How to Build an Off-Grid Solar System

This article covers the necessary steps to set up your off grid solar system. In truth, the bulk of these steps feature even when installing a grid-tied system. However, you have to be a lot more vigilant with an off-grid system. In case of malfunctioning, you would not have the handy backup that is the electrical grid. So if you set up your system poorly, well, you then have to suffer in silence for a long time.

Here are the necessary steps when setting up your off-grid system

Step #1: Figure out just how much power you need

Would you plan a Kazakh road trip without understanding how many miles you to get that and by extension, how much gas you need? It is a bit foolhardy, is it not? You cannot only declare that you would invest in 4 solar panels and 1 solar battery and hope that it is all you need. Remember that everything gets powered by your system. Understand exactly how much power you need. You can refer to this resource, this resource and this resource for help on how to determine your home power requirements.

Step #2: Calculate the number of batteries that you need.

Once you know how much power you need, it is necessary to figure out the number of batteries required to store this power.

Do you need to only store power for two days at most or would you like to have enough power stored for 4 days and beyond?

Do you have an extra source of power, say, a turbine or generator that provides robust support when the sun does not show up?

Will your batteries be stored in a heated room or will they be in a cold room?

The colder the battery storage room, the larger your battery bank ought to be. If your place of residence has temperatures that dip below freezing point, you need 3 batteries for every two that your friend in a sunny location uses.

Step #3: Calculate the number of panels that you need. Solar panels sale. Take your location as well as times of the year into consideration.

It is well and good to know how much power you require but it is just as important to know how much sun is available to harvest. Use the worst case scenario for your particular location. This way, you are in no danger of ever running out of power.

Step #4: Select a solar charge controller and inverter

This article has already covered both the solar charge controllers and solar inverters. To have your system as efficient and optimal as possible, it is necessary to have both. You can refer to this resource and this resource to determine the solar charge controller to purchase. As for the inverter, you can refer to this resource and this resource.

Step #5: Consider the system balance

This final step is more like several final steps that you need to take:

Do you have the best possible fuse and fuse box? There is no room for gambling with an off-grid system. This article has already covered the fuse and fuse box issue.

How are you going to mount your panels? Will you have them on a rooftop or the ground? Will you do it yourself or will you have somebody else to do it for you?

What wire size will you need?

Answers to these question dictate what things you need to have (logistical stuff), how much more research you need to do and much more. However, as I already stated, sometimes it is best to work with professionals especially for intricate electrical work; you do not want to void your warranty by doing something stupid when trying to make connections by yourself.

Note: Much of what we have discussed up to this point should help you to set up an off-grid solar power system. Building an off-grid solar system requires purchasing a reliable off grid solar kit. As I already stated, it is often best to work with professionals (I already gave my reasons). As such, to ensure you do not void your warranty and experience different other problems with 400 watt solar panel installation, it is best to involve a professional, even if for consulting purposes only.

The other thing we will address is powering your RV or boat using solar.

RVs And Solar Boats

To get as close to living a healthy life as an RV enthusiast as possible, you will need to have electricity in the RV. The same applies to boats. While some eccentrics like to lug generators around in their RV, most people with sense know that solar panels are the way to go. As long as the installation is done competently and you do not park your RV in the shade all the time, solar panels give you all the power that you need. This chapter covers the most necessary elements, as far as RV and solar boat panels go.

The different kinds of RV and boat solar panels:

There are 3-panel types for you to choose from if you are the proud owner of an RV or solar boat:

1. Mono-crystalline panel

These panels are made from a single crystal. The individual cell in this panel is a wafer-thin crystal of silicon.

2. Poly-crystalline

Solar panels have several small sized crystals.

3. Amorphous

These panels are thin panels of film. The cells are composed of a thin silicon layer and fix to the backing material.

What is the best RV or boat panel for you?

The smart RV/boat owner looks upon his roof as though it were prime real estate deserving of only the best kind of panel for it. Moreover, there is more to this than the simple nature of that sentence suggests. Let us examine all 3 options:

Amorphous panels are your cheapest option, and the efficiency is impressive. The downside is that it is two times the size of the polycrystalline panel.

The mono-crystalline crystalline boasts impressive efficiency and has been said to produce more power in low light conditions than the other two panel types.

The poly-crystalline panel, by quite a margin, is the most popular panel. It is half as small as the amorphous panel, and while it does not pack the power punch that the mono-crystalline does, it only produces a little less power. If this article is to make a panel recommendation for you, the polycrystalline panel is your best option if you want a near-perfect marriage of efficiency and size. However, this panel is more expensive.

Flexible panels for the RV: What is the difference between flexible RV panels & rigid solar panels?

Flexible solar panels:

This is the latest solar technology. Some people like to call them “thin film panels” which has to be okay considering that is precisely what you think of them once you lay your eyes on one.


They are light- exceptionally so, actually, and you can stack a lot of them on your boat or RV roof without being afraid that the C.O.G of your vehicle gets raised up too much.

You can install these panels directly on the RV roof, due to their thin and lightweight nature, which allows more streamlined form for your RV or boat. Also, the whole setup ends up looking very aesthetic indeed.


The paragraph above says that you can install them directly on your roof. If you do decide to install them directly on the RV roof, then you would have to walk on them at some point. The flexible solar panel manufacturers like to tell you that no harm will be done from walking on the solar panel but in truth, they will eventually develop tiny cracks that will affect the output and cut the panel lifespan.

These solar panels come with a 10-year warranty. Are you impressed? Well if you are, you really shouldn’t be. Their counterparts come with 30- year warranties.

Heat buildup is always a factor with solar panels. The more space you have between the solar panel and the roof, the cooler the panels will stay. This will enable them to generate maximum power as conditions will be close to optimal. Flexible panels are fixed to your roof, and heat buildup will go right into the roof interior. During winter months, this can have a significant effect on power production. You may have to be content with less power production in the summer months.

Installation of your flexible panels will mean that you glue them to your roof. It is not so hard to glue them onto the roof, but you will have a difficult time taking them off the RV or boat roof once you decide to change vehicles.

Rigid RV solar panels

These panels are hard, and they are usually fixed firmly. Their construction is one of the glass panes within an aluminum frame. They are far more conventional than their flexible counterparts.


We will start with the most obvious one: these panels are far more durable. They can take multiple beatings that come with RV or boat travel. If you are looking to own your RV or solar boat for a long time, these will be ideal.

If you are the sort that is very conscious about the environment, silicon, the material the RV batteries of these panels are made of, is more friendly to the environment and poses fewer problems when disposal/recycling time comes.

These panels have very impressive heat resistance. Moreover, just as we said, the more space there is between the panel and the roof, the cooler the panel can stay, maximizing power output.


They weigh a whole lot more than the flexible ones

They do stick out above your roof and maybe an eyesore if you are into aesthetics.

At the end of the day, glass is breakable. The panels are made to withstand harsh climatic conditions, sure enough, but this fact still stands

How many solar panels do you need for your RV?

Panels come in varied watt sizes. Depending on the size of your RV or boat space, if you cannot fix one big solar panel, you have the option of getting two panels with the same wattage. For example, if you have calculated that a 800-watt panel will well handle your power needs, you can get two 400 watt solar panel.

Upcoming Solar Technologies

DIY solar system made its cameo in 1905, and since then, there has been much evolution with regard to it. Today, there are a series of new developments that have filled the solar landscape with much promise. If the same innovative pace is maintained, much of the world will move to solar technology in the future. Solar technology, already clean and abundant, will present a package far too attractive to ignore or even downplay.

This chapter will look at some of the most recent solar technology developments. Some of the technology is a bit on the sophisticated side, but this article will do a job in presenting it in the most straightforward manner possible. However, first, a bit of preamble:

Solar cell technology advances

Solar panel efficiency has long been the elephant in the room. Every time scientists converge in an attempt to make solar technology superior; you can bet your house that improvement of efficiency levels is their main bone of contention. A solar PV (Photo Voltaic) system comprises hundreds of solar cells. Sometimes, there are thousands of them. A typical solar cell only has a 15% efficiency level meaning that 85% of the sunlight that hits the cell goes to waste. Scientists are keen on making the light capture to conversion ratio more favorable- whichever way you read it, 15% is unimpressive.

1. Light sensitive nanoparticles

This one has its home in the University of Toronto. Recently, scientists at the University unearthed a light-sensitive nanoparticle, which they referred to as “colloidal quantum dot.” If this technology is expounded on, the result will be a far more efficient solar capture material at a less expensive price, at least compared to the conventional solar panel. Light sensitive nanoparticles do not precisely constitute breakthrough technology so why is this here, considering that this particular University of Toronto project is still at the infancy stage? Well, nanoparticle tech breakthroughs of the past have always been trapped in the straitjacket of being non-functional in the outdoors. This particular project has brought forth nanoparticles which can indeed work outdoors. Read the paragraph below to understand further:

The colloidal quantum dot, unlike other nanoparticles, does not bind to air (well, the binding is often with the oxygen part of air, if you like specifics). This quality allows for it to maintain stability outdoors and still do its job.

Scientists have already attempted to make some panels using this new technology, and since they are not ready to be commercialized yet, efficiency levels have been recorded at 8% more than the conventional panel.

2. Gallium Arsenide

A research team at the Imperial College, London, believes that they have come across the future of solar technology. They have discovered gallium arsenide; a material they firmly believe will multiply efficiency levels by up to 3 times. Solar cells made from this material have been christened the same “triple junction cells,” and their bloated efficiency levels is as a result of chemical alterations that allow maximum sunlight capture an electric conversion.

Advances in energy storage

Besides working on improving efficiency levels, scientists are also trying to figure out new ways to improve storage of solar energy. As things stand today, electricity tends to be a “use it or lose it” commodity, a phenomenon which is a little puzzling considering the technological advances today. Once your PV solar system produces it, your electricity is channeled to your appliances and the excess power goes to the grid: this power must either be used up… or lost. Also, since the sun does not shine 24 hours a day, the bulk of solar systems only meet the electrical demands of a part of the day. Sure enough, there are batteries, and this very article mentions the 12 volt batteries often, but the truth is that even with recent battery developments, the battery is still a reasonably inefficient thing. It is also expensive, and the shelf life is short.

This is why scientists are working on new ways to store solar generator so that rather than having to be used when the sun is available; it can be used on demand:

1. Molten Salt Storage Technology (MSST)

Renogy, a solar company with an innovative edge, has recently proposed a system that looks to be very promising, as far as energy storage goes. The system uses molten salt storage tech. Inorganic salts are used to convert energy that is generated by the solar systems into solar thermal energy, but this time employing heat transfer fluid as opposed to oils, as some storage systems do.

The result is that solar plants can operate at far higher temperatures- up to 500 C- which would naturally lead to much higher power output. Solar storage costs would be significantly reduced with this technology, and the utility companies would finally be able to employ solar power plants as the base load plants, as opposed to giving them the usual auxiliary “top up” role.

2. The solar panel that comes with an inbuilt battery

The US Department of Energy stepped in to facilitate this one. Researchers at the Ohio State University have come out and said that they have come up with a battery that is up to 25% more efficient than anything that is on the market currently. It is also 25% cheaper than the usual battery box on the market.

The secret to this cheap, albeit more efficient design, is that the battery is built into the solar panel, as opposed to being a different entity from the solar panel, as is the case with most setups today. By having the two come as one package, these scientists have determined that costs will be lowered by up to 25%, compared to what is available today.