If you have solar panels on your roof, they provide your house with electricity by gathering the sun's rays and then converting those rays into electricity that you can use in your home.
But what happens when there is a power failure? Can we still use solar panels to create power for our homes when we are not connected to the grid anymore?
Here we learn about how to use your solar panel system during widespread power outages. Having this ability will make sure that you won't have to go without electricity in your home for long periods of time.
GRID-PAIRED VERSUS OFF-GRID SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS
Probably the biggest factor that determines if your solar panels can supply your home with power during widespread outages is whether or not your home’s electric system is paired to the local power grid. Most solar panel systems are paired to the local electric grid.
If that is the case with your system or if you are considering installing a new solar panel system, you might not be able to use your solar panels during a blackout if you don't have the right solar system configuration.
To use your solar panel system during a blackout, you need to have the right equipment. In this case, that means you will need an automatic disconnect relay and whole-house battery backup. The disconnect switch is mandated by the government because it protects other people in your area. The battery will allow you to store the electricity that your panels produce so you can use it later in case of a blackout.
A system without a battery won't be able to store the power from your solar panels to make it available for your home’s electricity needs during an outage.
If your home and its solar panel system are not tied to your electrical grid (off-grid), you will be unaffected when the grid goes down. In such a situation, your electric panel will automatically draw power from your battery backup to run your home. Then your home will be able to use that power to provide electricity to your lights and appliances in your home.
The amount of electricity that is available to you at that point would only depend on the size of your solar panel system and especially the capacity of your battery bank. If this is what you intend, you need to perform an energy audit of your home to determine how much electricity you would use. Then you can “size” your system, and especially your backup battery capacity to meet your projected needs.
GRID-PAIRED SOLAR SYSTEMS
Most grid-paired systems automatically disconnect from the grid during a power outage. This is so that the “mini power plant” on your roof doesn't feed electricity back into the grid thus protecting utility workers who are repairing the outage. They will be operating on the assumption that the wires they are working with don't have any charge in them.
When configuring your system, you can elect to install an automatic disconnect switch that will separate your solar panel system from the grid when there is a power outage.
Even when that automatic disconnect switch is in play, you would be much better off during a power outage if you had sufficient battery backup. Without sufficient battery backup, your panels will still have the ability to convert sunlight into electricity for your use when there is sunshine. However, you might not have sufficient electricity during cloudy days and you certainly will not have any electricity at night.
You need to have enough panels and a battery bank that is sized for your electricity needs to effectively use your panels during a blackout.
USING SOLAR POWER DURING A BLACKOUT WITH GRID-PAIRED SYSTEMS
Solar panel systems that are paired to the grid offer significant advantages. Most of the time, the electricity grid is great. It is an incredible tool to keep in your toolbox.
If we were assured that the grid would always be operational, we wouldn't have to configure our rooftop solar systems to continue to work without them. The electric grid would continue to supply electricity to your home if, for some reason, your solar panel system falls short. This could happen during extended cloudy days or unusually high, short-term electricity demands from your house.
The grid also has the ability to act as a huge battery bank and coupled with net metering, the excess electricity that you send back into the grid would be available to you at a later time.
But if you want to fully take advantage of the capabilities of your solar panel system, especially during a power outage, you will need to have sufficient storage in the form of whole-house batteries.
The number of batteries that you would need can be determined by an energy audit. But that sizing would depend on certain factors. things such as:
• How much electricity do you use daily
• How prone your area is to outages and blackouts
• If your area has many and frequent severe weather events
WHOLE-HOUSE BATTERIES ARE EXPENSIVE
Creating a system with a lot of battery backup capacity can be somewhat pricey. One approach to keeping costs down is to supply sufficient battery backup only to critical systems and appliances that need to keep running during a blackout.
For instance, keeping your refrigerator and freezer running or any medical systems. Foregoing supplying enough battery storage to keep your outdoor lighting or pool filter running during a blackout, might be a choice you would make to save some money.
Keep in mind that there are other methods to supplying electricity during blackouts and outages. If you live in an area that has frequent blackouts and you do not want to invest in high-capacity battery backup systems, You could opt to install a whole-house standby generator.
The problem with a generator, however, is that it needs fuel which might not be available during a widespread outage. Generator fuel is one of the first things to go when there is a widespread outage.
Off-grid solar panel systems are the ultimate security against widespread grid outages. Your home's electricity use won't be affected by outages if you have an off-grid solar system. Of course, these systems usually cost more than the typical grid-paired solar panel system.
The component that makes the systems more expensive is usually the battery bank. But even with the extra cost of large battery storage, the cost of such a solar panel system is usually a lot less expensive than the total of the monthly payments you would make to the utility company.
Putting solar panels on your home is the only reliable way to make sure you always have electricity. Our very recent history in Texas shows us that the power grid can't be trusted. What are the other options?
Whole-house standby generators rely on fuel that might not be available when the emergency hits. Experience shows us that during a widespread emergency, fuel is the first thing that becomes unavailable.
For homeowners who want reliable energy that does not depend on other people to supply a necessary ingredient, solar power is the only option.
You can also see why including sufficient whole-house battery backup is currently, the most popular configuration.
Add to the security and reliability that solar provides, the fact that solar power:
• Increases the value of our homes
• Pays for itself in 7 to 10 years
• Has no moving parts that are prone to failure
• Uses the unlimited, totally free, and absolutely clean sunlight as fuel