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A Complete Guide to Grid-Tied Solar System (On-Grid Solar System)

Solar PV systems can have three arrangements in relation to the grid: connected to the grid but not batteries, completely disconnected from the grid but connected to batteries, and another, where the system is connected both to the grid and batteries. The first one is called a grid-tied solar system. Grid-tied systems also go by other names, such as grid-connected, grid-direct, grid-intertie, or on-grid solar systems. The second type is called an off-grid solar system; the last one is known as a hybrid solar system.

If you are a homeowner who is planning to install a grid-tied solar system, scroll down. In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about the first type of arrangement—a grid-tied solar system. 

What is a grid-tied solar system?

A grid-tied solar system means that your solar system is directly connected to the grid, where the grid works as your backup power supply. It doesn’t have any batteries attached to the system; instead, solar panels and your utility meet all your energy needs.

In grid-tied solar systems, any excess power generated by solar panels goes straight to the grid. In return, the household (or a business) uses electricity from the grid at night or when the weather is cloudy.

Grid-tied systems are similar to other types of solar power systems in some ways—but they are also different in others. For example, a grid-tied solar system has no on-site energy storage. In contrast, an off-grid solar system is only connected to batteries, not the grid, while a hybrid system is connected to the grid but also features an energy storage system. Similarly, a grid-tied system must have on-grid inverters that can manage the two-way flow of electricity. But an off-grid system can work with a simple inverter, which can track the flow of electricity between batteries and solar array.

Equipment needed for on-grid solar systems

On-grid solar PV systems are the simplest of all types of solar systems. They do not need a huge battery bank; neither do they need a special type of inverter. So, what are the components necessary for a functioning grid-tied system?

  • Solar panels—these make the soul of photovoltaic systems. Solar panels would keep you powered during the day. The number of solar panels may vary, but generally, a 5-kilowatt grid-tied solar PV system would need roughly 15 solar panels, each 300-watt.
  • Grid-tied solar inverters—to help in smoother integration with the grid. Inverters convert direct current electricity coming from solar panels to alternating current. But grid-tied inverters, which allow for a two-way electricity supply, ensure that there is no problem with the incoming grid electricity and the exiting electricity generated by solar panels.
  • Racking—to mount solar panels on.
  • A net meter—these are special meters that can monitor and keep track of the electricity exported to and imported from the grid.
  • Wiring—and other electrical equipment.

Pros and cons of installing an on-grid solar system

Pros of grid-tied solar power systemCons of grid-tied solar power system
Lowest upfront cost—solar batteries are expensive, but grid-tied systems do not require them. Also, the installation is simple, which means lower labor costs.No power during outages—a grid-connected system cannot function without a grid. If there is a fault in the grid, your system will be shut down for safety reasons.
Net metering helps homeowners sell their extra energy to the grid for energy credits. With the right-sized solar system, you can virtually slash your electricity bill.No complete energy independence—you will still rely on grid electricity during nighttime and when the weather is cloudy.
Shortest payback period—on-grid systems are the cheapest. The grid electricity is no longer needed during the day, and you can export energy to the grid with net metering. All these factors make the payback period one of the quickest. 
Requires little maintenance—grid-tied solar systems don’t require extensive maintenance like off-grid or hybrid systems. This reduces the maintenance costs as well as the headache.   
Grid is your backup—no expensive energy storage system is needed. Your grid is effectively your power backup system. 

Who should install grid-tied solar systems?

Grid-tied solar installations are the most popular types of solar installations, thanks to their convenience and affordability. If you are a homeowner living in an urban center, you should consider going for grid-tied arrangements. You won’t need extra power lines to run to your home, as you would need in a remote area. Additionally, the upfront cost of installing an on-grid system is much lower than an off-grid system. This means a lower payback period, higher return on investment (ROI), and more monthly savings.

Secondly, if your area is not prone to prolonged inclement weather conditions, the on-grid solar system is your bet. Solar panels meet your energy needs during the daytime, and you will have ready access to power from the grid for the night.  

Cost of installing a grid-connected system

The cost of installing any type of solar panel system hinges on many factors. Your needs, goals, the region you live in, and the competition between solar installers in your area—these all affect the cost of your solar panel system. But to give you a ballpark estimate, the average cost of a 6-kilowatt grid-tied solar system is around $14,000. In some states, this figure could go high, depending upon the sunlight it receives around the year. If the sunlight is insufficient, you will need more solar panels to generate your desired amount of electricity.

Similarly, a 12-kilowatt on-grid system would cost nearly $24,000 (as the size of your system increases, cost-per-watt decreases). The costs mentioned above are calculated after deducting the Federal Income Tax Credit.

If you want to get a cost estimate for a grid-tied solar panel system customized for your home, hit us up below! We will give you a solar estimate—it is quick and FREE, without any conditions attached.

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