Upgrading off grid PV system

Adrienne SorensenAugust 21, 201812050

Upgrading off grid PV system 

With freedom comes  responsibility of providing your own energy needs. It can be challenging if your system struggles to supply energy on a daily basis. You might find that your energy needs have evolved over time. A majority of  off-grid systems can be expanded with additional panels, inverters, and a bigger battery bank. Before we discuss how to expand your off-grid system, let’s discuss why you need to add on to your system in the first place.

There are a few situations where modular expansion makes sense: budget constraints. It’s best to start with a  small system, then expand as your budget allows.

Build a system with future expansion in mind

An off-grid system is a very large purchase. Not everyone can purchase a system that will cover 100% of their electricity needs. You can create your system in smaller installments than make one large purchase. It’s a great way to approach off-grid installations but planning in advance is your best bet. It’s recommended to  build a system with future expansion in mind. Regardless of what set up you choose, ensure that  your setup leaves space to tack on extra panels. Remember that inverters and batteries have their own capacity limits. If you add more panels, you’ll likely pair them with new inverters and batteries to keep pace with the extra output. Also, keep in mind that a piecemeal installation method can be more expensive in the long run. Be aware of the drawbacks of building a system. 

Piecemeal installation can be more expensive

Panel Consistency:  Most panels have a standard voltage and size, so a new panel will likely be compatible with an old system. There are cosmetic differences, but a mix-and-match system should work just fine. Mix and match panels work as long as  they’re within 1 volt. Electrical specs and sizes are standardized (60-cell and 72-cell panels are common).

Extra Installation prices:  When you purchase a  system in installments, you end up paying a lot more in shipping and installation. If  working with a contractor, you’ll have to pay the same service fees twice. The labor costs less if you get the whole project done at the first time around. These fees  are minor compared to the overall price of the system. Depending on your circumstance, it may be worth it to get the purchase installment payments. 

Adding new panels isn’t complex, it just involves small adjustments to the mounting hardware. Depending on the brand and frame size of your panels, bolting it on to your existing hardware without any changes may work. When upgrading to develop more solar energy, you may need to add another charge controller and adjust wiring to prevent overloading the circuitry. If electrical expansion is needed, get the aid of a certified electrician.

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