Off-Grid Solar Project

2020 Oct 10

A project I have long been interested in was a solar power system. It would especially be useful if the power went out (even though that rarely happens here). I studied and studied my options and finally pulled the trigger on an off-grid design that would support very basic lights and heat in the house.

A metal roof on our house

Initially I had planned to mount the solar panels on the house. In preparation, I re-roofed the house (needed anyway). Previous times I had done the roof myself, but this time I wanted something better than composite (which degrades so quickly). I had an aluminum metal roof installed, and this should last the life of the house. Already the project was growing!


The code requirements have gotten much more safety conscious for solar panels mounted on houses (especially for the benefit of firemen). So in the end I decided to put panels on our shed instead.

Shed being painted

This meant I needed to re-roof the shed and paint it.

Solar panels being installed on the shed

Power would come into the house via metal conduit buried under the grass. After the solar parts were delivered, I installed them on the shed.

Finished shed installation

This was completed during our wildfire season this year. There were fires north, east and south of us, so the smoke in the air made the color of the light be very strange.

Solar power electronics

Inside the house the power electronics charges the battery and makes AC power my appliances can use. A lot of solar installations don't have a battery, but I wanted stored power for if the mains power went off. That black battery box is about half the cost of the project!

The system works great. However, I have been surprised by how weak our sunlight is during our grey days. Our eyes function well in the dim light, but the solar panels don't generate much energy. On a sunny day, the battery gets back up to full charge in the morning. On cloudy days it could take a week.

2020-10-10 updated 2021-01-01   © 2021 Larry Grove