Learning how to live off the grid could be a challenging task, especially if you are finding off the grid substitutes to everyday utilities. Since energy could be easily regarded as one of the most essential of those utilities in today’s day and age, it is quite crucial to learn about off grid power systems.
After all, living off the grid doesn’t mean that you have to bid farewell to the most indispensable of comforts. It only means that you know how to be self-reliant and survive on your own while making use of all of what you have at hand.
Fortunately, the off grid survival community has strengthened to a point where you no longer have to feel alone in your quest to be self-sufficient. With various advancements, techniques and methods to use everyday equipment from a perspective of survival, you can easily learn the ropes and be more independent.
To help you learn about this information, this detailed guide will introduce you to the top power systems that will keep your lights on when no other power source is available from the grid. With these power options, self-sufficiency becomes a bit simpler.
But before you learn about the choices in these power systems, let’s take a quick overview of what kind of options you have at your disposal in the first place.
The Different Types of Power Systems You Can Use for Your Off the Grid Living
When it comes to power systems that could be used without being dependent on a greater source, enjoy a variety of options. From an off grid solar system to an off grid wind system, obtaining power from sustainable sources has never been easier.
Here are some of the most popular methods that can be used to obtain direct current (DC) energy and convert it to alternating current (AC) energy to power your home or survival equipment.
Solar Power Systems
As one of the fastest growing sustainable energy sources, solar power is being adopted by all sorts of corporate and residential entities. Not only does it provide a clean way to obtain energy, but that energy also comes with the assurance of having a sustainable supply at the back-end.
To utilize solar power, you would need to invest in a solar power system. Consisting of solar panels that are installed on the roof of your property (or your car if you are going mobile), the system absorbs DC energy from sunlight and converts it to AC energy through the use of an inverter.
In order to achieve this objective, you also need batteries to absorb and store the energy that is obtained by your solar panels. That is why investing in a charge controller and buying a battery would be an imperative step on your to do list.
If you are looking for a reliable and well-known solar systems’ manufacturer, I would personally recommend Renogy Solar (this is a link to their store on Amazon). They have complete and highly rated solar solutions to all your power needs. Their highly rated products include:
- Solar panels
- Solar kits
- Additional accessories
Their solar kits are especially easy to assemble and use, such as Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit (an Amazon’s Choice item). With this kit, you will start enjoying clean and free energy in less than an hour. All in all, this is a solar energy brand that you can fully trust. Just click on any product in their store and read the comments and reviews from other customers.
To learn what are the best solar power solutions on the market, here is my list of top 10 portable solar kits.
Wind Power Systems
As a method that uses a sustainable natural resource, wind energy is also regarded as one of the cleanest and most dependable power generation methods.
The system uses wind turbines, which are propellers that are powered through wind to produce kinetic energy. These propellers are in turn attached to a drive shaft and gear box, which send energy to a generator. This generator takes in this DC energy and converts it to AC power.
But there are times when your wind turbines may not generate consistent energy. That is where you need a charge controller to power and charge a battery. This battery can then be used to utilize AC power for your home.
Lead Acid or Lithium Battery Power Systems
While not as sustainable as solar or wind power systems, battery power systems are still widely used to obtain AC energy through cars or uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). This is because these batteries are more affordable to purchase, easier to install and simpler to use than solar or wind power systems. In addition to that, the abundance of batteries in automobiles makes them all the more convenient.
These are some of the reasons why batteries are used all the time at campsites to turn on light-bulbs or power mobile appliances. While they are now used at homes to provide backup power when the grid is out of order for any reason.
Car batteries typically use lead-acid, which is an economical and affordable way to generate power. But that cost-effectiveness typically comes at the price of consistent upkeep from your end (remember how your car battery is thirsty for water on a regular basis). That is where lithium batteries come in.
As a more expensive option, lithium batteries free you from consistent upkeep and provide a longer life-expectancy on average basis. This means that while they are more expensive, they don’t come without their advantages. Different types of lithium batteries are currently available, with their utilization depending upon your requirements for them.
When used in cars, both lead-acid and lithium batteries get charged by the car’s alternator through a belt. When used in UPS, these batteries can be charged via AC power from the grid and used to store energy that can be used when the grid is facing an outage for whatsoever reason.
There’s also a difference in how the stored energy in batteries is used by cars and home systems. While being utilized for automobiles, the DC power (let’s say it’s 12V) is directly used to power essential equipment such as headlights and engine computers; but when you are using batteries to power your home, an inverter from DC to AC power is necessary (which converts 12V DC to 110V AC).
A UPS can recharge a battery for repeated usage on a consistent basis, but that charging is done through AC power which comes from a grid as opposed to energy obtained through solar systems. As such, when using completely off grid power systems, you would have to depend on the energy generated by your car to use it through an inverter. But this can be tricky, since a dead battery may cause your car to not start at all. As such, constant vigilance is required when you use batteries that are attached to your car.
What battery capacity do you need for your off grid power system? Here is a video that clarifies this subject:
Top 10 Off the Grid Power Systems
Now that you know how the different power systems function, you would have a greater understanding about which system works best for you while you learn how to live off the grid. So here are the top 10 off the grid power systems that you can use to enjoy a steady source of energy.
1. 6 Volt Flooded Lead-Acid Battery Systems
As one of the cheapest options to support your desire to have an off the grid power source, 6V flooded lead-acid (FLA) batteries perform their job very well. They do need consistent upkeep to maintain their water levels but their reduced costs negate their disadvantages.
Typically used to power golf carts, these lead-acid batteries can support a few LED lights as well as a fan or two at the same time. Along with the volt, the amp-hour (Ah) of the battery would indicate for how long it can power your electrical devices.
For instance, a 6V battery with 2Ah would have 12 watt-hour (Wh). But instead of the Wh, the Ah is the power that counts as it relates to discharge of the stored energy. while purchasing batteries and especially those that are this small, pay extra attention to the amp-hour.
Trojan J305E-AC (on Amazon) is an example of an excellent flooded lead acid battery, 305mAh.
2. L16 Sealed Lead-Acid Battery Systems
Sealed lead-acid (SLA) batteries can also be regarded as the more convenient option in the lead-acid battery category. While they are still not as expensive as lithium batteries, they require less upkeep than a typical or flooded lead-acid battery.
Absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries or gel cell batteries in this SLA class are used widely by households as well as commercial entities. Once again, amp-hour would tell you how much battery life is present within your batter. As one of the most affordable choices, you would easily be able to find a vast variety of options through popular manufacturers.
A L16 SLA battery system maintains the line between cost and performance, it remains a lucrative option for many.
Fullriver 903 L16 (on Amazon) with dual terminals is a leading battery in this category.
3. Deep Cycle Marine Battery Systems
As the name suggests, marine batteries are made for marine vehicles such as boats. While car batteries such as a golf cart battery use the majority of their stored energy to start the car with a jolt and then power its engine and electrical systems, marine batteries provide power to the boat’s engine while also discharging their energy to support the appliances on board.
As such, car batteries are called “starting” or “cranking” batteries due to their jolt of energy that they send out to start the engine. Alternatively, marine batteries with their dual ability, the jolt of energy to start the engine + their consistent and “deep cycle” discharge of energy to power appliances, are considered “dual purpose.”
These battery systems can be found easily. One caveat, marine batteries do not last as long as car batteries when you use them for off grid power systems.
Weize 12V 100AH Deep Cycle AGM SLA VRLA Battery (Amazon’s Choice product) is probably the most outstandning deep cycle battery on the market.
4. 48V Lithium Battery Systems
A battery with significant capacity, this one is one that would certainly come with a higher price tag. Obtain an exceptional off the grid backup system that will last.
Perfect for a solar system or even convertible energy from a wind turbine (when applicable), this lithium battery would be the backup system that could support your whole home and appliances. Simply obtain an inverter that would be in line with this component.
Since it may take a long time to charge through AC power, this battery is most suitable for an off grid solar system than it is for direct charging from the grid.
5. Nickel-Iron (NiFe) Battery Systems
Nickel-iron (NiFE) batteries were all the rage in the past, or at least that is how Thomas Edison wanted them to be.
Instead of being utilized in cars, where lead-acid batteries soon took over, NiFe batteries were regarded as a long-forgotten technology. But they are now making a comeback, thanks to those who are learning how to live off the grid.
Said to last approximately 50 years, nickel-iron batteries could be an investment for a lifetime due to their tremendous performance in the face of overcharging and undercharging risks. With that being said, they have their drawbacks.
Their discharge rate may be effective but when it comes to overall performance, they are still considered as second-rate to lead-acid batteries, both FLA and SLA. They are also harder to find and cost way higher than lead-acid batteries.
6. Lithium-ion Battery Systems
An efficient way to manage low upkeep with higher performance, lithium-ion batteries have slowly started to gain traction among off the grid living enthusiasts – and even those who have no idea about the off the grid lifestyle but want reliable backup power.
Lithium-ion batteries work very well with solar energy, which is why they are being used by companies such as Tesla, who sell these batteries as a part of the pre-packaged deal that comes with Tesla’s own battery pack and inverter in its Powerwall.
These batteries can easily last a decade, but they do cost a pretty penny. Their installation is also trickier and thus needs to be handled by experts for these batteries to perform to full capacity.
7. Forklift Battery Systems
While complicated in their overall installation and upkeep, forklift batteries can prove to be a powerhouse option for some.
Since they are built for industrial use and typically utilized in highly demanding environments, these batteries can stand the test of time. That is to the point where they can clock approximately 20 years with consistent operation.
With that being said, these batteries have extensive upkeep and could be difficult to install. They could be more expensive when compared to other batteries, especially SLA battery systems.
8. 6V AGM Battery System
This makes a 6V AGM battery superior to the FLA battery. But this superiority once again causes a difference in cost. This means that you need to make sure you are considering the price just as much as you are assessing the ongoing maintenance for this battery system.
With that in mind, the price tag makes you rest assured that these batteries’ discharge timing would be far more impressive than their FLA counterparts. This makes them a very good option for vacation homes where batteries are not used as much.
NPP NP6-200Ah 6V 200Ah AGM Deep Cycle Battery (on Amazon) is a very reliable choice if you decide to go with an AGM battery system.
9. Lithium-iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) Battery Systems
They are particularly well in terms of performance and efficiency, where they do not need as much upkeep as a typical lead-acid battery. Judging by the other battery systems, you may have guessed that they cost more than FLA batteries or even SLA batteries, but their endurance more than makes up for the price.
With that being said, their installation with an inverter could also be tricky for those who have not worked with lithium batteries before. This is something that you would need to keep in mind while purchasing this system.
Battle Born LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery is a highly recommended LiFePO4 battery on Amazon.
10. 12V Deep Cycle Gel Battery
A part of the SLA battery family, a gel battery could save you from costs of upkeep and maintenance while providing a great performance. With that being said, keep an eye on the manufacturer you procure the materials from.
This is because both gel and AGM could perform very well for solar as well as AC power backup (such as those originating from wind turbine energy converted to AC power). But if you are off the grid and completely depend upon your solar power system, then factors such as the discharge rate would play a big part in terms of long-term backup and performance.
Apart from that, gel batteries or any inverter systems that are attached to them perform on the same level as an AGM. But since both have the mechanism of sealed lead-acid on its base, they are quite cost effective as compared to lithium batteries.
Renogy 12V 100Ah Rechargeable Deep Cycle Pure Gel Battery (Amazon’s Choice) is a bestselling item in this category, favored by many customers.
While all of these battery and power systems can provide you with backup and high performance in off the grid living, they each have their own set of strengths and drawbacks. Make sure to take the time to assess your needs and determine your restrictions, and then reach a decision on select a power system accordingly.
This process may take some time, but it would ensure that you have something that suits you. As a result, your investment in your power system wouldn’t have to face short term consequences and you would enjoy long term benefits due to your due diligence. In the end, you will have a reliable system that can power up all your necessary devices and services, such as an off grid Internet.
Keep in mind that adopting the off-grid life style includes some additional costs. Here are a couple of useful articles I wrote, which will tell you how to prepare for off grid living and how much it costs to live off the grid.