Building your own power supply system will take three key elements. First, you will need to choose your source of energy. Secondly, you will need to create a means of conversion to make your power usable. Finally, generating your own power involves storing it effectively, so you can enjoy solar power when the moon is out and wind power when the air is still.
Most homeowners who choose to generate their own power do so by collecting solar energy with solar panels or harnessing the wind. Most off-grid living will also require some sort of backup, such as a gas or diesel generator. Solar and wind power are inherently inconsistent each 24-hour cycle, so you’ll need some form of backup to keep your house batteries charged.
The Bits and Bobs
Once you’ve got a home energy source, it will have to be wired to transmit power to your battery bank for effective home energy storage. Between the panels and the batteries, you’ll need a charge controller that will protect your batteries from overcharging damage. You will also need an inverter. Solar and wind power come into your home as 220-volt direct current or DC. Your home appliances run on 110-volt alternating current or AC. Without a charge controller, you can cook your batteries. Without an inverter, you can burn up your appliance. In addition, it’s a good idea to have a backup source of power generation on site. Most systems are coupled with a backup generator and a battery bank to keep your power consistent off-season.
Car batteries are designed to hold a charge, but they don’t tolerate a discharge well. You will need different batteries for your home power system — that is, batteries that are designed to discharge and recharge easily. You’ll need to decide on a reliable bank of batteries. These batteries are generally either flooded cell batteries or absorbent glass mat batteries. Flooded cell batteries need to be opened for maintenance because if they dry out, they will fail and no longer be able to hold a charge. AGM batteries are sealed, require no maintenance and are lighter than flooded cell batteries. However, AGMs are more expensive.
Investing in your home to develop a way to live off-grid is actually getting easier as consumers seek to reduce their carbon footprint. Depending on your investment, you may also get a tax break. Talk to your solar installer about recommended backup options, and put those in place when you install your system. You’ll be one step closer to enjoying the homestead life that we love so much.