off-grid solar panels in desert split with a image of a house with rooftop solar panelsOff-Grid vs On-Grid Solar: What’s the Difference? 

Powering your home with residential solar panels is a big leap toward sustainability and energy independence. Thanks to solar battery storage, you can choose to maintain a grid connection or become fully energy independent with an off-grid solar panel system. 

On-grid and off-grid solar systems offer distinct advantages and cater to different lifestyles and needs. So how do you decide which is right for your home? 

In this guide, we explain the main differences between off-grid solar systems and on-grid solar systems to help you decide which aligns best with your home energy requirements and values.

Grid-Tied Solar PV Systems

Because solar panels do not generate energy 24/7, a home with solar panels will still need to be connected to the electric grid to supplement the solar electricity it generates with grid-supplied electricity. These types of systems are called on-grid or grid-tied solar systems, and they’re the most common type of solar installations in urban and suburban areas.

Benefits of On-Grid Solar Panels 

Lower Initial Costs

Grid-tied solar panel systems are typically smaller and less complex than off-grid systems. This makes on-grid solar a more affordable entry point for many homeowners looking to reduce their carbon footprint and utility bills.

Net Metering

One of the biggest advantages of being connected to the grid is the ability to sell excess energy back to your utility company. This is called net metering. When your solar panels produce more electricity than your home can use, the surplus is sent to the grid. In return, you receive credits that can offset your grid electricity costs.

Consistent Power Supply

With grid-tied systems, the grid acts as a backup power source. If your solar panels aren’t producing enough energy due to cloudy weather or other factors, you can draw power from the grid to meet your needs without interruption. 

Cons of Grid-Tied Solar 

No Protection from Grid Outages

The one downside to a grid-tied system, and a fact that often surprises homeowners, is that due to an automatic safety shutoff measure that is required by law, the solar panels will automatically turn off during a power outage This safety shutoff is to protect line works from unexpected shocks while trying to repair power lines. However, if you install a solar battery with your grid-tied system, you can keep your solar panels on during a power outage. 

Off-Grid Solar PV Systems

Off-grid solar systems build on the foundational benefits of solar and take them further. Off-grid systems utilize battery storage to save solar energy and disperse it during times of no solar production. Off-grid solar systems are ideal for homes located in remote areas where connecting to the utility grid is impractical or expensive, as well as in places where grid outages are common. However, they are also gaining popularity among those who prefer complete energy independence, regardless of where they live. 

Benefits of Off-Grid Solar Panels 

Energy Autonomy

An off-grid system means you are completely detached from the utility grid. This independence from power companies is a significant draw for those who prefer to be self-sufficient, are concerned about the environmental impact of traditional energy sources, or are just sick and tired of paying expensive bills and dealing with rate hikes from their utility.

No More Energy Bills 

When you go off-grid, you will never receive another electric bill from your utility company. With the exception of any fossil fuel backup generators being included in your system design, your energy costs are fixed for the lifetime of your system, and as energy prices continue to rise the faster your system will pay for itself in energy savings.

Eliminate Fossil Fuel Consumption 

You can meet all your electricity needs with renewable energy when you install off-grid solar panels. As a result, you will eliminate your reliance on fossil fuels for electricity, shrinking your carbon footprint. Some homeowners choose to integrate a standby generator into their off-grid system for added backup power, but the small amount of fuel consumed by a generator is nothing compared to the amount of fuel utilities burn to produce electricity. 

Off-Grid Solar Panel Cons 

No Net Metering

You cannot participate in net metering with an off-grid solar system because your solar panels are not connected to the electric grid. However, since you’re not paying an electric bill, you don’t need this incentive. 

Higher Upfront Costs 

An off-grid solar energy system must be large enough to generate and store 100% of the electricity you consume. As a result, off-grid systems are typically larger than grid-tied systems, resulting in higher upfront costs. 

Making the Choice: Which System Is Right for You?

The decision between on-grid and off-grid solar systems depends on several factors. At SouthFace Solar & Electric, we take the following factors into account before making any recommendations:

  • Location: If your home is in a remote area, an off-grid system might be the only viable option. Conversely, urban dwellers typically choose on-grid systems to take advantage of net metering and lower installation costs.
  • Present and Future Energy Needs: Consider your household’s energy consumption. Homes with higher energy needs might find on-grid systems more practical, especially if the cost of a fully self-sufficient off-grid system becomes prohibitive.
  • Environmental and Personal Values: If achieving total energy independence and minimizing your environmental impact are priorities for you, then an off-grid system aligns well with these goals.
  • Budget: Solar is an integral part of the future of energy in Arizona, but it also needs to be affordable to be viable! We work with all of our customers to meet budgets and maximize the savings they can take advantage of thanks to rebates, incentives, and tax credits

Both on-grid and off-grid solar systems offer significant benefits. Whether you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, cut down on energy costs, or achieve complete energy independence, there is a solar solution out there that fits your needs. SouthFace Solar & Electric can help you navigate these options and make an informed decision tailored to your needs. Remember, transitioning to solar is not just a personal or financial decision—it’s a step towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Should you go off-grid with solar? Call 480-405-6105 or contact us for a free consultation!