Can you go off-grid and be on-grid at the same time?

Off-grid, on-grid, battery backup, and smart-grids are these buzz-words that popup quite often when you read about energy. But what does that all mean and how can you use it?
To shed some light on this topic I will explain what it is and how you can benefit from it.

On the grid

off-grid, solar, PV

Components of the hybrid off-grid/on-grid energy system: Inverter, charge controller, battery, solar panel and solar UPS controller. This controller decides if you use the grid or solar power or battery backup.

For most citizens living on the grid and not using renewable energy electricity simply comes out of the wall-socket and for the past century nobody was worrying about how it got there and what the costs were. But things have changed and the use of “hard energy” (coal, gas, nuclear) has devastating long term consequences for mankind: climate change and radiation poisoning just to mention the most well known threats.
Off-grid is a phrase that often comes up in connection with the preparedness movement: “Preparedness refers to a very concrete research based set of actions that are taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters”
Besides massive disasters there is the more frequent problem of black-outs in many areas around the world. My family was out of power for 4 days in the winter of 2011 after a storm destroyed the power lines of the electricity provider.

Off the grid

solar UPS, off-grid, hybrid

Free energy at home and moveable backup when you need it. The DIY solar UPS setup in a box: Inverter, charge controller, solar UPS controller, batteries. This setup can be assembled in less then 15 minutes.

Living off-grid is hard to accomplish because our modern life is based on excessive use of energy in many forms: oil, gas and electricity. Everyone wants to be connected, warm, and on-line 24 hours a day for every day of the week.
But there is a way to combine off-grid and on-grid living, at least for electricity needs. The technology is not new and it is used in many households to protect its computers: UPS – uninterruptible power supply. This is a small electrical apparatus that provides emergency power when the main power source fails – but a regular UPS does only consume power and never generates it.

Hybrid off-/on-grid solution

Roof mount, solar panel, PV

No need for a large solar installation. You can start with one roof mounted solar panel which will generate you about 1kWh per day

There is a new product that has been developed to combine a UPS with solar energy: a solar powered UPS. During the day it provides free energy from the sun and at night it uses energy from the utility grid. The backup batteries are only used during a blackout or if you take it on a trip to an off-grid cabin.
This approach also makes solar power available for many people who do not qualify for big rooftop solar installations: if your energy bill is less than $50 a month you are not profitable for solar installers and they will turn you down.
Furthermore the solar UPS does not require any permits because you are not feeding energy back to the power grid.
You will be surprised how little the effort is to install such a system in your home.

solar panels, PV, off-grid, backup power

If you have a south-facing wall then free standing solar panels are an alternative to roof mount. Just make sure you fasten them to the wall. This setup even allows you to adjust the angle at summer/winter

All parts you need can be found in may stores and the price tag on a complete system is less than a thousand dollar.
I have a system installed at my house for 2 years and I never have to fear loosing my food in the fridge again. My savings are not big (about $10 a month) but it is a contribution to make the transition to distributed energy production and a way become more independent.

Most electricity (on grid) in the U.S. today comes from  burning fossil fuels – we need to increase the use of renewable energy

If you would love to decrease your carbon footprint and be more prepared for a power outage, sign up for this blog, Twitter feed or facebook page and stay informed to not miss the launch of this product.
Recommended also: Manifesto, solar UPS diagram, product page.

2 comments for “Can you go off-grid and be on-grid at the same time?

  1. Gérson Mendes Ferreira
    January 14, 2014 at 5:53 am

    It is a very interesting subject and I am passionate, I would like to receive more information about it. Manager Environment and I am concerned about the direction the world is heading.

  2. Rodrigo Vargas
    August 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Dear Sir, I can not find a supplier for a UPS controler to switch the UPS inverter on and of from the grid power when it fails,


    Rodrigo Vargas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *