As solar energy continues to become more popular, choosing the right inverter for your solar panel system becomes an important decision. Generally, people mainly choose between two types of inverters: on-grid and off-grid inverters.
So, what are the differences between on-grid and off-grid inverters? In an on-grid system, the solar power system is connected to the utility’s power grid, whereas an off-grid system works independently, meaning you are not connected to the utility’s power system.
I believe that understanding the differences between on-grid and off-grid Inverters can help you decide which inverter would suit your needs. Read on to find out everything you need to know about on-grid and off-grid inverters.
If you are considering going green and wondering how to live off the grid with solar power, I wrote a whole article that I encourage you to read.
What Are On-Grid Inverters?
On-grid inverters are also called grid-tied inverters, as they are connected to the utility grid. They convert the direct current (DC) produced by your solar panels to alternating current (AC), which is used to power your home. Excess power generated by your solar panels can be fed back to the utility grid through your on-grid inverter.
An on-grid system is the most typically used solar system for residential and commercial requirements, and it is advantageous as it does not require additional batteries for storing power.
So what are inverters? Inverters generally help convert the DC-to-AC. For example, in DC, electricity is kept at a constant voltage in one direction. In contrast, electricity flows in both directions in AC as the voltage changes from positive to negative (Source: Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy)
Generally, on-grid inverters do not have battery backup and can only operate when there is electricity from the utility grid. When solar energy is available, an on-grid inverters system feeds it to your appliances. When solar energy is unavailable, the system reverts to grid power.
What Are Off-Grid Inverters?
Off-grid inverters, on the other hand, are designed to provide power to a standalone system that is not connected to the utility grid. They store excess power generated by your solar panels in a battery bank. This stored electricity is used when there is insufficient sunlight or when power is needed at night.
Off-grid inverters are used in households that are located in remote areas where utility lines do not reach. Generally, off-grid solar inverters draw energy from the battery, convert it from DC to AC, and output it as AC.
Differences Between On-Grid and Off-Grid Inverters
With technological advancement, we now have a wide range of energy sources at our disposal, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable energy sources. As a result, we have new kinds of inverters: on-grid and off-grid inverters.
For most people, switching to a renewable energy source is an exciting step towards self-sufficiency and sustainability, but it is essential to understand the difference between on-grid and off-grid inverters before choosing which one is right for you. Here are the differences between on-grid and off-grid inverters:
1- Power Source
The most significant difference between on-grid and off-grid inverters is the power source. On-grid inverters directly connect to the traditional power grid, while off-grid inverters don’t require a link to the grid.
On-grid inverters are more commonly used in urban environments, whereas off-grid inverters are more popular in remote or rural areas.
On-grid inverters work by converting DC power generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar panels into AC power that can be fed back into the grid.
Off-grid inverters store the DC power generated by renewable sources in batteries, which can be used as an alternative source of energy when the primary source is not available.
3- Power Management
On-grid inverters have the function of optimizing the solar panels’ energy generation output according to the energy requirements of the household by routing any power generated back into the grid.
Off-grid inverters, on the other hand, prioritize the power generated from renewable sources and manage energy usage accordingly.
On-grid inverters are usually less expensive than off-grid inverters as they don’t require battery storage equipment. Additionally, the cost of installation and maintenance of on-grid inverters is relatively low.
However, off-grid inverters are more expensive due to the added cost of a battery bank and the higher cost of installation and maintenance.
The truth is that battery banks can add significant costs to your solar energy system, and remember that off-grid inverters require a larger solar panel array and a bigger battery bank to cover the needs of your home, which can increase the overall cost of your solar energy system.
On-grid inverters are highly reliable, given that they have a backup power supply in the form of a grid.
Off-grid inverters’ reliability, however, depends on the efficiency of the battery backup system, which requires regular maintenance and monitoring to ensure optimal performance.
Both on-grid and off-grid inverters are equally efficient when it comes to converting DC to AC power; however, off-grid inverters use some of the converted power to charge the battery bank, which helps lower their net efficiency compared to on-grid inverters.
7- Maintenance Requirements
On-grid inverters require minimal maintenance since they operate when the grid is available. In contrast, off-grid inverters require regular maintenance of the battery bank to ensure that it’s charged correctly and working efficiently.
I also believe that replacing batteries can be costly and reduce the overall lifespan of the solar energy system.
Which Is Better On-Grid or Off-Grid Solar?
In terms of cost, on-grid systems are more cost-effective because of their lower upfront cost. In contrast, off-grid solar systems require expensive batteries for energy storage.
And I know that choosing the right inverter for your renewable energy system is an important decision that can affect your power supply, energy usage, and costs. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing between on-grid or off-grid solar:
- On-grid inverters are ideal for urban areas where the traditional grid is available, and costs can be kept low.
- On the other hand, off-grid inverters are perfect for remote locations where a traditional power grid is unavailable. And when the power generated from renewable sources cannot be stored efficiently.
What to read next:
- How to Live Off-Grid Without Electricity? 3 Things to do.
- Top 5 Propane Refrigerators for Your Off-Grid Lifestyle.
- Propane vs. Solar: Which is better for living off-grid?
- Can You Run a Dryer On Solar Power? (Here’s the definite answer!)
The choice of inverter for your solar energy system depends on your location, budget, and lifestyle. Whatever the choice, I believe the long-term benefits of investing in a solar energy system far outweigh the initial investment.
- If you live in remote areas and want to keep your energy supply independent from the grid will prefer off-grid inverters.
- And if you live in urban areas and want to benefit from net-metering tariffs and the convenience of a simple system, on-grid inverters are the better choice for you.
I believe that understanding the differences between on-grid and off-grid inverters is the first step toward making an informed decision. If you are still undecided, I encourage you to consult an expert with experience in renewable energy systems to help you make a decision that fits your specific needs.