There are three main types of solar systems: Grid-Tied PV System, Off-Grid PV System, and Hybrid (Battery-Backup) PV Systems.
A Grid-Tied PV System is one which is still connected to the electrical grid. There are no batteries involved, which makes this generally the least expensive system to install and maintain. Since you are not storing electricity in batteries, you essentially use the grid as your battery. During a bright, sunny day your panels may produce more power than you are using. This excess power will go back into the power lines and into the electrical grid. But at night when your panels are not producing power, you will draw on power from the utility. By using a net-metering system, any power you put back into the grid serves to give you an electrical credit. When you are using more power than your panels are producing, you will use the credit you built up to purchase power from the utility. In some areas you can even earn money if you average producing more power than you use, but you need to check with your local utility to see what their policy is.
An Off-Grid System is one in which you are completely independent from the power company. Any power you use, it was produced by you. In order to be able to still have electricity when the sun is not shining you must have batteries to store charge. Your solar panels will charge the batteries during daylight hours and then when they are no longer producing power, you will draw your electricty from the batteries. This means, however, that if you use more electricty that was stored in your batteries, you will be without power until the panels can start producing more power again. You don’t have the electrical grid as a backup in this scenario. One the plus side, this means you are completely independent in your power generation, and you don’t have to pay for an electrical service connection fee.
A Battery-Backup System is a hybrid of the previous two systems. In this case, you are still connected to the grid, but you have batteries as well to provide power in case there is a power outtage. This system could be useful for people who live in areas where power outtages are common. If you choose this system, you can probably do with less batteries than you would in an off-grid system, since you don’t need to rely on them for regular useage, but only in the case of a power outtage. But how much backup capabilities you want is up to you and what sort of situation you want to be prepared for.
Where should I put the panels?
We specialize in both ground and roof mounted systems. Depending on your site and the size and orientation of your roof, either a ground or a roof mount may be more suitable for you. Benefits and drawbacks as well as examples of each system can be seen on our Ground Mounted System and Roof Mounted System pages. Each site is unique and has different mounting requirements. But we will work with you to make sure you know what your options are.