to worry about your panels becoming damaged. Solar trackers are also important, as they can help move or tilt a panel to get the most of the morning and afternoon sunlight.
- Inverter: An inverter is incredibly important, as this is the component that will convert the DC power gained from the solar panels into AC power that can be used throughout your household.
- Grid Disconnect: A grid disconnect is handy to have, as it stops the electricity flow between your solar panels and your electrical system. This is really useful whenever maintenance needs to be done, as it keeps you or anyone else safe.
- Combiner Box: If you’re looking for ways to keep all of your components together in a neat little box, this combiner box is a must.
- DC Disconnect: A DC disconnect also safely turns off and shuts down your solar power system, which is helpful for maintenance or repair.