Can You Run Your Whole House On Solar Power?


Solar power is becoming more common as it gets cheaper to install and maintain. With Solar power, it eliminates our reliance on someone else to provide energy to us. It is also a lot more efficient than running generators. So, this raises the question, how efficient is solar power, and can you run your entire house on it?

It is possible to run any appliance in your house with Solar Power.  The size of the system that you will need depends on your location and the amount of power that you consume.  Once you figure that out, you’ll need to have enough solar panels and storage to carry you through dark and cloudy days. 

Being self-reliant has great advantages but you do need to know what you are doing. If you just jump straight in with little understanding, you could be hit with some expensive learning curves. We are here to minimize that learning curve by telling you what you need to consider when going off-grid with solar power.


Related: One of the most important things to do to determine how big of a solar system you need is to measure how much you use. The Kill-O-Watt helps you track just that.

Kill-O-WattOpens in a new tab.


Running Your House On Solar Power: 3 Things That You Need To Know

Solar power is a free energy source provided to us by the sun, we say free but there are some start-up costs involved. You also need to consider where you live because not all places are suited to running off of solar power due to weather conditions. Here are some things that you need to know before you get started with solar power.

  1. Your area should receive enough sunlight all year.
  1. Start-up costs could be hefty but it pays off in the long run.
  1. Having some appliances run on gas has multiple benefits but has one downside.

We are going to take a look at all of these in detail.

Is Solar Power Possible Where You Live?

I chose to bring this up first because it is most probably the most important factor. Some places are more suited to solar power than others and I want to give you examples of this. Let’s start off with places that are great for solar:

  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Hawaii
  • California
  • Arizona

Those are just some examples and to sum it all up, tropical areas are perfect for solar power as well as dry areas such as Arizona. One thing to note about tropical areas is that it does rain often but it does receive more than enough sunlight to make up for the rainy days.

Now let us take a look at some examples of places that are not so great for solar power. It does not mean that it is impossible to do in these areas. 

  • Michigan
  • Vermont
  • Minneapolis 
  • Massachusetts 

These areas go through long periods where they receive very little direct sunlight. Yes, you can still do solar power here but you will need a lot of energy storage to get through cloudy days or, in most cases, you would want to switch back to traditional power during the winter. 

How Much Does It Cost To Set Up Solar Power For Your Whole House?

To get a good answer for this you need to know three things to help you determine how much power you will need to produce. 

  1. Determine your monthly power use in kWh.  Check your monthly electric bill for total watts used or purchase a device such as the Kill-A-Watt which can measure electricity usage for you.
  2. Divide that number by the estimated total solar panel output.  The exact estimate will vary based on location (trees and regional sunshine amount. You can estimate a range by using 1.31 (Arizona) 1.61 (Maine), the highest and lowest production ratios in the US.
  3. Divide that number by 250 (the average wattage of a solar panel).

The average home in the United States uses just under 10,500 kWh a year.  I use a quarter of the amount each year.

Let’s do a little math:

  • 3000kWh (my usage) / 1.41 (East Hawaii ratio) = 2128
  • 2128 / 250 = 8.5 >> 9 Solar Panels

That’s how many panels I need at my home.  I have 8 panels because I have some 300 watt panels, but that little math equation will give you a pretty good idea of how much you’ll need.

As for the going rate for how much a system will cost, for a 6 kWh solar power setup, you are looking at spending roughly $18,000 to $19,000. For 8 kWh, the setup should cost around $25,000. This estimate includes the panels, batteries, inverter, and labor. In the United States, you will qualify for a 26% tax credit until 2022. 

You can get the cost down by choosing cheaper batteries or doing some of the installations yourself. My first solar setup ran about $8k.

It ran a Sundanzer Solar Chest Freezer/Fridge, lights, and a computer but it was not able to run a washing machine and still can’t run my power tools.  I use a Honda 2200i GeneratorOpens in a new tab. for that.

You Can Choose To Run Some Appliances On Gas

Having a stove that runs on gas can take some of the workloads away from your solar power setup and/or it can work as a backup just in case the weather affects your solar power. 

A stove uses anywhere from 2500 to 4500 watts. That is pretty high. On a gas stove, you don’t have to use your solar power for that and you can also use the gas stove for boiling water, which eliminates the use of an electric kettle.

The major downside of this is, you are no longer 100% self-reliant as you will still need to have your gas refilled. A gas bottle can last very long so you will only need to have it refilled every few months.

Is Going Off-grid Worth It?

The answer to this question can be subjective depending on what your goals are and where you live. Some people want to cut down on electricity costs while others just want to be self-sufficient. 

If your goal is to save money, then you need to compare setup and maintenance cost per year for your solar power setup to your electricity cost. Whether or not you will save money, depends on your electricity bill. If your goal is to be self-sufficient, then Solar Power is completely worth it.

Try to figure out exactly what your electric bill is per year and see how long it will take you to save that money using solar power. That will help you determine if going off-grid is worth it for you.

If you are moving to a new piece of land that doesn’t have power running to it yet, solar may become even more cost efficient.  At my place I would have had to pay a $4k hook up few to get the power company to run a wire to my house.  I got solar instead.

Running Your Entire House On Solar Power: Maintenance Cost Per Year

We now know how much it will cost to set up a home to run only on solar power but there are some maintenance costs involved. You should have your panels checked at least once a year or every two years. They also need to be cleaned. Finally, you need to consider that solar power batteries need replacing. So, how much does solar power maintenance cost?

  • Cleaning of solar panels average cost per year: $100.
  • Replacing solar power batteries every 5-8 years average cost: $4000. That is $50-$70/month.
  • Total average Maintenance cost per year: $600-$900

You can drastically reduce these costs if you know what you are doing and if you can clean the panels yourself. It is best not to try and cut corners on the installation so that the entire system needs less maintenance. 

With that said, I installed the solar panels myself and had Doug from Solarman install the controller, inverter and batteries and the wiring to everything.

How Does The Tax Credit Work For Solar?

Installing a solar system makes you eligible for a 26% tax credit. All this means is, you will pay fewer taxes just for installing solar power. Here is an example.

If your solar system costs $20,000, you will pay $5200 less in taxes in the next year. So, in reality, your solar power system would technically only have cost $14,800.

Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. 

Tesla Powerwall

The Tesla Powerwall is used to store energy either from the grid or your existing solar panels and then pass it on to your home. It is revolutionary in the features that it offers. 

There are two versions of the Powerwall and one will cost you around $4500 to install. The more premiumPowerwall costs around $7500 in total so not much more than most inverter and battery systems. It can also hold 13.5 kWh of energy.

It has a mobile app that lets you control just about anything you want to control on the inverter. You also get the Tesla quality experience and they are so confident that they give you a 10-year warranty.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this post has encouraged you to go with solar power if you were already interested. We went pretty in-depth there but just in case you did not go through the whole article, yes, you can run your whole home on solar power.

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Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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