There are many different types of solar energy systems on the market today for residential properties, each with its own unique set of features and benefits.
Perhaps the most important distinction to make when shopping for a solar energy system is whether you want a grid-tied, off-grid, or hybrid system?
In this article, we’ll take a close look at the three different types of solar energy systems and explore the key differences between them.
This is helpful if you are a DIY solar installer, or just want to learn more about how these systems work.
- 1 Grid-Tied Solar System
- 2 Additional Option: Grid-Connected with a Battery Backup
- 3 Off-Grid Tied Solar System
- 4 Hybrid Solar Systems
- 5 Grid-tied Solar System Diagram
- 6 Grid-tied Solar Inverter
- 7 Solar Charge Controller/Off-Grid Inverter
- 8 Grid-tied Solar System With Battery Backup
Grid-Tied Solar System
A grid-tied system is the most common type of solar energy system.
As the name implies, a grid-tied system is connected to the public utility grid.
This connection allows you to sell any excess power that your system produces back to the utility company.
Equipment Required for Grid-Tied Solar Systems
There are several key distinctions between the equipment required for grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid solar systems.
The following components are used in standard grid-tied solar installations:
Advantages of a grid-tied system
- typically a lower initial expense
- You can take advantage of net metering (and SRECs in some states)
- You have a backup energy source
Typically a lower initial expense
A grid-tied system is less complex than an off-grid system, and as a result, is typically less expensive to install.
You can take advantage of net metering (and SRECs in some states)
In many cases, you may be able to take advantage of net metering arrangements with your utility company.
This means that when your system produces more energy than you are using, the excess energy is sent back to the grid and you receive a credit on your bill.
In some cases, you may also be able to sell Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for each megawatt-hour (MWh) of solar electricity that your system produces.
You have a backup energy source
The fact that a grid-tied system is connected directly to the utility grid means that you have a backup energy source in case your system is not producing enough power.
This is in contrast to an off-grid system, which must be able to meet all of your energy needs on its own.
Related: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Additional Option: Grid-Connected with a Battery Backup
Adding one or more battery backups to a grid-tied solar system allows you to rely less on the grid while still enjoying the attractive money-saving advantages that these systems provide.
If you use solar panels, your system will operate without the need for a battery backup, since the main utility grid is essentially a large battery.
Installing a grid-tied system with no personal battery backup not only saves money right now, but it also eliminates maintenance and the necessity for replacement batteries later on.
Off-Grid Tied Solar System
An off-grid system is a solar energy system that is not connected to the utility grid.
Off-grid systems are most often used in remote locations where it is not practical to connect to the grid.
However, off-grid systems can also be used in conjunction with a backup generator to provide a reliable source of power in case of an outage.
Equipment Required for Off-Grid Solar Systems
Typical off-grid solar systems require the following components:
- Solar Panels
- Solar Charge Controller/Off-Grid Inverter
- Backup Generator (optional)
Advantages of the off-grid-tied system
- You are completely energy independent
- Can be installed anywhere
You are completely energy independent
The fact that you will be totally reliant on your own solar system for power means that you will no longer have to worry about power outages or other disruptions to your service.
Can be installed anywhere
Off-grid systems can be installed in any location where it is not practical to connect to the grid.
This includes remote locations, as well as locations where the cost of connecting to the grid is prohibitive.
Hybrid Solar Systems
A solar hybrid system, as the name implies, combines solar energy and conventional power. Your inverter receives solar energy and then transmits power to your home.
Unused energy goes to your home battery for storage. When your solar panels are not producing electricity, such as at night or during a outage, this battery can power your house.
A grid-tied system with battery backup is sometimes called a hybrid solar system, since it combines features of both grid-tied and off-grid systems.
Equipment Required for Hybrid Solar Systems
- Solar Panels
- Grid-Tie Inverter with Battery Manager and Charge Controller (known as Hybrid Inverters)
- Battery Bank
Advantages of Hybrid Solar systems
- Continuous power supply
- Optimal Utilization of the Renewable Resource.
- Low Maintenance
Continuous power supply
Hybrid systems provide a continuous supply of power, even when the sun is not shining.
Optimal utilization of the renewable resource.
The use of batteries in a hybrid system enables you to store renewable energy for use when it is needed most.
This results in less overall reliance on fossil fuels, and helps to optimize the use of your solar panels.
Since hybrid systems use both solar and conventional power, they tend to be easier to maintain than pure solar systems.
Grid-tied Solar System Diagram
Grid-tied Solar Inverter
Grid-tie inverters are used to connect local electrical power generators: solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, and the electricity grid.
Solar Charge Controller/Off-Grid Inverter
A solar charge controller, or solar regulator, is an electronic device that regulates the voltage and current output from a photovoltaic (PV) system to the batteries and electrical loads.
It prevents overcharging of the batteries, preventing damage and maximizing their lifetime.
Grid-tied Solar System With Battery Backup
Fast becoming the standard solar system type, the grid-tied system with battery backup is a solar PV system that is connected to the utility grid, with batteries providing backup power in case of an outage.