Going off the grid completely is the goal of most homeowners when they make their first DIY solar power setup. However, using a grid tied solar power system can have financial advantages over off-grid solar power.
Provided that you live in an area where utility power is available from the electrical grid, you can set up a grid tied solar system. You will be able to keep the ability to have the electrical grid supply a substantial part of the power that you need. It especially helps to have utility-generated power available at night and on very cloudy days, when the solar panels are not receiving as much sunlight.
If you go with a grid tied solar power system, your system will actually cost less to set up. This is because when you are connected to the grid, you don’t need a battery bank full of expensive deep-cycle batteries.
Beyond being expensive, deep-cycle batteries can produce noxious fumes, and need to be kept in a well ventilated area held within a specific temperature range. With a grid tie system, you also don’t need to buy a charge controller because there are no batteries to protect from being “over-charged”.
With a grid tied system, the grid is like your own personal battery bank. When the solar power system supplies power to the grid as well as to your house or garage, the utility grid becomes like a kind of storage device or battery for your solar panel-generated power. In reality what happens is that when you have extra power beyond what you are using, then you feed the power back to the grid and it is used by other customers of your electric company.
Many homeowners who are considered pioneers in the use of renewable energy use grid tied solar power systems. They like that their solar power system reduces the amount and cost of electricity they buy from their electric company each month. They also like the fact that solar power generates no carbon emissions or any other pollution and consumes no fuel.
When you have a grid tied solar system you can sell as well as buy electricity each month! This is because the power generated by your solar panels can be either used by your own home or fed through your electric meter back into the utility grid.
When a home is using more electricity than the solar panel array is currently generating (for example in the nighttime), the necessary power is automatically supplied by the grid. However, when your house is using less electricity than your solar panels are generating, the extra electricity can be fed (and sold) back to the utility.
This process is called “net metering”, and is becoming more and more common among households using solar energy. At the end of the month, your electric bill is reduced because you are credited for electricity that you have sold back to the grid.
This is one advantage of a grid tie solar power system that an off grid solar power system cannot match. Over time, you can reduce your energy consumption while increasing your solar panel array. You may even get to the point where instead of you paying a monthly bill, the electric company pays you!