Adding parts to your off-grid system

Adrienne SorensenAugust 13, 20185930

Adding parts to your off-grid system

If you’re moving ahead with an off-grid system expansion,  the easiest parts to add are the panels. Depending on the system, you maybe able to include more panels to the existing charge controllers. In addition, you can install charge controllers. Keep in mind that your battery bank  handles a certain amount of charge current. If more  panels are added, you’ll have to upgrade your battery bank to keep up with additional influx of power.

Discussing parts to add 

Because off-grid living typically is in  open spaces, off-grid customers install a ground-mount system. You’ll have easy access to the system any time for addition or perform maintenance needs. To expand  solar array on the roof, adding  more racking and connecting the panels to the existing combiner box and charge controller will do. as long as it can carry the changes to the power load. What happens if you run out of space on your roof? Replace several modules with higher efficiency to speed up process. If that’s not enough, pair your solar array with an alternate power source. Be aware that these options are limited depending on access to local resources.

Mixing and matching panels is acceptable, but  ensure that the new panels have the same or as close to the same operating voltage, watts, and amps possible.

Additional permitting may be required when expand the system. Depending on the size of expansion, you may have to get plans approved by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). It doesn’t hurt  to have all permitting paperwork to be squared away. For instance, if you or your neighbor  sell or appraise your land, permits will be very helpful to prove the system is built within your property lines and up to code. All panels and equipment should  be certified by UL. UL is an organization that ensures PV equipment passes rigid standards.

Increasing inverter power 

Most  off-grid inverters  are “stackable,” which means you can nest several inverters for increased power output. This is useful if your usage increases and you need more power on tap in the future. Adding another inverter isn’t exactly easy. The system’s circuit breakers and wiring aren’t designed to support another inverter. If you anticipate expansion, expandable power centers are made for this purpose. Adding extra inverters and rewire them to a central hub will work. A larger inverter may require a larger battery bank to handle the increased output. The inverter manual  indicates a minimum battery bank size, typically 200-400 amp hours minimum per inverter.

Expanding Battery Bank. Expanding the battery bank depends on the type of battery that you already have, lead acid or lithium. When you add a new lead acid battery into an old bank, the new battery takes on the capacity of the existing batteries. When you add more batteries, they drain down to the level of the old ones. This is one area that’s best to plan for extra capacity to future-proof your system. With proper upkeep, you can extend the life of lead acid batteries to 7-10 years. Increasing  battery capacity by wiring  more batteries in a parallel circuit is helpful.

Lithium battery banks are easier to expand because there are built-in electronics to oversee the battery charge and balancing. If you’re planning for future expansion, lithium batteries are the more modular and expandable choice.

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