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7 Things to Know Before Installing a Hybrid Solar System

Installing a hybrid solar system can be an exciting project for your home. It keeps you connected to the grid, and still get electricty during blackouts.

Hybrid solar system also features an energy storage.

You have ready access to electricity at all times, irrespective of the time of the day, the weather, or power outages.

But before you install a hybrid solar system, there are a few things you need to know for the better functioning of your system, such as:

  • How do hybrid solar systems work?
  • How to size my hybrid solar system?
  • How to increase the lifespan of your hybrid system?
  • What is the difference between off-grid and hybrid solar system?
  • How much does a hybrid solar system cost?
  • Are hybrid solar systems worth it?
  • Can I convert my grid-tied system to hybrid solar?

Understanding them will not only help you in making an informed decision about your way forward, but also improve the performance of your system if and when you install it.

1. How do hybrid solar systems work?

A hybrid system draws power from three sources: the photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, battery bank, and the grid. The system is designed to seamlessly switch between different sources and keep you powered.

It works when your solar panels send energy to the inverter, which is inverted to usable energy for powering your home. Any excess power is sent to batteries for storage. If the energy generated is still in excess, it is sent to the grid.

Generally, the system is calibrated to use solar panels for daytime needs and the grid for nighttime. The batteries are reserved only for emergency purposes, such as during storms and blackouts. But some homeowners may prefer utilizing battery power during peak hours to save more on their electricity bills.

Did you know?

There are now more than 130.9 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed nationwide, enough to power 23 million American homes.

Source: seia.org

2. What is the difference between off-grid and hybrid solar system?

Off-grid and hybrid solar systems both have batteries. But the essential difference between the two is their relationship with the grid.

A hybrid system is connected to both the grid and battery bank, but batteries are there only for emergency needs. Whereas in off-grid systems, the battery bank is the mainstay of the system.

Additionally, hybrid systems must have inverters for converting DC electricity to AC electricity. But in off-grid systems, you can, choose to have only DC appliances in your home. But this is only in theory and going for DC electricity altogether may not be practical for majority of homeowners. 

You may also like to read: Grid-Tie versus Off-Grid versus Hybrid Solar Systems

3. How to size my hybrid solar system?

To size your hybrid solar system, first calculate your daily usage of electricity. Take the annual consumption and divide it by 12 to get an idea of your average monthly usage. Divide it by 30 and you will have your daily consumption.

The next step is to see how much sunlight your region receives in peak hours. Most likely, it will be six or seven hours. The last step is to measure the efficiency of your solar panels—the manufacturer will already have provided this.

Now, divide your daily usage by the number of peak sun hours and you will get daily kW output. Then multiply the output with your solar panels’ efficiency and you will get the system you need.  

For example, an average American home consumes around 900 kWh per month. Per day, it becomes 30 kWh per day. Suppose your region receives 6 hours of peak sunlight. Keeping other factors standard, you will need around 6kW solar system.

But this doesn’t involve the power needed by batteries. How many additional panels you would need depends on the number of batteries you want. That is, how much do you want your batteries to contribute to your daily consumption?

If you want your batteries to power only your essential appliances (lights, Internet, gadgets charging, etc.), you may only need a couple of additional solar panels. But if you want a complete solution, the number of additional solar panels may be more.

4. How much does a hybrid solar system cost?

The hybrid system mentioned above would cost you between $20,000 to $25,000 after the Federal Income Tax Credit is deducted from the price. The cost also includes batteries, but note that this is only a ballpark estimate.

The actual cost of your hybrid system may vary based on certain factors, such as your energy offset target, goals, peak sun hours, roof structure, etc. To some homeowners, the system above may cost $18,000 and to others, roughly $25,000, depending upon the factors just mentioned.

5. Are hybrid solar systems worth it?

Installing a hybrid solar system is worth every penny spent on it. It has the benefits of both off-grid and grid-tied systems, with only one downside—it has a comparatively higher upfront cost than installing a grid-tied system.

But on the positive side lies its potential of saving you money. For example, it allows you to avoid grid electricity during peak hours, leading to reduced electricity bills. Be it a storm or power outage, you will never run out of power. If it is night and the grid goes down, your energy storage system timely steps in, keeping your essential appliances running.

Another benefit of installing a hybrid system is net metering. If your system is optimized for exporting the excess power to the grid, you get energy credits. Depending on the net metering policy in your state, these credits are adjusted in your electricity bill—hence, more savings!  

6. Can I convert my grid-tied system to hybrid solar?

Yes—a hybrid solar system can easily be converted to a hybrid system. If you have installed a grid-tied system, you have done the 70% of work already. All you need now is to estimate the number of batteries you would need. Once figured out, you would now need a charge controller, which will monitor the charge flowing to your batteries.

We recommend calling a solar technician for the job—this is technical work, and the integration of your household’s electricity with three power sources requires diligence and professional experience.

7. How to increase the lifespan of your hybrid system?

To increase the lifespan of your hybrid solar system, you can do the following.

  • Keep the solar panels clean. Make sure there is no debris and dust accumulated on the solar panels, as it may affect its performance.
  • If your area is prone to extreme weather conditions (storm, heavy rain, sleet, hail, etc.), you will have to protect your solar panels. A tarpaulin cover may help.
  • Regularly inspect your solar panels. If you suspect a damage or loose wires, fix them.
  • You should also protect them from extreme temperatures. Solar photovoltaic cells work at an optimum temperature; anything above that may affect the performance and longevity of your solar panels.
  • Do not let your solar batteries go uncharged for a long duration. Also, do not overcharge them.
  • Do not discharge the batteries below the recommended limit.
  • If your batteries require water, ensure that the water level is optimum at all times.
  • If you live in a region too hot, install your batteries outdoors. Hot temperatures can affect the lifespan of your batteries.
  • Do not forget the routine maintenance of your batteries, solar panels, and other equipment. Maintenance may not cost much, but if an issue goes unnoticed, the damage caused will cost you more.

So, these were a few things you needed to know before installing a hybrid solar system. We wish you success in going solar!

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