Many homes in California have made the big switch to solar energy for environmental and economic reasons. Besides being clean and sustainable, solar offers long-term electricity cost savings that make it a worthy investment. But what are the implications for solar power customers when the power goes out?
Here is what you need to know about solar energy and power outages.
How Solar Works During a Blackout
Solar panels need sunlight to generate free electricity for your home. You’d think that a power outage in the daylight wouldn’t affect solar customers, but that’s not usually the case. If you’re reliant on your power grid, you’ll lose power when all the rest of their customers do.
Your system is designed to shut down automatically in a blackout to prevent it from sending harvested energy to the outage source. This is done as a safety precaution—live voltage in the electric grid can easily harm utility workers fixing downed power lines.
Without additional help, solar panels are unable to provide power during planned or emergency shutdowns. But, there are ways to work around this problem: Install backup solar batteries or move to an off-grid system.
The Difference Between Off-Grid and Grid-Tied Solar
A solar energy system can be installed via two methods: grid-tied and off-grid. Most systems are grid-tied since they are connected to a utility provider’s electric grid. This setup allows you to draw electricity from the grid when yours is not generating enough power, say at nighttime or during cloudy days.
Moreover, a grid-tied solar system lets you push the excess electricity produced into the grid supply. You will then receive a credit from the local power company, reducing utility costs under net metering.
An off-grid system is one without any connection to the power grid. Since your only source of electricity is your solar energy system, outages won’t affect you. To augment power requirements, off-grid setups usually have generators or solar batteries. One significant downside of going off-grid is the high upfront cost.
Battery Storage During a Blackout
If you want to know how to use solar panels during a power outage in the most cost-efficient way, consider solar backup battery storage.
A solar energy storage system collects energy from the panels and stores the unused portion in a battery. At the very least, you can use the solar battery during blackouts to:
- Light up your home
- Charge mobile devices
- Keep the fridge running
- Power up medical devices
However, battery backups don’t provide enough juice for the average HVAC system, since that requires a lot to keep going.
How long your battery lasts depends on its storage capacity. The higher it is, the longer you can weather an outage, given conservative energy consumption. Most solar batteries have apps that let you monitor real-time usage.
Should You Install a Solar Battery for Home Use?
Yes, it pays to have a solar battery in your home because of its significant benefits, including providing a backup and saving you more money.
Reserved Backup Power
At the right capacity, a solar battery provides enough electricity so you can go on with your daily activities for days despite power outages.
Reduced Electricity Costs
Your investment in a solar battery quickly pays itself off through cost savings. Use stored energy as your home’s electricity when solar panels are not charging at night and early morning, reducing total consumption and dependence on the grid. With a low power usage from the grid, you may be entitled to reduced rates. Lessen utility bills further when you switch to solar batteries during peak demand hours when rates are normally higher.
Do I Need an Inverter for My Solar Panels?
If you intend to rely on your solar panels during a power outage, then you will need an inverter. When your house is on the grid, and the grid is functioning, your solar panels send power into the system while you draw power from the grid. The power conversion is already done for you. But to draw energy directly from your home’s solar power system, you need an inverter.
When the grid is down, your utility company needs it to be free of power so their technicians can safely work on the downed lines. You will need backup solar batteries as well as an inverter to convert the solar panels’ direct current (DC) power to the alternating current (AC) power used in your home.
How to Use Solar Panels During a Power Outage
Once you have a backup battery system in place, you will be able to use solar panels during a power outage. The steps for doing this will vary depending on the configuration of your solar power system, including the type of inverter you have, but here’s an example:
- Locate the switch to disconnect your system from the grid. This will be in or near your main breaker box.
- Locate the solar power breakers in or near the main breaker box, and flip it to the on position.
- It may take time for your inverter to be fully charged and ready.
- Your system will then be operational.
- Monitor your power usage and battery levels while using the system to help regulate usage.
While you have other options for powering your home during an outage, a solar power battery storage system is the best choice. If you are not limited by an HOA or other factors, solar is a wise choice.
Backup generators have limited capacity and typically require gas or diesel to power them. Leaving unused fuel in a generator for extended periods can leave it unstable and damage your system.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for an Inverter?
The number of panels that can or should be connected to an inverter depends on the capacity of the panels as well as the inverter. For example, a 1000 kW inverter could be connected to four 250 watt solar panels.
How Many Watts Does a Solar Panel Produce?
Solar panels vary with regard to how much power they produce. Typically, solar panels range from 250 to 400 watts, though some can produce more.
How Many kWh Can a Solar Panel Produce?
A lot of factors go into how much energy a solar panel produces. These include the time of year, the cloud cover on a given day, the presence of tall trees or buildings shading the panels, and more. Taking these factors into consideration, a single solar panel will likely produce an average of around 2 kWh per day.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Power a House?
In addition to the environmental considerations like your home’s location, the direction it faces, and other factors, you also have to determine how much energy you use at home. To calculate how many panels are needed to power your house, you or your solar provider can divide your energy usage by how much you can expect from a single panel to get the number of panels needed for your home.
Do solar panels work during an outage? The answer to that question comes down to whether your system has a backup battery system in place. That is one of the key takeaways here. The fact that you can use solar panels during an outage is important to know.
It’s also important to know that it is advisable to opt for solar battery storage as the most effective and efficient way to power your home during an outage. Unlike backup generators, solar batteries give you a more reliable and safer way to power your home.
Solar Battery Backup with Current Home
Make sure you’re ready for scheduled and sudden power shutdowns in California. Learn more about how to use solar panels during a power outage with Current Home. Call today and speak to a professional from our team who’ll help you find the best solar energy storage solution for your home.