Here are some useful ideas about living with off-grid solar in New Zealand.
Most Kiwis who make a decision to move to an off-grid solar set up understand that they will need to make changes to their lifestyle. For the clients we have helped, this is not a difficult task.
Living with off-grid solar – your habits
Living with off-grid solar means creating some new habits and new ways of thinking. The first step to energy freedom from the traditional power grid is to understand that power to your off-grid home or building is variable in nature. It’s no longer going to be immediately available ‘on tap’ when you need it. This will require some planning and learning to live with the electricity supply that is available.
If you have ever been on tank water that is determined by local rainfall, you will know that the management of water resource is important. Regular checking and conservation measures are important from time to time. It’s the same thing with off-grid solar.
When the weather is inclement and there is less or no sunshine, you’ll need to cut back on your power usage. Conversely, when the sun is out on fine sunny days, you can afford to use more energy.
Using your system
Your off-grid solar system will be set size and capacity. It will supply your needs up to a maximum level of electricity. This is important if you would like to use or operate several appliances at one – especially if those appliances are high-draw. For example heat pumps and spa pools. Power Station will design and customise the right sized system for you based on your needs.
Our single controller off grid systems provide 4kW which will feed a maximum of 20Amps of constant power while our double controller off grid systems provide 8kW which will feed a maximum of 32Amps of constant power.
Living with off-grid solar means getting to know how much electricity is used for different appliances. When you are connected to mains power through your local power company, this is hardly ever ever considered. Off-grid is different.
An example of this is a 1.5kW toaster and 2kW kettle which equates to less that 4kW (only 3.5kW) and you might think that’s OK. But all it takes is a microwave oven or a vacuum cleaner operating at the same time to exceed what a 4kW off grid system can output. By checking the labels on your appliances you will be able to see how much electricity is drawn.
When the battery bank of your solar system needs topping up, your generator will automatically start. But generators can be noisy. Give consideration to the type of generator you select – we can dive you advice. Cheaper, generators can be noisy and can cause disruption to your family or neighbours. You’ll need to think about the location of the generator on your property to minimise noise.
To ensure that your generator will auto-start when required, you should manually start your generator once every 2 weeks and run it for an hour. This will ensure that the generator battery is sufficiently charged to allow auto starts. At the same time, check that there is sufficient fuel available in the generator.
Keep an eye on your battery voltages. Our 48V system’s operating voltage is normally 46V – 55V. Should the voltage drop to below 46V the auto-start generator will be triggered. If for any reason the generator is not available you will lose power at this level because your system will shut down to protect your batteries from draining too low.
When you experience a period of poor solar weather or of higher than usual power use to pays to check the voltage level. If the battery level is low you may need to manually charge from your generator. Instructions to do this are in the manufacturer’s manual supplied with your system.
Please refer to our warranty terms in relation to the warranty of batteries.
In our next article we will discuss the sizes of off grid solar systems and important information about solar panels and controllers.