Q+A: How Much Does an Off Grid Solar Setup with NZ Solar Panels Cost? Plus Saving Tips

Q+A: How Much Does an Off Grid Solar Setup with NZ Solar Panels Cost? Plus Saving Tips

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From a holistic point of view, the costs of an off grid solar setup in NZ (solar panels, batteries, and everything else you need) really comes down to the type of life you want to live. It can vary wildly depending on how much comfort you want to have! Going off grid has fluctuating costs - there are standard things like either owning or renting land which all depends on the area and size, and creating a shelter of some kind which can range from a tent to $100,000 tiny house.

The same is true for the cost of a completely off grid solar system. For around $2000-4000, you can start with a small solar kit in NZ (solar panels, batteries, inverter, charge controller, wiring etc) to run your lights and fridge and charge your phone. Then you have other costs to consider. Cooking can be cheap with a portable gas cooker or wood stove.

You can go very cheap to start with, but you might be living a subsistence lifestyle for a few months as you slowly add and save for the off grid solar setup you want. Other people want it to be perfect from day 1 and spend $20,000+ on solar. We recommend starting with a system that will suit your day 1 needs, with the option to expand down the line, like Marcia. 

- What are the Ways You Can Save on a Completely Off Grid Solar System?

The big thing for most people who want to go off-grid is that they are most likely living an urban or suburban lifestyle before they start. If you're connected to the grid then you're living more luxuriously (in terms of power use) than you will be able to off-grid. Off-grid living typically requires you to make a few compromises. If you're someone who leaves the lights on in rooms you aren't in, or runs an electric blanket all night in winter, that kind of behaviour changes quick, because it uses a lot of power on an completely off grid solar system!

So to save on your system, start by evaluating where your power usage goes. What are your really big power draws everyday? Do you have an electric oven or stovetop? Do you like to run the heater at night? Those are things you can't do on solar (without having a very big, expensive system) because you will use up all your power very quickly and have none leftover for everything else. You can save money by switching all your heating and cooking to wood-burning, which allows you to get a much smaller solar kit to cover your electrical needs. If you've had really high quotes for solar that make it seem out of reach, read this.

You may want to expand on your solar later, but from the get-go even a small kit lets you live pretty comfortably if you're not using these power-hungry items. 

Outside of solar, there are ways to save or spread your costs on your off grid lifestyle. Many of our customers have chosen to do the lion's share of the building work on their shelters, whether that's converting a house bus, renovating a caravan, or buying just the shell of a tiny house to finish themselves. Maybe it's shabby to start with, but you can make it your own and still be warm, comfortable, and dry. Transitioning to an off grid life often means making little compromises and giving up some modern luxuries for a time, but it's still a very rewarding process.

The Biggest Way to Save on Your Off Grid Solar Setup

The biggest way to save money off-grid is to go DIY with NZ solar panel kits. All the other companies want to do it for you - you tell them your calculated load, they build a bespoke solution, and install it for you. When you DIY your off grid solar setup, you can choose where you make your compromises, you save heaps of money on labour, you can get exactly what you want at a price that you want. Learn more here.

The big piece of advice everyone shares off-grid: get used to managing your resources. You're going to be living free from the grid and the city life, so you're in control of your power, water, and other resources. If you get used to managing all parts of the process from day one, you're going to save yourself a lot of heartache and a lot of money. A DIY solar kit gives you that freedom to get what you need with just the right amount of compromise you're willing to make on price and lifestyle.

GridFree empowers people to DIY something they may not be familiar with - we don't want to do it for you, we want to help you do it for yourself and give you the right advice at the right time. We provide support from the moment you decide to go off grid, all the way through to several years down the track when you're living freely on your solar kit.

- Any tips for budgeting how to go off the grid?

Take a very hard look at how you use your power at the moment. Work out what you actually need and what's nice to have. Willing to cut something out? Do it. You don't have to live like a caveman, just compromise on frivolous power usage.

Switch to energy efficient appliances like LED lights, and high energy star appliances. Switch to alternative energy, like gas or woodburning for heating.

Do your research - the more you know going into it, the better. We recommend joining our Facebook group GridFree NZ, to get in touch with other people living or planning to live off grid. Have a read of the Top Tips we've seen from the group here.

Get used to handling things yourself instead of letting someone tell you what you need, that way you can make the right decision for your needs instead of being sold something inappropriate. 

Be willing to make mistakes. That's one thing all of our customers tell us. You're going to make mistakes, but they're always an opportunity to learn more.