Ensuring you are selecting the correct equipment type, capacity and features are equally as important as buying a quality brand name equipment and installing it correctly. If the wrong equipment is selected, it will either not deliver the outcome you're after, fail prematurely or damage the equipment. Below are some tips to assist you in selecting the correct equipment to maximise your investment, and have zero problems for a reliable hassle-free experience off the grid.
Calculating your power and energy requirements
Completing an accurate load profile is an essential part of correctly designing an off-grid solar system. The load profile is a list of all your appliances and utilities that require electricity. An estimate of their usage frequency (e.g. how many days per week, and hours per day) builds a picture of daily kWh usage and kW peak power demand.
For a copy of a Load Profile Form CLICK HERE.
What to know when selecting your equipment
Solar Array - Solar arrays (Multiple solar panels in a group) should be located as close as practical to the standalone equipment as this reduces cable costs and improves efficiency. The solar array must be capable of producing enough electricity (kWh) to replace the energy consumed by the loads on any given day – including days of poor weather. Below are some guides to where a solar array should be installed:
- Orientated to True North (slightly different to Magnetic North)
- Optimised solar module pitch/inclination – For example, the steeper the solar array pitch in southern locations, the better your winter solar generation you will be. This, in turn, reduces the fuel consumption of a backup generator, improves system reliability while still retaining adequate power production in summer.
- Avoid shading at all times of the year, this is especially critical in winter when shadows are the longest.
- Solar panels sited on the roof of an equipment enclosure (eg Shed) can also assist in lowering internal operating temperatures; this helps to prolong the battery bank and equipment life marginally.
Batteries - Sizing your battery bank is incredibly important when designing your system. Understanding when and how much electricity (kWh) is used will help determine the battery capacity required. Different types of batteries are often better suited to different types of applications and requirements. Whether you need to rapidly charge/discharge your batteries or a big autonomy need or have restricted space, different battery types and chemistries offer different advantages. Understanding which one is best for your application will go a long way to giving you the best outcome.
Inverter/Charger - The inverter/charger needs to be sized to the peak power (kW) requirements of your property. If you boil the kettle, run the air conditioner, and do a load of washing simultaneously, the inverter/charger needs to be capable of delivering this power all at once.
Generator - Generator sets require much careful thought and planning when it comes to their installation and operation. The generator should be installed as close as is reasonably practical and convenient to the main residence and other stand-alone equipment while giving careful consideration to the possible noise level when in use. Please note different safety regulations are applicable to permanently installed generators and portable directly supervised use generators.
Below are some prompters as to where and how a generator is to be installed:
- Permanent or portable generator set
- Auto-starting or manual start
- Exhaust gas ducting/extraction
- Air intake, ventilation and heat dissipation
- Noise – Many people under estimate how much nuisance the noise can be
- Storing fuel and oils safely
- Maintenance – Easy access to parts of the generator for maintenance
- Safety – Insulating hot exhaust pipes, protection of moving parts within the generator, electrical safety
- Security – Theft of generators has been known to happen
- Access – Excluding unauthorised personnel; pets and various wildlife