Off-Grid Solar Power for Vermont
With an off-grid solar system, all of the electricity needed is produced on-site and stored in a battery bank. The homeowner has complete control over both the generation and the consumption of electricity. Solartech’s designs carefully consider
individual power needs, the site, and energy efficiency—key components of a successful off-grid system.
Benefits of Off-grid Solar Power:
1. No electric bill.
2. Federal tax credits reduce installation cost.
3. Energy independence = energy security.
4. Power for remote homes, cabins, and camps.
Living “off-grid” is a lifestyle choice.
While it takes planning, commitment, and active engagement from the homeowner, the rewards of off-grid living are significant. First, the cost of the off-grid solar system is the only “electric bill” a homeowner receives. Essentially, the price of power is paid up front at a price that will prove to be better than the on-going, climbing rates of utility companies. Secondly, the homeowner benefits from the sense of self-sufficiency and independence off- grid living provides. Lastly, the owner of a properly designed and maintained independent power station contributes to a brighter future for everyone: his/her impact on the environment is reduced through the use of renewable energy.
Solar works in Vermont!
Despite the long, dark winter, Vermont has an average of 4.2 sun-hours per day—more than Germany, a country with 30-40% of its energy produced by solar. This means that solar power is a very feasible option for homeowners in Vermont. A family can easily and comfortably power a home with the sun!
In rural Vermont, off-grid power is often the best option for electricity. Remotely located homes and camps can have electricity. A well-designed and maintained solar electric system provides all the needed power.
Solar is reliable, clean, and it feels good to produce your own energy! Solartech’s shop, as well as Rich and Donna’s home, are off- grid.
Energy efficiency is key.
Energy efficiency is very highly prioritized by the off-grid system user. It is essential that every electrical load in an off-grid home be considered from the perspective of efficiency. If you use less power, you will save significant system costs. A general rule of thumb is that every $1 invested in efficiency will result in ~ $4 in avoided system expense. Off-grid homes can consume a fraction of the power of the typical utility-tied household. Cooking, heating, lighting, water pumping, and major appliances must all be carefully considered. When you generate your own power you also monitor your consumption.
Incentives are available.
A 30% federal tax credit is available to the off-grid user to help offset costs. This is 30% of the total system price, applicable to components and labor for installed systems. For do-it-yourselfers, only system components can be applied to the tax credit. Please note that this is a credit against what you owe in taxes. It is not a write-off to lower your taxable income. Secondly, renewable energy components are sold without sales tax in Vermont. Learn more about tax credit incentives.
Solartech carefully designs successful systems.
When Rich designs an off-grid system, he works closely with the owner. Careful consideration is required to ensure:
- The right size array is chosen with proper mounting.
- Wiring, fuses, and breakers are specified for both safety and system efficiency.
- The correct type and size battery bank is chosen and installed safely.
- Inverters, charge controllers, and other components are chosen for seamless operation and maximum performance.
Solartech provides excellent customer service.
We provide professional installation and system maintenance to ensure the long life, reliability, and safety of your solar electric system. Also, we are available to do-it-yourselfers with the guidance necessary to obtain good results when installing a system. It’s important to us to maintain affordability and support our clients with their off-grid systems. Give us a call today!
Off-grid System Sizing and Cost
Off-grid systems vary widely depending on the load that the owner desires/requires to run and the unique qualities of the site. Budget, of course, is perhaps the largest consideration in choosing the size of an off-grid power system.
The major components of a system are the solar array, the inverter, and battery bank. These individual parts will determine how much power is generated, how much power is available in the conversion to household current, and how much power is available in reserve to draw from. We design systems that work as efficiently as possible.
Energy efficiency is vital when designing an off-grid system. The cost of the system is determined by its size, and the size of the system is determined by the appliances the homeowner intends to power. Water pumping and refrigeration are necessities, and these appliances and their electrical consumption are considered first when building a system proposal. Next are appliances whose use is more driven by choice – if an appliance generates heat such as a toaster, coffee maker, or dishwasher, it needs careful consideration because these items use a significant amount power and will increase the size of a system. Off-grid systems are capable of providing every comfort and convenience of a “standard” home. They usually accomplish this by considering high levels of efficiency rather than making extraordinary investments in power production.
The smallest systems provide DC voltage only. These systems are great for camps and cabins, providing power for simple living with lighting, DC water pumping, and even entertainment systems. These solar systems range in price from around $3500 to $5000. Adding more solar modules increases your charging capacity. Add an inverter, and now you have AC current available like a standard household. Many inverters also include battery chargers that work with a generator to back up the solar array as your source of charging for your battery bank. The larger the inverter, the larger the charger built into it. These inverters have a built in transfer switch allowing your AC circuits to run off the generator while your batteries are charging. Battery bank size is determined by the amount of reserve power required but also by the amount of charging capacity available. It’s important that batteries regularly be recharged fully. We do not oversize battery banks relative to the amount of charging available. Mounting for the solar modules is another consideration that impacts the cost of the installed system. Larger systems that provide many or all conveniences of a standard, grid-tied home range in price from $13,000 to $23,000. Systems may be much larger, thereby capable of producing and storing significantly more power – the sky’s the limit and the equation is simple: more watts = more dollars!
The first step in the process of purchasing an off-grid system, whether installed by a professional or by a do-it-yourselfer, is to list all of the loads you desire to run. Attached is a load estimation sheet to help guide us in making efficiency improvements and in building a system to meet your needs.
Start by listing loads. Examples are television, lighting(AC), lighting(DC), water pump, refrigeration, stereo, coffee pot, etc. Next, determine if they are AC, as in a standard home, or DC. Then, find out how many watts it uses. Sometimes an item’s power requirement is printed on the unit. We’re available to help with the figuring—often, the list of examples that we have is adequate for estimating energy requirements. Note how many of these loads you have; for example, 1 refrigerator and 5 lights. Lastly, estimate how many hours the load is used per day (consider winter vs. summer here) and the number of days per week used. We can help you determine your energy needs so that your home is adequately powered by a solar system.