I s off grid solar worth it? In this article we’ll explore the pros and cons of going fully off the grid with solar in NZ. If you are not from NZ, please talk to a reputable off-the-grid solar company in your country.

The question “is off-grid solar worth it?” is really a matter of who you are, why you are considering off grid solar, and your particular situation.

Ultimately, the value of off-grid solar is entirely dependent on your wants and needs. Everyone has different requirements. It’s up to you to decide if grid-free solar power is your best option.

But first; the short answer:

If you are looking at taking an existing home off the grid to save money or for financial reasons, then it may not be worth it – unless you have a very low daily power use.

That’s our experience with dealing with hundreds of enquiries over the years from people asking the same question.

If you have an existing home and your motivations are not financial, or if you are building new and grid power is too far away (expensive to get connected), then it could be worth it.

Let’s explore some of the main motivations and situations for people considering off grid power in NZ. Then for each, we’ll look at the comparative advantages and disadvantages.

  • Existing house: Independence & security. Your property is connected to the grid now. You are motivated by power independence and security of supply (you don’t have confidence that the national grid will support your needs in the future). You are concerned about power outages, especially long-term power cuts.

  • Existing house: grid-free vs grid-tied costs . Your property is connected to the grid now. You want to explore if going off grid might be a better long-term viable option compared to paying a monthly power bill. For you it’s about the cost comparison over time, rather than independence or sustainability.

  • The cost to get grid-connected is high.  You have land with no house on it (or you are looking at buying land). You want to compare the cost of getting the power connected versus being off the grid. For you, the question of “is off grid solar worth it?” is about financial viability and the payback compared to paying the power bill.

  • You want to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  You are moving or building new and it’s a priority for you to live more sustainably. You want to know the real costs – financial and otherwise, to help you with your decision.

Read on to learn more.

Existing house: Power independence & security 

is off grid solar worth it

I f you are already connected to the grid and your motivations are stronger than the financial viability, then it’s an easy process to go off grid.

It’s just about the money!

We’ve taken many clients off the grid whose reasons have nothing to do with the financial cost. They understand that the cost of doing it may not make financial sense, (especially if they use more that 10 kWh per day) but they want to do it anyway.

For a general indication of off grid solar sizing and pricing, take a look at our range of off grid solar systems.

Their reasons go well beyond the cost, and include:

  • They are concerned about grid security and do not have confidence in the integrity of the NZ power grid
  • They do not have confidence in geo-political security, and believe that for political reasons, the integrity of the power grid is at risk
  • They are motivated to do their part to live more environmentally sustainable – even if the costs to do so outweigh the financial benefits
  • They are active survivalists who proactively prepare for natural and man-made disasters

We’ll cover the actual costs of taking an existing home off the grid in the section below.

The cost to transition from existing grid power to off grid could be significant unless you are using a relatively small amount of power in winter – compared to other grid tied homes.

Consider that the ‘average’ family in New Zealand will use about 22 kWh per day. Depending on your location and circumstances, the cost to install an off-grid system to power 22 kWh in winter, could start at $70,000 inc GST.

Many clients transitioning to off grid solar will invest in alternatives to electric hot water, cooking and space heating. This will keep the size of your system down – and the price.

Take a look at our article that explains what’s involved in doing an off grid load evaluation. It’s one of the main factors that help us determine the final size of your off grid solar system.

Existing house: Grid-free vs grid-tied costs

If you are currently grid tied you may want to explore off grid solar as a long-term viable option, compared to paying a monthly power bill.

Your reasons looking at off grid solar aren’t related to independence or environmental sustainability. For you it’s about the financial cost over time.

Unfortunately, in most cases the long term payback may not be favourable unless your daily power use in winter is low.

If you are looking for off grid solar for a tiny house, and you intend your daily power use to be low, the payback may be viable and obvious compared to staying connected to the grid.

That’s why clients looking at going off the grid with an existing home will look at ways to minimise power use in the following areas. This could include the replacement of appliances and equipment to be more energy efficient and include:

  • More efficient hot water heat pumps (or gas) for hot water
  • Gas ovens or gas hobs
  • Wood burner or heat pumps for space heating

The first step to sizing your system is to look at your average daily kWh usage over the months of June to August. Your power bill will either refer to kWh or ‘units’.

The higher your daily load, the higher your investment will be.

As a general guideline, take a look at our off grid solar systems sizing and pricing page. It shows the approximate daily kWh power load that each of our systems are designed to handle.

3. The cost to get grid-connected is high.

is off grid solar worth is - airbnb

If you are building new or relocating a house to your property, the cost of getting connected may be high and off grid solar may be an option.

By far, this is the most common reason for people to request a design and quote.

Once again, just like the other three areas above, sizing and pricing always comes down to your daily load, your location and a few lifestyle factors.

If you plan to hold on to your property for the long term, then a quality system using the latest technology and maximum longevity makes more financial sense than buying a low-priced system that needs to be replaced in 10 years or less.

Getting a quote to get the power connected is your first objective.

We’ve written a chapter on off grid solar viability and in the same article for beginners, you’ll find other tips for arranging a grid-tied quote from your relevant lines company.

Your reasons looking at off grid solar aren’t related to independence or environmental sustainability. For you it’s about the financial cost over time.

Unfortunately, in most cases the long term payback may not be favourable unless your daily power use in winter is low.

That’s why clients looking at going off the grid with an existing home will look at ways to minimise power use in the following areas. This could include the replacement of appliances and equipment to be more energy efficient and include:

  • More efficient hot water heat pumps (or gas) for hot water
  • Gas ovens or gas hobs
  • Wood burner or heat pumps for space heating

The first step to sizing your system is to look at your average daily kWh usage over the months of June to August. Your power bill will either refer to kWh or ‘units’.

The higher your daily load, the higher your investment will be.

As a general guideline, take a look at our off grid solar systems sizing and pricing page. It shows the approximate daily kWh power load that each of our systems are designed to handle.

For example, our medium-sized off grid system (PS:Medium) is designed to cope with about 9 kWh per day, assuming one day of backup battery power allowing for consecutive dark days in winter.

For specific calculations based on your requirements, please get in touch.

4. You want to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

sustainable living

If you are serious about wanting to live sustainably and reduce your carbon footprint, then off grid solar will be a consideration for you.

More and more clients are making the decision to sever their connection to the national power grid. Their motivations are not about the financial viability – it’s purely about sustainability.

Off the grid solar becomes just one part of their overall lifestyle plan.

For those focused on sustainability (with the financial means to do it), we will often over-engineer an off grid system to compensate for an auto-start generator which would usually be required.

The design of a system to run without the need for a generator in winter needs to be carefully considered, and we can help with this as part our free design service.

It is straightforward enough to eliminate fossil fuels as an energy source in a house. The compromise is that the system size may be two or even tree times the size (and price) of using alternatives such as gas or solid fuels.

In particular, the following high-draw appliances and equipment can be replaced with solar – at a cost:

  • Hot water heating (usually with a hot water heat pump) which are up to three or four times more efficient compared to a modern hot water cylinder
  • Electric hob for cooking of which induction cooking is the most efficient
  • Heat pumps for space heating which use significantly less energy than other electric heaters such as most infra red, fan or wall panel heaters

Is off grid solar worth it? Conclusion.

Is off grid solar worth it? The answer depends entirely on your motivations, financial situation and your goals.

Here’s a quick summary:

If you have an existing home that is already grid tied, it will be unlikely that the change will be financially viable unless your daily load is very low (less than 6 kWh per day).

To keep the price of your system down, you might need to consider changing some or all of your appliances and equipment to alternatives to electricity (such as gas or solid fuel). This will reduce the demand on your system and reduce the price, but the downside is that it will add to the overall cost.

If the cost to get power connected is high and the cost to go off the grid is the same or lower than the cost to get hooked up, then it’s a no brainer to go off the grid. Especially when you take in to account that there will be no ongoing power bill.

If your reasons are based on sustainability or geo-political reasons, then it’s really just a matter of accurate sizing of your system.  Assuming you have the funds to make it happen, you’d be choosing the off grid solar lifestyle for reasons that transcend the financial cost.

You’ll find lots of off grid resources on this website. When you’re ready to talk or to get a quote, please get in touch.

Thank you for reading this.