Factors that affect a PV system’s overall cost include the amount of power produced daily, inverter capacity and waveform quality, and battery bank size and quality, the inclusion of details like surge arrestors and battery vent fans. PV hardware follows some pretty traditional rules: You get what you pay for—and quality is usually worth the extra cost.
Use the questions in this article as a guide to understand the issues involved in creating a good system. Then interview several installers in your area. Who has the most off-grid experience? Who has the most satisfied customers, and can provide references?
Initially, don’t ask what the system will cost. A good designer can only answer “it depends” until a full load analysis and interview is done. Inexperienced or unscrupulous installers will respond with a low initial figure, knowing that the goal at this early stage is to “get the job.”
Use your research to select a good designer/installer; then work with him or her to develop your particular system according to your loads, lifestyle, and budget. If the installer you have selected and chosen to trust tells you that your system will cost more than you can afford, work to reduce your loads or forego certain luxuries. Shopping for a cheaper system is usually a false economy and may prove disastrous.