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BigBattery opened our new Headquarters in California! |  Located @  21314 Lassen St Chatsworth CA 91311

Steps for Designing an Off-Grid Solar Power System

Solar panels for an off grid system

Solar panels are an incredible source of renewable energy. Whether you’re looking to build a small or large power system for your home or cabin, you should investigate several important factors, from getting the right solar panels to ensuring you’re working with the proper battery packs. There are several steps to designing an off-grid solar power system, and this information is a great way to help you get started. 

How Much Power Do You Need?

Whether you’re planning on staying in an RV, a tiny house, or a cabin in the woods, different applications require differing amounts of power. Before you even think about investing in panels and generators, you should take the time to figure out roughly how much energy you’re going to need.

Take the time to consider all the items you plan to power with your panels and batteries. What are your essentials? You could just buy two panels and a battery to start out, but you may quickly discover that those aren’t nearly enough to meet your power needs. Before doing anything else, it’s best to take the time to figure out approximately how much energy is necessary for your personal needs. BigBattery offers a complementary Solar Calculator to help you find exactly how much capacity you’ll need for your system.

How Many Batteries Do You Need?

After you take the time to figure out how much power you need, you’ll want to figure out how much energy storage you need. Is your system designed to last only a couple of days? Do you plan on living off the grid full-time? Do you have a backup generator or other power source in case your batteries run dry and the sun isn’t shining?

Batteries come in a variety of sizes and voltages. If your system primarily charges minor things like your cell phone or tablet, 12V batteries may work best for you. However, if you’re using over 2000 watts at any given moment, you may need to invest in larger off-grid lithium battery banks. It’s always a good idea to carefully evaluate how much energy storage you’ll need and plan accordingly.

It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that external factors, such as temperature, will have an effect on the longevity of your batteries. You’ll want to try keeping them at a healthy and comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure you maximize their lifespan.

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for Your Location and Time of Year?

It’s vital to figure out precisely how many solar panels you’ll need. If you know how much power you need and how many batteries to purchase but neglect to install enough panels to accumulate the proper amount of energy to meet your power needs, your system will fall apart relatively fast.

Additionally, one step of designing an off-grid solar panel system that many people forget to account for is the amount of sunlight you get in your region based on the time of year. Factors like daylight savings time, shorter winter days, and geographical location all affect the amount of usable sunlight your system gets throughout the day.

If you live farther up north and use your off-grid system during the winter months, you will likely need more power funneling into your system than someone with the exact same power needs during a summer in Florida. 

Get a Proper Solar Charge Controller

After you determine how much power you need, get your batteries connected, and set up enough solar panels to provide energy to the batteries, you need to consider how you will get the power from the panels directly into the batteries.

To safely move the energy, you will want a proper solar charge controller. A simple way to calculate a rough estimate for the correct controller size is to take the watts from your solar panel and divide it by the voltage of your battery.

There are two types of solar charge controllers: pulse width modulation (PWM) and maximum power points tracking (MPPT). A PWM charge controller is ideal when the voltage of your solar panels is the same as your battery; for example, if both are 12V, a PWM may be right for you. However, if you’re using 20V panels to store energy in a 12V battery, you need to use an MPPT controller to avoid damaging your entire system.

Select the Right Inverter

Once you have everything set up to collect, transfer, and store your power, it’s crucial to ensure your power is usable. Some enthusiasts who create their own off-grid solar system may only use DC outlets directly attached to the battery bank; if you only plan on using the DC loads, you will need to find a way to convert the current from your batteries to the appliances that use AC outlets.

In North America, the standard voltage on most appliances is the 120/240V split. When searching for inverters, you’ll want to find one that syncs with your system current. The good news is that the calculations you made to figure out how much power you need should also provide the information you need regarding wattage.

It’s crucial to know that inverters are designed to work with a specific voltage. If your battery banks are 12V, 24V, or 48V, you’ll want to make sure your inverter matches that particular voltage to avoid causing any damage to your off-grid system.

Creating and maintaining a solar-powered system off the grid isn’t an easy task; a lot of hard work, careful calculations, and monetary investments are required. However, those who are serious about creating a space for themselves where they can live, relax, or just spend some time off-grid while still enjoying the comforts of their coffee maker or electric range may find the cost and effort well worth it.

If you’re looking for lithium-ion batteries, off-grid lithium battery banks, or information pointing you in the right direction to get your plans off the ground, the knowledgeable experts at BigBattery have everything you need to start your exciting new journey. Feel free to reach out to us today with any questions, comments, or concerns by phone at (818) 280-3091 or email at Sales@BigBattery.com.

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