While initially pondering the idea of moving to the country, I searched for an off grid solar comparison just to get an idea of cost.  However, such comparisons were difficult to find.  I was able to find plenty of information on solar panels for a standard residential installation but a full off grid system seemed to be a needle in an idyllic country haystack!

So I visited the Brisbane home show and spoke to every solar company that was exhibiting.  Of the dozen or so companies only two were interested in off grid.  The rest looked at me as though I had an infectious disease when I mentioned the words off and grid in the same sentence!  I quickly realised that this would be neither easy nor inexpensive.

After much calling around I eventually found four companies that were willing to quote.  Three recommended gel or lead acid batteries and the fourth quoted on both acid and lithium options. Not knowing much about batteries, I assumed that acid was the way most people go, even though in electrical items like mobile phones and cameras I knew that lithium was the better option.

All four companies were painfully slow to quote their respective systems.  In fact, just getting them to reply to my calls and emails in a timely manner seemed to be too much to ask.  Not sure if this is a sign of the attitudes within the industry or of people just generally!  My experience is that all trades are slow to quote, never reply to emails and rarely answer calls first time around.  But the complete lack of good customer service from the solar industry takes this to a new level.

The results!

So after dozens of calls and emails, I finally had four quotes for off grid systems.  For anyone thinking of going off grid below is my comparison of these quotes for your viewing pleasure.  Naturally, I have not listed the specific company names but all are medium to large companies with offices in Queensland.

Off Grid Acid Battery Solar Comparison

So the first thing you will see from the above comparison chart is some missing information and a few question marks.  This is due to the varied levels of information each company supplied and the epic struggle I endured trying to obtain more information.  The worst of the lot was company 4 which was disappointing given that I met these guys at the Eco Expo and they seemed the most in touch with what I was trying to achieve.  I basically just gave up at a certain point when it became clear it would be many more months before all four would provide all the information needed to complete a proper comparison.

The second thing you have no doubt noticed (perhaps it was the first thing), is the vast difference in price.  This was not something I expected and I was thankful that I arranged four quotes.  After many hours spent researching the differences between the systems, I settled on the Mono Perc panels being the better option and the Hoppecke battery being slightly better than the others.  Which actually meant that the cheapest quote from company 3 seemed to be the best.  I am no expert on panels or batteries so don’t take my word for it but this is the conclusion I came to based on the information I could find online.

So why the large price difference? 

Honestly, I can’t say for sure but both company 1 and 2 are large and at the time appeared very busy with massive commercial projects.  Perhaps my little off grid system would be just an annoyance to them – much like that mosquito at night while you are trying to sleep.  Moral to this story is the importance of getting as many quotes as you can from companies of varying size!

So which system did I go with, you ask?  Well at this point I am in discussions with company 3 but I am also investigating lithium options.  Even though lithium is more expensive and not the first option Australian solar companies push, it does appear to be better for the environment which is the whole point of going off the grid to being with!!

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