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Designing for Low Electrical Energy Use

In no specific order:

  • Select only select low energy lights and appliances
  • Use propane, wood, oil or other fuels, not electricity for major heating appliances
  • Install lots of extra switches so that you can control phantom loads without having to unplug appliances, also put less lights on each switch. Use directed lighting where possible.
  • use motion sensors and timer switches, especially for outdoor lighting and areas where it is easy to leave an electrical load on
  • use heating systems that use convection and don't require pumps and fans to circulate or move heat, when they do, investigate for efficiency or if there are DC powered alternatives.
  • when possible use low voltage DC power for things such as outdoor lights, door bells
  • Avoid leaving battery chargers and motion sensors that normally on as they create phantom loads that run continually. 
  • You already have equipment that works well well with DC power.  Examples of these are Camera and Cellular phone chargers which are designed to operate from your car. 

240 Volt Loads
Some inverters have this option in many case you require inverters to produce 240V single phase power.  A 240V inverter or an autotransformer can produce 240V power from 120V. Because 240V power increases system it should but not be avoided.  Deep well submersible pumps and distant or depth of well a 120V pump may require 240V.  An autotransformer wired in a step-up configuration can manage water pumps of up to one horsepower.  To keep the transformer off-line until required wire the well pump switch to the primary side of the transformer. All transformers that are connected to power continue to consume some power even when not in use.

Transformers
Other than the autotransformer mentioned above eliminate or minimize the number of transformers within your system if you can.  Transformers are often found within equipment such as heating systems, low voltage lighting, water softeners, etc.  There are significant conversion losses as DC low voltage power is converted from 120 AC.  Transformer conversion power loss of up to 30% is exacerbated due to the transformer's continual power loss (phantom load) even when not active. Check with your equipment suppliers and manufacturer to see if DC power may be used directly. It is sometimes possible as in the example of the autotransformer above, to switch the power supply to the transformer rather than to switch the low voltage load (e.g. doorbell).

Grounding and Bonding
Off-grid systems have multiple items that should be well grounded and bonded:

  • PV Panels
  • Inverters
  • Charge controller
  • Generator
  • AC Panel
  • Wind Turbine

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Last modified: November 13, 2018