On Grid vs. Off-Grid Solar: Which One is Right for You?

Many people are going solar these days, before you go solar you need to decide which solar panel system do you need, grid-tied or off-grid, in this post, I am going to compare On-grid vs Off-grid solar and provide my opinion on which I think is better for you.

On Grid vs. Off-Grid Solar

Types of solar panel systems

There are three types of solar panel systems.

  • On-grid (or grid-tied)
  • Off-grid (stand-alone with or without battery backup)
  • Hybrid (sometimes called “solar + storage”)

The on-grid solar panel system

on grid solar system

This is the solar system where your solar system is connected with the utility grid of your area, you will have a double direction meter that will read the energy to and from the grid.

With grid-tied systems, the excess of energy you generate is sent into the utility grid. Your panels feed electricity into the grid, which can be distributed to other people in your area. 

When your panels do not produce enough energy or during the night, the utility grid will send you back the extra energy you produced that day.

The bi-directional meter will keep on track the energy you send and receive, at the end of the month you can check how many kWh you send and how many you received, if you have a negative number you will pay the utility company the difference and if you have a positive number either the utility company will store that energy for you (to use it when your panels produce less energy) or they will pay you.

In return, you receive a credit for the energy you generate, which you can use any time. Think of it as a transaction at the bank: you are allowed to withdraw as much as you deposit. This is what allows you to keep the power on when the sun goes down.

This is the preferred system for many people, the main disadvantage is that when the utility grid goes down, you will not have power in your house.

Off-Grid solar panel systems

off grid solar system

As the name suggests, Off-grid solar systems are not connected to the utility grid, so usually you will need to have a bank of batteries to store energy for use when your solar panels are not producing electricity.

Solar batteries are very expensive, in many projects I participated sometimes just the cost of solar batteries it will take up to 50% of the whole project budget.

The main advantage of the off-grid system over the on-grid system is that you will always have energy, even if the grid goes off.

Hybrid solar panel systems

This is sometimes called the solar + batteries system, which is the combination of the two, you connect to the grid but also you have a batteries storage system.

It is the most expensive although it will give you the insurance of having electricity all the time, no matter if there is no sun or the grid is off.

On-Grid vs. Off-Grid Solar which one to pick?

For me, the only reason to go off-grid is if you leave in an area where there is no utility grid or there is a very unstable utility grid, or if you just want to go off-grid no matter what.

But if you live in an area where there is stable grid electricity and you just to lower your utility bill, go On-grid

Final words

That is it, that was the comparison between On-grid vs Off-grid solar and in my opinion, always try to go with on-grid solar if it is posible.

It doesn’t cost anything extra to store electricity in the grid. But adding batteries to an off-grid system is a significant extra cost.

In fact, batteries are the most expensive part of a solar system. They represent as much as 30-50% of the cost of an off-grid system.

Batteries alone are a 4-5 figure investment. For that simple reason, I always recommend connecting a grid-tied system if you have the option.