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What is an off-grid solar system?

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Across the globe, commercial and residential areas have begun transitioning to greener energy solutions. If you’re thinking about making the eco-friendly switch, outfitting your home with a solar panel system is an important step. Although there’s some debate about which types of systems work best, the right fit for you ultimately depends on your house and location.

There are three major categories of popular solar systems: grid-tied, hybrid and off-grid. Here, we’ll focus on the benefits, downfalls and pricing of off-grid systems to help you decide.

Key insights

  • As their name suggests, off-grid systems run independently from the power grid and store energy in a solar battery for later use.
  • Off-grid solar systems are more costly than grid-tied systems because they require additional components.
  • Off-grid systems are a good choice for those who don't want to rely on a utility company or experience blackouts.

Off-grid solar panel systems explained

Like all solar energy systems, off-grid systems use solar panels to harness the sun’s energy for residential or commercial buildings. However, unlike more common grid-tied systems, they store some of the power they create in batteries and work independently from the power grid.

What is the electrical grid, and why does it matter? The grid network carries electricity from power plants to your home via your utility company. Because off-grid systems don’t use the grid to store excess energy, they require extra components to make them self-sufficient.

Off-grid solar system components

To supply all your energy needs, like keeping your air conditioner running and your fridge cold, off-grid systems use a process that includes several key components, which we’ve explained below.

The magic starts with solar panels. You can choose from three main types: polycrystalline, monocrystalline or thin film. These electricity-producing devices can be secured to your rooftop or yard — whichever receives the most sunlight. The amount of panels you need to install depends on the size of the house you’re powering.

» MORE: Types of solar panels

The excess energy produced by off-grid solar panels gets stowed away in batteries. Without these storage hubs, it would be impossible to power your home when the sun isn’t shining, so your batteries ensure you still have electricity in the evening hours or on rainy days.

Paul, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from California, told us: “The way I'm hooked up, I can turn PG&E off. … I'm strictly solar right now. And by noon, my Tesla batteries are recharged back up to 100%. And at night when I go to bed, I'm down to 80%. So, I still got 80% batteries left when I go to bed. So, it's great.”

» MORE: Best solar batteries

Solar panels create direct current (DC) electricity, but in order for that energy to transfer to your appliances, it needs to become alternating current (AC) electricity. Basically, your solar panels and appliances speak different languages, and your inverter does the translating. For off-grid systems, use a stand-alone inverter.

» MORE: Solar inverters: types, benefits and cost

Solar charge controllers help keep your battery from dying — plain and simple. With the help of these regulators, your battery won’t take damage from receiving too much voltage and overcharging.

» MORE: What is a solar charge controller?

Off-grid vs. other systems

Each type of solar system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Your location, property and budget will all factor into which is right for you.


Off-grid systems, also called stand-alone power systems (SAPS), are becoming a popular choice due to recent spikes in energy and fuel costs. With an off-grid setup, you can be entirely self-sufficient rather than reliant on the whims of electric companies. Another bonus to being fully off-grid is freedom from power failures and blackouts.

However, off-grid systems come with greater upfront costs because they require extra components, like expensive batteries, and take more labor to install.


Hybrid systems are a combination of off-grid and grid-tied solar systems, meaning they’re connected to the grid but still use a battery. The benefit of hybrid systems is the ability to use the grid’s energy while having a battery as a backup when the grid fails.

If you’re looking to keep costs low, be aware that these complex systems cost the most to install, and they may not let you completely get rid of your power bill even if you don’t draw energy from the grid anymore.

“I like that I have solar, but it's not entirely financially liberating,” said Christopher, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Texas. “The energy I produce covers the cost of the electricity itself on my bills, but there is also a delivery fee that I wasn't entirely aware of how that was billed, which I still pay. I think that's just the way that utilities are setting up their systems so that they can still have some revenue coming from customers who are partially off the grid.”


Grid-tied systems are the most common since they’re the simplest and cheapest option on the market. Homes with these systems are dependent on the grid for power when the sun isn't shining and as a place to send excess energy when it is. Utility companies also offer credits for the surplus of electricity generated by homeowners through net metering programs.

Unfortunately, grid-tied homes remain susceptible to rising energy prices, blackouts and the whims of electric companies and governments changing the buyback rates for electricity.

» MORE: Types of solar grid systems

How much does an off-grid solar system cost?

On average, going solar costs $17,430 to $23,870 after federal tax credits. But how do off-grid solar systems compare? People who adopt these systems report average spending anywhere from $45,000 to $65,000 before tax credits or rebates. Those costs drop to between $31,500 and $45,500 after the federal solar tax credit.

This large price range is likely a result of decisions made by the homeowners, such as what type of battery they used and the size of their solar arrays. (For example, a 6-kilowatt system is generally cheaper than a 10-kilowatt system.) The amount of sunlight available and their homes’ energy consumption rates could also play a role in their overall bills.

At the end of the day, off-grid options tend to make a bigger dent in your bank account than grid-tied systems because they require additional costly components.

Find a Solar Energy partner near you.

    Is an off-grid solar energy system right for you?

    The decision of whether or not to disconnect from your local power grid usually boils down to motivation and money:

    • If your aim is to stop relying on the utility company, going off-grid is the answer. For those who prefer independence and don’t mind the limited storage, off-grid can be an exciting new venture, especially for smaller homes outside urban areas or farther from the grid.
    • If your goal is to save money, then going off-grid may not be the best fit for you (though it may still save you money long term, depending on your situation).

    Whether or not you decide to go off-grid when you switch to solar, you’ll probably want to select a solar company to provide the equipment and installation.

    » MORE: Solar energy pros and cons

    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. EcoFlow, “What Are the Differences Between On-Grid and Off-Grid Solar?” Accessed June 13, 2023.
    2. Medium, “What is the meaning of Off-Grid Solar System?” Accessed June 13, 2023.
    3. SolarFeeds, “Pros and Cons of Off-Grid Solar Systems.” Accessed June 13, 2023.
    4. Solar Technologies, “Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrid Solar Energy Systems.” Accessed June 13, 2023.
    5. Intermountain Wind & Solar, “Grid-Tied Solar vs. Off-Grid Power — Weighing the Pros & Cons.” Accessed June 13, 2023.
    6. BLUETTI, “Off Grid Solar System Cost (What Can You Expect to Pay?)” Accessed June 13, 2023.
    7. U.S. Department of Energy. “Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics.” Accessed June 13, 2023.
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