In this series, we have already covered many important aspects of installing a solar panel in residential buildings and homes. In this article, we will cover another decision: whether you should select an on-grid solar system or an off-grid solar system. Both systems are popular; however, they vary significantly and can make a difference in your total solar capacity.

Solar panels are an expensive, long-term investment. Taking the right decision regarding all aspects and factors is important. Before you decide on installing an on-grid solar system or an off-grid solar system, read this article on the major differences, advantages and disadvantages of both.

What are on-grid solar systems?

An on-grid solar system is connected to the utility power grid in the neighbourhood. Most homeowners install solar panels that generate more electricity than they need for their households. This extra electricity is redirected to the utility power grid. In return, the utility provider provides a discount or financial compensation to the homeowner.

Most on-grid systems are installed with net metering. This allows the provider to assess how much energy is being sold and how much they need to pay. It is also possible to install these systems without a meter. In such cases, the utility provider provides a lump sum amount.

Advantages of on-grid solar systems

  1. It is easy and less expensive to install an on-grid system as compared to an off-grid system.
  2. The system provides a passive source of income for homeowners.
  3. The system does not use batteries; which reduces the annual maintenance cost of the solar system.

Disadvantages of on-grid solar systems

  1. The on-grid systems do not work when the power grid is turned off.
  2. The system does not allow you to store any power. Therefore, during the night or on a cloudy day, you are dependent on the utility provider’s power supply.
  3. On-grid systems don’t help you reduce your carbon footprint by a significant amount.

Who is this suitable for?

On-grid solar systems are suitable for households, commercial buildings and factories with stable power supplies. Since the power supply is stable, the building does not necessarily need solar energy. They can then benefit from the solar power generated. The power can be used for the building and excess can be sold to the utility provider. This reduces the monthly expense on electricity bills and provides a passive source of income.

What are off-grid solar systems?

An off-grid solar system is not connected to the utility power grid in the neighbourhood. In this type of system, the excess electricity generated is stored in a battery. Since the system is not connected to the utility power grid, the energy stored in the battery is used during the night. This allows the system to be completely independent of the unit.

An off-grid solar system is installed based on the house or business’s needs. Customization is an important part of this system because power generation should surpass the needs. Without accurate calculation and customization, this is not possible. If the correct installation isn’t done, the owner may find it difficult to meet his electricity needs.

Advantages of off-grid solar systems

  1. The system allows complete independence from the utility power grid; which is beneficial for areas with unreliable power supply.
  2. The system reduces your carbon footprint by allowing you to be independent of fossil-fuel generated electricity.
  3. India boasts over 300 days of sunlight; which makes these extremely reliable systems.

Disadvantages of off-grid solar systems

  1. The off-grid solar system is expensive to install since it needs a battery and an inverter. The price of installation increases as you increase the battery size.
  2. This type of system has more components; which increases the annual maintenance cost of the solar system.
  3. Not all components have the same warranty and lifespan, and therefore need to be replaced within 10-12 years.

Who is this suitable for?

An off-grid solar system is most suitable for homes, businesses and commercial buildings in remote locations. It can also be installed in areas with infrequent power cuts. Since the system is completely independent of the utility provider, owners need not concern themselves with power cuts and other grid-related problems.

The middle ground: hybrid solar systems

On-grid solar systems and off-grid solar systems both have unique advantages and disadvantages. Most homeowners consider these as two extremes: you’re either completely reliant on the utility provider, or you are completely independent. Hybrid solar systems are the middle ground between the two.

Hybrid solar systems are often called off-grid solar systems with AC power backup. In this type of system, you receive a switch that allows you to redirect the excess electricity to the utility provider whenever necessary. When you do not have any excess electricity, this switch is turned off.

Advantages of hybrid solar systems

You get the best of both worlds. The advantages of on-grid solar systems and off-grid solar systems apply here.

Disadvantages of hybrid solar systems

This type of system cannot be used by buildings in remote locations with no power grid.

Last words

India’s energy consumption is expected to reach 15,280 TWh by 2040. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set the goal of generating 175 GW from renewable sources by 2022. Under this goal, many schemes and financial benefits have been provided for residential owners who wish to install solar panels.

Regardless of where you live, you will be able to find a solar system that can meet your needs. Finding the right partner is important. If you’re unsure of where to start your search, read our article on the top solar panel manufacturers in India to get started.