There are three main options available for solar electric power systems installed on your home. They are:
Grid-Tied Solar Electric Power System – A grid-tied system integrates your solar power panels into the local electrical grid. The grid supplies power to your home when your solar panels are not producing enough power, like at night, on cloudy days or simply when your energy usage exceeds your energy production. Conversely, when your solar panels are producing more power than you use you feed that excess power back into the grid. This is known as net-metering.
A grid-tied system is the least costly and most common home solar power electric system.
With a grid-tied system you gain the benefits of having a solar power system while enjoying the convenience and reliability of the grid. Should you choose to lease a solar power system this is the type of configuration that will be installed.
Grid-Tied Solar Electric Power System with Battery Back-Up – This type of system is the same as the grid-type system described above with the addition of a battery back-up system. Grid-tied systems have inverters that are designed to shut off power from your solar power panels during power outages. This is to protect utility workers from being hurt by electrical charges coming from home systems. While this works great for the utility workers it also means you can’t use your solar power system when the power is out…a major disadvantage if you live in a area with unreliable power or that suffers from hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters.
Adding a battery back-up allows you to use the power stored in your batteries when the power is out. Batteries are expensive but this can massively increase your energy independence and the usefulness of your solar power system.
The size of your battery back-up system can vary and determines to a large extent the cost of your system. You can of course start with a small back-up system and build it up over time.
Stand Alone Solar Electric Power System – This type of solar power system is independent from the grid – there is no connection at all. This is the ideal situation if you want complete energy independence or your home is in a remote location.
While this is the “Greenest” possible solar power solution it doesn’t come without cost. With a standalone system it’s critical to properly size both the generating and back-up systems. As with everything more capability requires more money. These systems can be expensive.
Well there you go, three different solar electric power options for your home. When planning your solar future it’s worth looking at all these different options and deciding which is the best for your particular situation and pocketbook.