Off Grid Solar Power – How To Calculate Your Needs

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Thinking of setting up an off-grid solar power rig? One of the main challenges you’ll face is accurately estimating/calculating your power needs. This serves as the foundation of your entire system; it partly determines the number of solar panels, the inverter size, and battery sizing.

The underlying goal of any off-grid solar power rig is to produce enough power to meet the consumption needs of a household. As Mat & Danielle from Exploring Alternatives explain in this YouTube video, calculating your off grid solar power requirements is the first step is determining what you’ll need your solar power for.

Find all the electronics and appliances in your home of camping van and check the output wattage of each device. If the output is in volts and amps, all you have to do is multiply the figures to get the output wattage – i.e., Volts x Amps = Watts. (PS: 1 Amp = 1000 Milliamps).

After figuring out the total output wattage of your appliances, round the figure up to create a safety net. For example, Mat calculates that his appliances need 115.7 watts — but he rounds it off to 120 watts. This accounts for any inefficiencies from decreased performance and unforeseen power needs.

Next step is figuring out how long you typically use these items (Tip: Think on the higher side for cushioning). From there, you can enter the figures into an online Solar Sizing Calculator. You’ll then get the recommended system size and battery size for your daily needs. You can now use the results to design an efficient off-grid solar system.


Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is calculating how much power you will actually get from your solar panels. This can vary widely due to weather conditions, time of year and placement of the panels. A 400W panel only generates 400 watts in full sun when facing the sun directly. Looking up the average number of hours of sunshine per year in your location is a good starting point. In cloudy conditions your panels will produce a little extra energy – perhaps 10% of their rated power, but this will be more than offset by the panels’ angle to the sun unless you have a tracking system that follows the sun from sunrise to dusk.

As a final note, take special care when selecting an inverter. It should be big enough to meet your wattage consumption at a time—and small enough to minimize its power consumption (inverters are fairly efficient but do consume some power and the bigger, the more solar power it drains).

Off Grid Solar Power - How To Calculate Your Needs
Off Grid Solar Power – How To Calculate Your Needs. Photo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eXB4vF8mKk

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