There’s a certain attraction to being self-sufficient, independent from the constructs of utility bills and such. That can be one of the motivations for people adopting solar energy to power their home—in addition to cost savings and home efficiency, or course. But is it possible to operate everything you need in your household on solar energy alone?
Yes, it’s possible to operate a home on solar power alone
Because solar panel arrays are linked together and new panels can be easily added, there’s virtually no limit to the size of home you can power with solar alone. Of course, it comes with added costs the larger the system you install, but it is possible. Most homes are also connected to a residential power grid from a local utility company, though. This does three main things for you as a homeowner:
It gives you a backup plan. If your solar panel system is on the fritz or it’s been raining for days on end, you’ll still have access to electricity.
You can sometimes sell power back. If your solar panels produce more energy than you need to power your home, an arrangement with the power company can sometimes allow you to sell the excess to the power grid.
It gives you flexibility at home. If you lease a solar panel system, it gives you the option to terminate the lease or let it expire without having to worry about a power source.
So yes, it is possible to operate on solar power alone, but it’s seldom the case for homeowners.
What you need to run a whole home on solar energy
What equipment do you need in order to run a home fully on solar energy? If you’re planning on disconnecting from the grid, there are several things you’ll need in place beforehand.
At the hub of a solar energy system are solar panels. You’ll need panels that produce energy in excess of your daily consumption since some will need to be stored for days that are cloudy, rainy, or snowy, and for the hours that the sun is below the horizon.
Solar panels produce energy but don’t have the capacity to store it. For homes looking to be independent, a battery bank is required to collect the electricity generated throughout the daylight hours. Battery banks are expensive, adding several thousand dollars to the cost of a solar system.
The electricity produced by solar panels is direct current, or DC. Your home’s outlets use alternating current, or AC power. To utilize the electricity your solar array is producing, an inverter must be installed to convert DC into usable AC. The solar inverter is also expensive, ranging from $3,000 to $20,000.
Energy efficient utilities
To prevent running out of power in battery banks, energy efficiency is key. Using LED lights and high-efficiency electric utilities such as a furnace and hot water heater are important to ensuring no shortages occur, especially when there hasn’t been direct sunlight for a while.
All electrical appliances
If you’re going all-electric powered by solar alone, you will need an electric stove rather than a natural gas-fueled one. You may need to replace things like your pool heater, stove, or furnace if you opt for solar power.
An ability to expand
If your family size increases or you buy an electric car, you’ll need more electricity. You can produce more solar power if you have an ability to add more panels and battery storage.