Off-grid vs hybrid. There are pros and cons to both. The next step is figuring out what your needs are.
Off-grid solar systems require specialized off-grid inverters and battery systems big enough to store energy for 2 or more days. Hybrid grid-tied systems have hybrid inverters and just need a battery large enough to provide energy for 5 to 10 hours (overnight) depending on the application.
What are off-grid, on-grid, and hybrid?
It will consume significantly less grid electricity than with a traditional grid-tied system. While hybrid setups are grid-tied, they come with solar battery storage so that you can maximize the consumption of power generated by the panels. A hybrid system is possibly the most expandable and future-proof home solar setup available.
Hybrid Solar – BACK-UP when the grid goes down
The best of both worlds. With a hybrid setup, the solar battery is used as a backup in case the grid goes down. Since it’s being used as a backup instead of full-time dependence, the battery discharges less frequently, which extends its life. It also means the battery needs to be replaced less often, saving you some serious cash.
Be aware of this though – the battery bank won’t be charged during a power outage – so it's important to work with a Renewable Partner who will correctly configure your backup system for you and ensure that only your critical loads are included on the battery backup. Other energy-starved and non-critical loads like geysers, boilers, etc. are typically removed from the backup load to protect your batteries.
Great energy wasters like electric geysers will need to be converted to solar geysers, which is a far more effective and cost-effective solution, cutting somewhere between 30%-40% off your total electricity bill.
Once grid electricity is restored or the sun shines again on the panels, the batteries are recharged first if they were used for back-up, so that they are ready to provide back-up again at night or during power outages and load shedding.
The ideal solution is to ensure you have power backup in the event that the grid goes down. While a Hybrid system is more expensive than a Grid-Tied System because you’ll need to buy a battery bank, it’s still far cheaper than purchasing your electricity from Eskom. With the huge improvement in solar and battery tech, you’ll be able to hedge your costs at R1/kWh and below for the next 15-20 years rather than being at the mercy of Eskom’s outrageous rate hikes and power outages.
The second reason why a hybrid solution (capable of handling power storage) should be considered is that all indications are that, at least for the medium term, Eskom’s ability to provide cost-effective and reliable electricity is severely compromised. Hybrid systems could easily transform into off-grid solutions without having to add more (costlier) system components, provided the initial system was installed with this eventuality in mind when it was initially designed. Solar power is already cheaper on a decentralized basis than Eskom can provide with centralized power generation.
Pros and Con’s
Pros Off-Grid- You’ll have complete energy independence. No grid connection means freeing yourself from the risk of power outages or fluctuating power costs. As you’re a producer of your own power you get a great amount of freedom. as long as your energy needs are low.
It can be the most eco-friendly and sustainable home energy setup. Without the grid, you can minimize your carbon footprint. Your system won’t contribute to water pollution and greenhouse gases (except rarely when you might depend on a generator).
Pros Hybrid- It will consume significantly less grid electricity than with a traditional grid-tied system. While hybrid setups are grid-tied, they come with solar battery storage so that you can maximize the consumption of power generated by the panels. A hybrid system is possibly the most expandable and future-proof home solar setup available. A hybrid system may be compatible with newer solar technologies. For an even lower cost, you could use a power management system. These technologies can automatically optimize your energy usage. You can customize some hybrid systems to increase the storage capacity by purchasing more panels or batteries. Hybrid systems may also be compatible with newer solar technologies, such as an electric vehicle (EV) might serve as one of the ‘batteries’ in a hybrid setup. (For example, larger appliances like dishwashers can be switched on during peak daylight hours.) The result: bigger utility savings and a quicker ROI.
Cons Off-Grid- Off-grid systems don’t offer the ‘safety’ of using the grid for backup. You can’t rely on grid power during bad weather or when your system needs service. You’ll need more panels and a large battery storage unit if you intend to power an entire home. Batteries and generators are great to have, but they come with higher upfront costs. Batteries have limited lifespans and can require maintenance, so those costs should factor in too. With off-grid solar, you’ll need to make sure you are using power sparingly. This might mean making some major lifestyle changes like consuming most of your power during the day or severely restricting night-time activities.
Cons Hybrid- There’s a lot to install upfront, making the initial investment bigger. While you can budget for a smaller battery bank than with an off-grid setup, the cost still needs some thought. Specialized equipment, such as a smart hybrid inverter, adds to the price tag. It might take quite a bit of space to fit in the components that are needed. If you have grid access, it’s unlikely you’re in an isolated rural area – but still, you’ll need space for hybrid solar equipment, including the battery bank and inverters.
Conclusion: We usually recommend off-grid systems to people who stay in remote areas with no grid connection. But maybe in the city, it's better to look at a Hybrid system.