The Key Differences Between Grid Tied, Off-Grid and Solar Hybrid Systems

Before you think about your chosen components or installer, it's important to know which system configuration works for your energy goals and requirements.

When you make the decision to install solar, there are a plethora of questions to be answered before any panels make it to your roof. What are your energy goals? What is your budget? Do you have any preferred components? What type of system do you want?

Solar energy systems can be installed to suit a variety of different applications but the main point to consider is whether or not you stay on the conventional energy grid. Each system type has a range of advantages and disadvantages and each will have a different effect on your long term energy usage. This article delves into the main types of solar installations; grid tied, off-grid and solar hybrid; how they operate, and which one could be the best fit for you. 

What are the different types of solar systems?

  • Grid Tied Solar System
  • Off-Grid System (Stand Alone Solar System) 
  • Solar Hybrid System

How does a grid tied solar system work?

It is not too hard to decipher this one; grid tied energy systems remain connected to the conventional energy grid. These systems consist of only 2 key components - solar panels and a dedicated grid tied inverter - and only supply energy when your panels are producing. 

During the day, your grid tied solar system will operate one of two ways depending on your energy consumption, the performance of your panels and the weather. Firstly, if your system is producing surplus energy - meaning more energy than your home can utilise at the time - this electricity will be exported to the grid. This exported energy is recorded by your energy retailer and they reimburse you for the amount of energy you feedback into the grid. 

The second way your grid tied system operates is during the times where your load is too high for the amount of electricity your solar panels are producing. In these circumstances, you will draw energy from the grid to supplement your solar energy while it is not producing electricity. This imported energy is also recorded by your energy provider through your metering system and this is what you will be charged for in your quarterly energy bills. 

What are the pros and cons of a grid tied solar system?

Pros:
  • The most cost-effective solution of the bunch! 

  • Low maintenance 

  • Used in conjunction with net metering, it allows owners to only pay for the net kWh electricity used from the grid. This means your solar energy is sent to your home first before it is sent to the grid rather than vice versa.

Cons:
  • You cannot store your unused solar energy. This means you only have access to electricity from your solar panels during the day when your panels are producing and not at night. If the conventional grid is down, you will not have access to power. 

How does an off-grid solar system work?

As the name suggests, an off-grid solar system operates completely independently without input from the conventional grid. These systems require additional components to ensure complete energy independence while maintaining your property’s energy loads. On top of solar panels and a solar inverter your system will also require; a battery inverter, a battery bank and a generator for backup. While there are multiple off-grid system configurations generally your system will be set up as follows: 

Odoo CMS - a big picture

These systems need to be designed to handle your entire load profile, even in the winter months where your solar production may drop due to shorter days. Because of this, most off-grid systems require significantly larger solar arrays in order to generate enough power and a large enough battery bank to store it. All off-grid systems should be fitted with a strong generator to ensure you stay powered during moments of high loads, low solar production or low battery storage.  

What are the pros and cons of an off-grid solar system?

Pros:
  • Total energy independence - your property is completely self-sufficient.

  • Grid failures won't affect your energy supply.

  • Blackout proof 

  • You are able to live remotely not have to worry about your nearest grid connection point.

Cons:

  • It is an expensive way to power your property - roughly $2 000 - $3 000 per 1kWh.

  • Standalone systems require more components and as such more maintenance and upkeep than other systems. Maintaining a strong relationship with your installer is a must. 

  • Batteries are only designed to last around 10 years before being replaced. Over time these batteries lose more and more capacity which you will need to account for in your budget and design.

How does a hybrid solar system work?

Hybrid solar power systems give you the best of both worlds. These systems are designed to remain tethered to the conventional energy grid as well as utilise the many benefits of solar batteries. Generally, the batteries in a hybrid system are sized to provide enough power to see your property through the night without drawing energy from the grid. These systems are designed to deliver solar power to your home first, then draw power from your battery, and as a last resort, import energy from the grid. If your solar panels are producing more electricity than you require, and your battery bank is full, the excess energy will be exported to the grid, earning you an income. During times where your battery is empty and your solar is not producing enough to cover your energy load, necessary power will be imported from the grid.

What are the pros and cons of a hybrid solar system?

Pros:

  • Still receive the benefits of a solar battery without the price tag of an off-grid system

  • Significantly increase the amount of self-generated solar electricity a household consumes 

  • Lower maintenance costs and higher reliability than an off-grid system 

  • Can protect you from blackouts if configured correctly

Cons:

  • Installing a battery bank lowers your ROI than if you were just to install a grid tied solar system

  • Requires a more complex installation than a standard grid tied solar system

  • Your battery will need to be replaced after 7-15 years

The choice is yours!

Now that you are armed with an understanding of the possible system configurations available and the advantages and disadvantages of each, you are well on your way to knowing which option aligns with your energy goals. If you are wanting to install solar but are hesitant to make the jump to install a solar battery, you can always design a system that allows this to be added at a later date.  If you’d like to know more about the benefits of installing a solar hybrid system at your home, read our blog post: Can I Add a Solar Battery to my Existing Solar Installation?

Contact Us for a Free Quote

You can call us today, or fill out the form below for one of our experienced staff members to call you and discuss the quote. If you prefer an emailed response please make a note of that in the message. Make sure you also let us know what suburb you are from too

(07) 3889 8898

sales@springers.com.au

704 Gympie Rd
Lawnton, QLD 4501

About us

Springers Solar provides quality components with proven performance, backed by industry-leading warranties, and dedicated after-sales support. 

We are the only founding signatory to the Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailers Program that is based in Queensland. 

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