Here’s a myth: You can save money with off-grid solar, and stick it to the man!
One word for people who think they can save money by going off-grid – batteries. With grid-tie solar, you simply make electricity when the sun is shining, and sell any excess back to the electric company, who then sells it to your neighbors. When the sun isn’t shining, you just buy power from the grid, same as everyone else. If you “cut the cord” and go off-grid, you have to make and store all of the power you need. It can be a dramatic lifestyle change. You have to base your electric use on the sun. For example, only vacuum or run the washing machine on sunny days, when you have plenty of energy available. The first thing you need to do is greatly reduce your power usage, so that you’ll need to make less than you currently use when you are on the grid and don’t really think about if you can get all of the power you need.
The downside to living only with solar power is one more word – winter. In addition to greatly reducing your power usage, you need to install a lot of solar to handle the reduced sunshine most areas get in the winter, and install a large battery bank to store it for stretches of bad weather. Most off-grid solar systems also have a generator to help out when the weather doesn’t cooperate. If you live in an area that does not have bad winter weather, or are planning this for a seasonal camp, then it is not as much of an issue.
The initial cost of going off-grid is higher than staying connected to the grid for most locations in the US, and many locations worldwide. There are recurring costs with off-grid, including fuel for the generator and replacing the batteries every 5 to 12 years, depending on the battery technology and how well they are treated. You can pay a higher upfront cost to get batteries that can last a lifetime, but again, this will not result in you saving money, it will almost always be less expensive staying on the grid.
Not to say that going off-grid is never a good option. Off-grid living can be amazing, but only if your expectations are properly set. If your home-to-be is in a remote location where it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to bring the grid to you, you may save money by going off-grid. But if you have grid connection now, the best way to save on your electricity bill is to implement energy saving plan, install a grid-tie solar system, and buy less power from the grid.