Off Grid or Net Meter?

Last modified on March 9, 2020

Building a new home is an exciting and challenging project. Planning for your energy can be a big part of that process. Your decisions will ultimately be based on a combination of site and building considerations, lifestyle choice, and cost. Many off-grid clients generally are building in remote locations, where the grid is either unavailable, or available at extreme cost. In these situations off grid is the only practical option. If the grid is available at a ‘reasonable’ cost, then it comes down to lifestyle and cost.

Here are some numbers for reference: A typical urban home consumes between 20 and 50kWh/day of electricity. Let’s take a mid-range number as example: 30kWh/day. Taking 30kWh/day off grid will cost in the range of $120,000 and up, depending on details. Most of our off grid clients are consuming less than 10kWh/day and are spending in the range of $40,000 to $80,000 for their energy systems.

If your building site is serviceable by the existing grid for less than that, it becomes difficult to justify being off grid from a cost perspective. In this scenario, I’d recommend considering a ‘net metered’ system. A net metered system can offset up to 100% of your electricity consumption from the grid. Excess production is captured on your bill as a credit to be used in a future month. You can carry those credits for 12 months. (ie Excess energy from this July must be used up by next July.) Generally a home that is ‘net zero’, meaning it produces 100% of its consumed energy, on average over the year (so it’s net consumption from the grid is zero), will over-produce during the summer months and over-consume during the winter. (ie The credit builds up over the summer and gets used up over the winter.)

If you think off-grid is the way to go then we need to determine your expected energy consumption. There are two ways to do this: look at bills from your existing home and/or create a load analysis spread sheet. I recommend you go through your preliminary house layout drawing room by room and list every electrical appliance you expect to have.

Contact us today to get a copy of a Load Analysis Excel spreadsheet as a template for your own evaluation.