The off-grid power system we designed for the tiny house proved that it’s possible to live with limitless free, clean, silent energy even in a remote location with no preexisting utilities. Here’s how it works.
Okay, so there are some solar panels. But what makes living off-the-grid different than just your typical solar powered house?
Putting solar on a typical house does not make it solar powered. The utility grid, largely powered by natural gas and coal, is providing the bulk of the energy for the things that make life convenient like A/C, cooking, washing, you name it. That luxury comes with a monthly bill. Customers with solar are credited for the power they produce, whether it’s consumed on-site or “net metered” back into the local grid.
This house is really off-the-grid, as in no utility connections for water, sewer or power. This is possible for one big reason: storage. A bank of batteries store solar energy and help level it out to provide seamless power for all of your typical household conveniences.
Our off-grid system tech specs and stats:
The solar panels themselves are the least important part of an off-grid system. Sure, they have to work but it’s the other system components which give our tiny house its true off-grid capability.
- Solar panels: There are six panels rated at 1.5kW, south-facing
- Inverter/Charger: Schneider Electric Conext SW2024 which provides 3,600 continuous watts of power (4 average microwaves running) and a lot more “peak” power for starting our well pump, power tools, etc.
- Batteries: We went with sealed lead acid technology (VRLA) for a combination of affordability, zero maintenance and high storage capacity. There are 12 very large batteries (over 100 lbs each) which store a total of 24kWh of energy. On a regular basis, we draw the batteries down less than 30% of their full capacity in order to prolong battery life. We expect the batteries to last 7-10 years before we’ll upgrade to the latest technology.
- Energy Meter: Inside the house, we run a small LCD energy meter that keeps track of our consumption and our peak power usage. It’s connected to the breaker panel. This device is a must-have. After just a few days in the house, you get a sense for the “balance” between power usage and power production.
- Performance: The system has been running continuously for over 2 years with zero downtime. We have never come close to exceeding its capacity even while living there during some very bad weather and using a lot of tools.
- Full-time vs. Part-time use: We designed this system for part-time occupancy, primarily in the warmer months. Living there full-time or year round, we’d suggest adding a small backup generator. Why? Wintertime is tough on these off-grid systems due to less sun, possible snow cover, reduced cold weather battery performance, and greater household energy loads.
For help or advice making your own off-grid aspirations a reality, get in touch with the Off Grid Guys