How To Go Off the Grid: 4 Realistic Ways From Off-Grid Camping To Off-Grid Homes
Since the year 2000, the global electricity consumption has almost doubled, and the energy market is undergoing profound changes with the rise of renewable energies.
Renewables are cheap, safe, durable, clean and versatile.
Thanks to constant technological improvement, renewables offer new opportunities. They are turning electricity consumers into prosumers (electricity producers and consumers).
Have you ever dreamt of being energy-independent and getting your energy only from natural sources like wind and sun?
This is now possible thanks to the development of off-grid systems. Off-grid systems enable electricity generation everywhere, even in the most remote places.
In this article, our energy expert will show how you can benefit from an off-grid system, from the smallest individual scale to the domestic system to power a house.
First of all, let’s see what really is an off-grid system.
What Is an Off-Grid System?
An off-grid power system is a stand-alone power system disconnected from the utility grid network, and it can work by itself.
An off-grid power system has three main functions:
- Produce electricity. In modern systems, it comes from solar panels or residential wind turbines.
- Store electricity. Batteries are the most common way to store electricity, like a solar battery or a home battery storage.
- Regulate electricity. Smart inverters will regulate the charge of the battery and provide AC power for all types of appliances.
Those systems are highly versatile and customizable. You will find them from the smallest size for individual use and USB charging to large commercial systems generating AC power for homes or businesses.
In the next part, we have summarized four ways to go off the grid.
4 Realistic Ways to Go Off the Grid for All Budgets
When considering an off-grid system, you might think about large upfront investments, complex electronics, solar panels installation, and expensive batteries. You might be right if you aim at fully powering your house. However, do you know that you can already go off the grid for less than $100?
Let us show you four ways of going off the grid from mobile USB powering to house power systems.
Off-The-Grid Hiking For Less Than $50
Like most people, one of our favorite hobbies is exploring the outdoors. Usually, we would be out for the day, bringing our phones, cameras and drones to capture the moment. These small devices always drain their batteries faster than we expect, and nobody would like to run out of power in the middle of a hike, especially because there are no electric plugs in the wild.
Luckily, there are now micro off-grid solutions to power our USB devices while in the outdoors. The solar power bank, also called solar battery bank, is the best way to keep the fun going for hours. Whether you’d like to charge your phone or your portable speaker, those devices will never let you down.
Usually, they cost between $20 and $50, combining a lithium battery bank with a capacity between 5’000 mAh to 30’000 mAh, a small solar panel (around 3–5W) on top of it, and two to three USB outputs. Some solar power banks are waterproof and even include an emergency light.
You are ready to charge at least three times your latest phone, and the solar panel will give you an extra autonomy, but because of its tiny size, it won’t be able to fully charge the power bank.
In the end, solar power banks are the cheapest way to go off the grid. They fit easily in a backpack and are perfect for a day out.
If you want more autonomy, you might want to look at off-grid systems for camping that could provide several days of full power.
Off-The-Grid Camping for Less Than $500
Camping trips are the best way to reconnect with yourself and with nature. Whether for a weekend or for a month-long vacation, it is always good to make a list of all essentials to bring. Of course, food supplies, drinks, and tents are on top of the list, but it also includes small electronic devices like a phone, tablet, laptop, drone, portable speakers, cooler, and more.
Most of these devices are powered by batteries with a maximum of one day autonomy. So how could we extend our autonomy for longer camping trips in the wild?
Solar Generators for Off-Grid Systems
Off-grid solar systems for camping are the solutions for unlimited power. They combine portable solar panels and solar batteries in a portable power station: the solar generator.
They are maintenance-free systems and are portable, reliable, and built for the outdoors to provide green energy anywhere.
The best solar generators integrate:
- Portable solar panels. Their power ranges from 30W to 220W, and they come in compact designs. The best portable solar panels are foldable to fit in any backpack. They are made for the outdoors with tough, water-resistant fabrics and are lightweight and extremely durable with more than 10 years of service.
Above all, they have all the output connectors to directly charge your USB devices and to connect to the solar battery.
You will find portable solar panels from $70 to $240.
- Solar battery. The solar battery is an essential part of your off-grid system for camping. It will store the electricity produced by your portable solar panel to be used at any time.
The best solar battery includes an MPPT solar charge controller to get the maximum power output from your portable solar panel, a lithium battery pack to store the solar electricity and use it at any time, and a pure sine wave inverter that will convert the DC (direct current) power from the battery into AC (alternative current) to be used by any appliances. Finally the solar battery often has many outputs, like DC 12V, USB fast charging, and at least one regular AC plug.
They are designed to be portable starting at less than 2lbs and are compact enough to fit in a backpack. Their lithium battery pack gives them a life duration of 5 years or more.
The solar batteries are rated by their battery capacity, from 150Wh for an overnight camping trip to 1 kWh to power a small refrigerator during long camping vacations.
Their prices start at $150.
As previously mentioned, off-grid systems are highly scalable, depending on the power of your portable solar panel and your solar battery, the complete system could cost between $250 and $500.
To give you an idea, with the cheapest camping off-grid system, you can power a laptop and all your small electronic devices.
With a slightly higher investment, you can power mini fans, refrigerators, or coolers and create a portable power station where all the family can connect their device for charging.
Off-the-Grid RV for Less Than $500
RVs like campervans, motorhomes, or caravans are usually synonyms of freedom. Most of the RV users praise them for the superior comfort and freedom of movement they offer compared to regular camping. Indeed, modern RVs include all the features found in a house, light, TV, aircon, cooking stoves, refrigerators, pressurized, showers and more.
Bringing your home comfort on wheels means that you will also need power supply for your appliances, and your RV’s car battery won’t be enough to supply all the needed energy.
Therefore, the ultimate solution is the off-grid solar system for RV.
Those systems combine RV solar panels, solar batteries, solar chargers, and inverters. Let’s have a closer look at the main parts of the off grid solar system for RV.
RV Solar Panels
RV solar panels are solar modules specially designed for RVs. They are lightweight and compact and can be fixed on the roof of the vehicle. There are three types of RV solar panels:
- Roof mounted: This is a regular solar panel, with a power between 100 and 200W to be fixed on top of the vehicle.
- Flexible solar panel: Extremely thin and lightweight, their size is minimal, and they can be glued on top of the roof.
- Portable solar panels: They can be moved around and set on the ground or on the roof of the RV. However, they are not designed to stay on the vehicle while it is running.
The price of RV solar panels varies between $70 and $250 for the most powerful units.
Solar Charge Controller
In between your RV solar panel and your solar battery, the solar charge controller will ensure that you get the highest output of your solar panels at all times and will regulate the charge of the battery.
We recommend an MPPT solar charger, with prices varying between $30 and $100.
Solar Battery for RV
There are multiple types of batteries that can store your solar electricity and make it available at any time of the day. We recommend maintenance-free batteries like lithium batteries. Their prices depend on their capacity. Year after year, battery prices are going down. As of now, you could get a decent lithium battery for $250/kWh.
Inverter for RV
RVs usually have two electric systems – a DC 12V system, for example, to power the water pump of the shower and a 110V, 60Hz AC system for all your appliances. The DC system does not require an inverter and can be directly connected to the battery. However, for the AC system, you will need an inverter.
You could find a 1kW inverter for $100.
The minimum configuration for an RV would be a 100W solar panel, a 500Wh battery, and a 500W inverter. That will give you enough power for your basic daily energy needs, like LED light, USB electronic devices, laptop, DC water pump. This small off-grid system will cost you less than $500.
Larger systems to power a cooler, mini refrigerator, or LED TV would require at least 250 W solar panels, 1kWh solar battery pack, and 1kW inverter. It would also cost around $800.
Useful tip: Don’t be shy to invest more on the solar panel power. It will greatly help you during cloudy days by producing higher power.
Off-The-Grid House for Less Than $1500
The ultimate dream of every off-grid enthusiast is to entirely power one’s house by renewable energy and store the produced electricity in batteries, therefore saying goodbye to utility bills, unreliable power, and fossil fuel energy.
Thanks to an ever-decreasing price of off-grid systems, it is now accessible to all. Let’s have a quick look at what you will need to install a domestic off-grid system.
Electricity Production Source for an Off-the-Grid House
The most common way of producing electricity at home is through solar panels. However, it is also possible to install a wind turbine for your home. Residential wind turbines are micro-turbines that generate electricity when the wind is blowing. It works great in combination with domestic solar panels, for example, during the night, it could produce electricity.
Residential wind turbines start at $200 for the smallest units (less than 1kW).
Electricity Storage for an Off-the-Grid House
Store the electricity generated by your solar panel or domestic wind turbine in a home battery storage pack. We recommend lithium batteries like LiFePo4 batteries. They have the highest energy density and life duration (up to 10 years). They are perfectly fit for intermittent charging and discharging.
The inverter is the brain of your domestic off-grid system. You will get the highest power output of your solar panels and residential wind turbine thanks to its MPPT charger. It regulates the charge of the batteries, and it converts DC power into AC for your appliances.
As previously mentioned, off-grid systems are highly scalable. Therefore, you could start to live off the grid for less than $1500. This configuration might only give you autonomy during summer months, but don’t worry – you’ll be able to upgrade your configuration at any time.
In this article, we demonstrated that you don’t need to invest a lot to go off the grid. The versatility of off-grid systems makes them highly scalable. Micro-off-grid already start when hiking or camping.
Once one of the most expensive components of the system, the price of lithium battery packs is dropping dramatically. This trend is far from being over. Therefore, off-grid systems will be even more affordable in the coming years. New technologies are also popping up like the hydrogen battery offering more storage capacity and longer lifetime (30 years).