Best off grid solar systems

Who can help you go off-grid with solar power?

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Do you own or rent?

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Off-grid solar systems generate and store power wherever the sun shines, making them a great green update to your home. Today, lots of one-stop-shop companies offer all the equipment, warranties and solar services you need to achieve your grid-less dreams. Read on to learn about a few of the best companies in the U.S. that can help you design and install your very own off-grid solar system.

To make our picks for this article, we looked at our top solar energy companies and highlighted five that are best suited to handle off-grid installations (we also added a company that offers do-it-yourself solar kits).

Our top picks for off-grid solar power

Our top 5 off-grid solar energy system providers

SunPower

Buyer's Choice Award Winner
Warranty
25 years (system)
Payment options
Cash, loan, lease
Availability
Nationwide
Battery options
SunVault
2x Award Winner
Selected for having one of the highest satisfaction rates for Best Customer Service and Best for Installation

SunPower is a great choice for off-grid solar energy systems of all shapes and sizes. Its high-efficiency Maxeon solar panels are ideal for residential and commercial setups, and its proprietary SunVault batteries can keep your lights on even during a power outage.

SunPower’s systems are not the cheapest on the market, and its batteries are a relatively new product. The SunVault storage systems aren’t necessarily the most efficient or longest-lasting, though they do include a solid 10-year battery warranty.

SunPower is one of the highest-rated solar companies on ConsumerAffairs, and customers frequently mention an easy onboarding process and great customer service along the way.

Nicky in New Jersey was able to go more off-grid with a SunPower battery many years after an initial installation: “I have owned my system for almost 13 years, very reliable and I am very happy that I use no electric, we also added a battery backup system and now we are very much so off the grid!”

Jeff from California noted that the price of their SunPower system was worth it for the quality: “They are not the least expensive panels, by a long shot, but there is no better ‘bang for your buck’ brand out there when it comes to efficiency and quality.”

Sunrun

Warranty
Varies by system
Payment options
Cash, loan, lease
Availability
20 states
Battery options
Powerwall (Tesla), Brightbox

The Brightbox, Sunrun’s solar battery storage solution, is great for maximizing the off-grid capabilities of residential solar panels. It’s backed by the Tesla Powerwall and features smart energy controls so you can make the most of off-grid electricity storage limits and navigate time-of-use energy billing structures. Both purchase and lease options are available.

Though Sunrun offers a storage component for grid-tied solar systems, the company is still relatively new in the battery business and does not currently sell stand-alone energy systems. Sunrun also only serves about half the country in various capacities.

One of the longest-standing names in the industry, Sunrun has accumulated over 2,600 reviews on ConsumerAffairs.com and has an average 4-star rating as of publishing. While Sunrun customers frequently mention quick and attentive company communication, its limited service area and overall lack of consistency can be challenging to navigate.

Robert from California is satisfied with a hybrid solar system from Sunrun: “The panels will produce more power than my house is using, and the batteries are recharging by noon. The batteries will be fully recharged. And the excess [power from the] panels will go back on the grid. So, my electric bill has been nothing. Just the service charge has been $5 a month.”

Warranty
25+ years (product and labor)
Payment options
Cash, loan
Availability
Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas
Battery options
Powerwall (Tesla), PWRcell (Generac)

In Texas, California and parts of the Southwest, Elevation offers Tesla Powerwall and Generac PWRcell batteries to its solar customers. Designed to temporarily take homes off the grid in the event of an electrical outage or high utility rates, Elevation’s solar-plus-storage systems are a great hybrid for homeowners looking to increase their energy independence.

Elevation’s role as a regional business is a bit of a double-edged sword — though it offers great opportunities to a select group of homeowners, the majority of Americans do not live in the company’s limited service area. While the company specializes in grid-tied, hybrid solar storage systems, fully off-grid systems may be on a project-by-project basis, and we recommended reaching out to Elevation directly with inquiries.

Despite its limited service area, Elevation has racked up over 100 ConsumerAffairs reviews with a net 3.6-star average rating as of publishing. While the majority of its reviews report great sales and installation experiences, many of Elevation’s negative ratings come from existing customers experiencing issues with their systems.

Melissa in Las Vegas appreciated the flexibility of Elevation’s solar financing options: “Elevation Solar offered payment plans up to 25 years, but I was pleased to find out they had a 10-year option with no penalty if I just so happened to pay it off early.”

Also in Las Vegas, a reviewer named Daniel found Elevation’s energy monitoring system easy to use: “I look at the app and see that I'm producing more than I'm using. Hopefully, that adds up and I can stay off the grid. I'm still learning how it works but I'm happy so far.”

ShopSolar

Buyer's Choice Award Winner
Warranty
Varies
Payment options
Cash, loan
Availability
Nationwide
Battery options
Many
1x Award Winner
Selected for having one of the highest satisfaction rates for Best Customer Service

ShopSolar is a great off-grid solar system depot for DIY enthusiasts. It specializes in complete off-grid solar kits tailored specifically for every customer, and it ships panels, batteries and other necessary system components right to your door. From there, it's up to you whether to set the whole thing up yourself or hire a professional to get your off-grid system up and running.

In most U.S. municipalities, an interconnected solar energy system requires the approval of a licensed electrician, which (in addition to safety concerns) is why many homeowners refrain from building DIY systems. While ShopSolar is ideal for remote and entirely off-grid systems, the company doesn’t offer the same boots-on-the-ground installation services of other top providers.

ShopSolar customers are happy with its customer service, which is reflected in the company’s 4.7-star rating on our site as of publishing. Many reviewers mention how helpful its representatives have been throughout the entire buying process.

A reviewer in Texas was able to overcome the DIY aspect of a ShopSolar kit, reporting: “The system was intended for Off-Grid use to power an entire newly constructed house. I am not a solar tech but, after the items arrived I got it installed with the assistance of a friend who is a handyman.”

Alan in Arkansas opted for a solar generator. “I got a solar generator with solar panels and I have an off-grid cabin that I use it in. Based on the information sheet that came with it, I'm expecting to use it longer than 10 years,” he said.

Likewise, Kevin in Missouri said about the company: “We were looking for an off-grid solar kit deal and started looking around, and ShopSolarKits was the most reasonably priced. I put up everything myself. It was super easy.”

Warranty
25 years (system)
Payment options
Cash and loan
Availability
50 states
Battery options
Powerwall

Tesla uses high-efficiency battery technology in off-grid solar, just as it does with its electric vehicles (EVs). The Tesla Powerwall is the preferred battery choice for many solar installers, and homeowners can easily stack several units to run large homes with air conditioning, vehicle charging and more, completely without grid power.

Despite Tesla’s global impact, the company has had some difficulties in the U.S. solar industry so far. While the company has provided its share of high-quality products and experiences, Tesla’s high demand and history of questionable customer service may mean it doesn’t provide the fastest off-grid installation possible compared with other locally available providers.

A somewhat polarizing brand, Tesla has delivered its fair share of memorable experiences, both positive and negative. As of publishing, the company is rated at 2.4 stars on our site. Many Tesla reviewers report an easy (albeit long) adoption process and frequent delays in post-installation services.

Jane of Delaware found Tesla’s bid to be the most cost-effective. “I researched several companies since I wanted both Solar Panels & Batteries,” she said. “Once I realized Tesla's bid was coming in under $14,000 compared to other solar companies, there was no doubt in my mind.”

A repeat customer, Farhad in California, said: “This was our 3rd Tesla solar panel install in 3 years and this installation included a Tesla battery also! Very happy with all work, Tesla is cost-effective, excellent installs, and with the battery we're completely off the grid.”

Brand-loyal Howard in Maryland said: “I love Tesla products. My car, home charger, solar panels and Powerwalls all work wonderfully together and the app ties it all together beautifully.”

How does an off-grid solar system work?

If you want an off-grid solar system, it’s vital to clarify whether you can or should purchase a grid-tied “hybrid” system or something else entirely.

As Michael Waine, an environmental science and technology teacher, explained: “An off-grid solar system works completely independent of the grid. Most solar you see today is tied into the grid so that it doesn't have to use a battery.”

Most solar you see today is tied into the grid so that it doesn't have to use a battery. ”
— Michael Waine, environmental science and tech instructor

Truly “off-grid” solar systems are commonly installed on remote properties or in RVs or boats, where all the solar energy is stored onsite. The majority of residential solar systems, however, are grid-tied and send the excess power they produce to the electric utility. By adding solar storage, grid-tied systems become “hybrid” systems that can send excess power from the panels to a battery.

Is your home on the grid now?

National and local essential infrastructure regulations often make going completely “off the grid” difficult for properties that are already interconnected. While homeowners can adopt a fully self-sustainable solar energy and battery storage system to minimize or completely eliminate utility power consumption, homes already connected to the grid will likely need to remain as such.

Existing homes connected to the grid typically need to stay on the grid, but there are still many incentives for grid-tied solar systems to include battery storage. By pivoting between on- and off-grid power, solar batteries increase energy independence and prepare homeowners for blackouts, which is why the majority of today’s top installers now offer storage solutions.

» MORE: What is an off-grid solar system?

How much does an off-grid solar system cost?

The total cost of an off-grid solar system can vary greatly depending on its components’ capacity to generate and store large amounts of solar electricity. Considering the five-figure costs of high-wattage solar panel arrays and heavy-duty lithium-ion batteries, putting together a full-home off-grid solar system generally costs between $25,000 and $50,000.

» MORE: How much do solar panels cost?

Waine explained: “A basic off-grid solar setup might cost a few thousand dollars to power some lights, a fridge and a few other things. But if you want to power an entire house, especially one with air conditioning, you're looking at a much bigger investment, $20,000 at the very least, I’d say.”

If you want to design a smaller off-grid solar system for basic necessities, it may be possible to do so without such high upfront costs. With a single solar panel and a small portable solar generator (equipped with a battery, charge controller and inverter), you can even create a small but reliable off-grid solar system for under $1,000.

The more sunshine there is where you live, the fewer solar panels you’ll need. If you live in an area with lots of sunlight, the cost of solar panel installation and maintenance costs can be much less expensive.

When looking to cut costs, it is important to pay attention to warranties and how long your solar batteries will last. While it may be tempting to purchase a cheaper lead acid solar battery, lithium-ion storage is now considered much more cost-effective in both its daily performance and lifetime value.

For fully off-grid systems, in which building permits or utility interconnections aren’t required, choosing to do your own labor can also help reduce your total investment. As Waine explained, “You can save a lot of money if you install some of it yourself. I'm not saying it's recommended for everybody, but batteries are pretty expensive, so it helps if you can cut costs somewhere along the way.”

» CALCULATE: How much do solar batteries cost?

Do you own or rent?

FAQ

Which solar system is best for my home: grid-tied or off-grid?

For the majority of homeowners in the U.S., a grid-tied solar energy system may be sufficient to achieve electricity savings with the lowest total investment costs. However, adding a solar battery comes with many benefits, allowing homes to temporarily pivot from grid power.

While an off-grid system may be the only choice for some isolated properties, disconnecting from the grid is not permitted by local utilities and building authorities in most densely populated areas.

How big of a solar system do I need to go off-grid?

What size solar system you need to go off the grid depends on two things: the total wattage of your solar panels and the energy storage capacity of your battery bank. For both measurements, you want to have enough daily electricity generated and stored to run your property’s lights, appliances and electronics. There are many off-grid solar system size calculators available online.

What are the downsides to an off-grid solar system?

Off-grid solar systems are typically costly to install and can be significantly more expensive than on-grid systems. Additionally, off-grid solar systems are unable to connect to the grid. This means if there are any battery charge issues, the grid will be inaccessible and you may be without power. And, depending on the average weather where you live, energy levels can fluctuate.

How many batteries do I need to go off-grid?

The number of batteries you need to go off-grid depends on the daily energy demand of your home as well as the amount of electricity your panels generate each day. Today, batteries like the Tesla Powerwall are large enough to take small homes off of the grid, though most properties require multiple units to achieve complete self-sustainability.

As a rule of thumb, experts advise installing enough solar batteries to store approximately two to three full days’ worth of your property’s electricity use.


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Unbound Solar, “Off-Grid Solar System Sizing Calculator.” Accessed Sept. 21, 2023.
  2. Forbes Batteries, “How Much Battery Storage Do I Need for Off-Grid Solar?” Accessed Sept. 21, 2023.
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