Your Solar Array Options: Grid-Tied, Battery Back-Up, and Off-Grid Solutions

Which Solar-Powered System is Right for You?

Your Solar Array Options: Grid-Tied, Battery Back-Up, and Off-Grid Solutions

Choosing the right solar-powered system for you will depend on your unique power needs.

There are three basic types of solar installs on residential and commercial buildings:

  • Grid-tied with no energy storage
  • Grid-tied with a battery back-up
  • 100% off-grid systems with a larger battery and no connection to the power grid.

While most Tampa Bay Solar customers have grid-tied solar arrays, solar battery backup systems and off-grid systems can offer additional advantages.    

Grid-Tied Solar Arrays

The most common and least expensive type of solar install is a grid-tied system with panels and inverters. These systems generate power during the day, and if that power is not used in real time, it goes back to the power grid on a one-to-one basis as a net metered system.  

About 90% of the systems installed by Tampa Bay Solar are simple grid-tied solar arrays that use net metering to store extra power, which is returned to the customer when the sun goes down. Net metered systems also build up credits during the low usage months from January to April, and those credits carry forward to be used during high usage months in the summer.

Grid-tied systems have lower costs and a faster ROI, so many of our clients start with a grid-tied system and add a battery back-up later.

Solar Arrays with Emergency Battery BackUp:

Solar arrays with emergency back-ups add energy storage to an existing grid-tied system. Designed for emergency use, these systems are perfect for clients who experience periodic power outages, especially after tropical storms or hurricanes. These systems require panels, an inverter, battery systems and an energy management system that keeps the battery at full charge and can shift to battery power when the power grid goes through a blackout.   

If you already own a grid-tied system, there are inverter systems built specifically for battery back-up that you can easily add to your existing system.

Here in Florida, most of our clients want enough back-up power to run an air conditioning unit, and this presents a challenge because any air conditioning unit requires at least 10,000 watts of on-demand power. This is why It makes sense to talk with a sales rep who has experience sizing these systems.

On-demand power is important, but storage capacity is also crucial during a long-term blackout. If your system does not have enough storage capacity it will brownout and blackout as the charge runs down to zero. For this reason, most battery back-up systems feed to the critical load sub panel with only specific breakers powered by the battery–this might be a well, the kitchen appliances, internet and air conditioning only.

If your battery runs out of charge in the middle of the night it will recharge as the sun comes up in the morning.

To conserve battery power at night (during a blackout) we recommend that any high-energy usage takes place during the day, when most of that power can be drawn from the solar array, not draining the battery.

Off-Grid Systems

Tampa Bay Solar also offers off-grid system installation. 

We designed an off-grid system for a client in Tampa back in 2018. This is a 4,000-square-foot home designed to be highly efficient with a solar array, solar hot water on the roof, and a 40-kilowatt lithium ion phosphate battery in the garage. This system has never been connected to TECO.

Another off-grid solution we offer is off-grid construction trailers with panels on the roof and battery storage systems built into the unit.

Most solar installers in Tampa have zero experience with off-grid applications; we’re proud of our unique experience in this niche.   

The challenges of off-grid applications lie in balancing power production from the solar array with enough storage capacity to keep the power running through the night. There are also larger costs associated with a 100% off-grid system because of the need for power generation (more panels) and the extra storage required to make it through cloudy weather and low solar output days. But for those who want to be completely energy independent, an off-grid system can make it happen.

Other Back-Up Systems

One of the alternative options to a battery back-up is a whole house generator that runs on gasoline or propane. We don’t install these systems at Tampa Bay Solar.

The drawback to a gas or propane generator is the noise of a running engine during use and the difficulty of refueling your generator during an extended blackout combined with fuel shortages. You also have to be careful about the carbon monoxide exhaust from these systems.  

Unlike propane or gas generators, a solar array combined with batteries runs with zero noise and zero air pollution. And, there’s no need to worry about refueling, as this system will recharge on its own each morning.

What’s Next?

Our sales team has weekly training sessions pertaining to new tech advances in solar and the latest storage technology. We would love to have a conversation with you about your options, costs, and feasibility for your home or business. And if you own a grid-tied system, we can explore your battery back-up options.

We will work with you over the phone or in person. Don’t wait, call Tampa Bay Solar today! 

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