How To Use Solar Panels During A Power Outage

How To Use Solar Panels During A Power Outage

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Although solar system panels allow you to generate electricity using renewable energy, most homes that use solar electricity are still connected to this city’s electric grid. As a result, most homes will blackout during power outages, even if they typically use solar energy for their electricity.

Even though it may sound counterintuitive to get solar energy if it stops working during an outage, most solar panels are designed this way for safety reasons. So, it’s not entirely disappointing that solar panels don’t work during power outages.

Luckily, there are three ways to have backup power for a grid-tied system, even if your home typically runs via a solar system. Keep reading to learn more about how solar panels work during a power outage and how to keep a grid-tied solar system powered all the time.

Can Solar Power Be Used During Power Outage?

Unfortunately, solar power on its own cannot be used during power outages simply because most solar energy systems are considered grid-tied solar systems. Therefore, you will need backup options to keep your home working as it should. That being said, off-grid solar systems can work during a power outage, but these systems are costly.

power outage

How Do Solar Panels Work During A Power Outage?

Unless you have an off-grid solar system, homes with solar installations are designed to turn off whenever the power goes out. This prevents solar energy from being fed back into the wires that caused the outage in the first place to protect workers working on the lines.

Think about it this way. Let’s assume that downed power lines caused the power outage because of natural disasters. Then, if your solar energy is still flowing into those downed wires, utility company workers can be injured due to the live voltage whenever they try to fix the power lines for the rest of the community.

Although it certainly is annoying to have to deal with a power outage when you have paid for a solar system, the last thing you want is to injure a utility worker just trying to do their job helping the community. Thus, solar panels turn off when there is a blackout to protect the grid and workers.

How Solar Panels Are Connected To The Power Grid

power grid

You might be wondering exactly how your solar energy can affect downed lines, utility workers, and others in the community during a blackout. The reason is rather simple. Most solar panel systems are still connected to the electrical grid, which is called a grid-tied system.

As a result, the homeowner’s solar panel system is connected to the electricity grid using a solar inverter. That inverter is connected to the main AC panel and a smart electric meter. This meter (net metering) records how much energy you use and how much you send to the grid via unused power. In other words, it helps determine your electric bills.

Your panels produce electricity because of this system, but you can also get some money back by providing excess energy to your utility grid. So, you get to lower your electricity bills, even if you draw electricity or draw power from the grid.

Plus, you are still connected to another electricity source if your solar panel system is not generating enough electricity to support your energy usage (such as during a natural disaster).

How A Solar System Turns Off During A Blackout

Whenever there is a blackout, a solar panel system turns off because of an automatic shut-off feature. As a result, the solar panels themselves don’t break or stop producing electricity in the future. Instead, the automatic turn-off is a simple safety feature for when grid power shuts off.

blackout

How Do You Use Solar Panels During A Blackout?

Luckily, there are some ways to survive power outages, even if you have a grid-tied solar system. By using a backup generator, solar battery storage, or a solar-powered generator, you can continue using energy in your home, even if the power goes off and automatically shuts off your solar panel system.

1. Use A Backup Gas Generator (Not Technically Solar Energy)

If you have a solar system in your home, something tells us you care about the environment and don’t like using gas. However, having a backup gas generator can really help you out if you are in a pinch. Backup generators are affordable, easy to use, and offer great backup power.

Most backup generators cost around $1000, but you also have to buy fuel and install an external electrical plug. Look for a 9000+ Watt gas generator. Anything smaller will not be able to run your entire home while workers try to get the electric grid back online.

On top of being affordable, these generators are often powerful enough to support your entire home. Some are so powerful that they can even power more than one home. So, you certainly won’t have to worry about running out of juice during the outage.

backup gas generator

Drawbacks

Obviously, the biggest drawback of using a gas generator is that it requires gas- it isn’t a solar power solution. For people who care about the environment, this can be a negative drawback. However, it’s always important to remember that this is just a backup option. So, it won’t devastate the environment too much.

Some other downsides to backup gas generators include bad smells and loud noises. That can be not very pleasant, to say the least.

Plus, you risk starting a fire if you do not properly store the fuel or allow the generator to cool off in between uses.

Our Verdict

Even though backup gas generators certainly come with their own drawbacks, we still view this as a viable backup option for your solar panels in the case of an outage.

Assuming that you only use the generator whenever the power goes off, it has very low safety hazards and carbon footprint. Plus, the gas generator is the cheapest of the backup options on this list.

2. Use Solar Battery Backup

If you are looking for a backup option that is still great for the environment, gas generators are not the only way to offer more electricity to your home. You might want to use solar-powered battery storage. You may have even added this backup when you got the solar panels installed.

A battery-backed solar system allows you to charge the battery using solar energy and have an off-grid system. If the power goes out, your solar system will automatically switch to the battery backup to provide your entire home with clean energy, even during a blackout, since it stores excess electricity and excess power.

Although solar battery storage is somewhat new for regular homeowners, there are quite a few battery solar systems to consider. One of the most popular is the Tesla Powerwall, but there are many other more affordable options, including LG and Sonnen.

If you are on a budget, LG is one of the best in terms of both functionality and price. In many ways, it is like the Tesla Powerwall, without the brand name.

Of course, the solar system’s battery will still be more expensive than the gas backup, but it may be worth the investment if you care about your footprint and want a full home backup.

solar battery backup

Drawbacks

The biggest drawback about using solar battery storage is that the batteries only have a finite amount of energy. So if the power outage lasts for a long time, the solar battery could easily run out of juice, rendering you without energy once again. However, solar battery storage will provide enough power to get you through an outage in most scenarios.

Another major drawback is the initial price itself. Although solar battery storage does not cost a lot of money to maintain, you have to purchase the solar battery and install it. As a result, expect to pay thousands of dollars for a full home battery system. In fact, most cost between $7000 and $14,000.

Our Verdict

If you are on a budget, solar battery storage will likely not be a great backup option for you.

Nevertheless, energy storage is a great choice if you care a lot about the environment and are looking for a complete home solar power backup option for an off-grid system. Of course, you can always shop LG or Sonnen for more affordable solar batteries, but they are still thousands.

3. Use A Solar Powered Generator

Because of the extremely high price tag of solar battery storage, most people cannot entertain that sort of backup option. However, there are other environmentally friendly backup options for solar panels, such as solar generators for energy storage.

Many solar generators work the same way as regular gas generators, but they are mainly used for single plug-ins. For example, you can use them to make sure your refrigerator keeps running, plug in a space heater, keep medical equipment running, or startup emergency lighting.

These options are portable and are charged with your solar panel system whenever the electric grid is working. The solar generator will stop charging whenever the power goes off since it is not a fully equipped solar storage system, but you can use it to power other small items.

One of the biggest benefits of solar-powered generators is that they are super affordable. Several companies offer these sorts of devices that only cost a couple hundred. So, they are a great way to save money!

Drawbacks

Because this is a portable option, solar generators cannot support your whole home like the previous two options. Instead, they can only support one or two items. This can be a major drawback if you are specifically looking for a backup option to support your entire home.

Additionally, solar generators only have a finite amount of power. Once again, they require a solar panel system for their juice. During the blackout, they will not be able to get charged up. If the blackout lasts for a long time, your solar generator may not run the entire duration.

Our Verdict

If you are looking for an affordable yet environmentally friendly backup option, solar generators are the best option.

Although they do not provide full power to your home, they ensure that your essential appliances have power while still utilizing the solar power generated before the blackout. Always remember to charge up the solar generators when the grid is back on.

Final Thoughts

Although it certainly is annoying that your home will lose power during a blackout, even if you are connected to a solar panel system, the solar panels’ automatic turn-off is essential to keep our utility workers safe and healthy while trying to get the grid back online.

If you are looking for a way to keep your home powered even during a blackout, you can use a backup gas generator, solar batteries, or a solar-powered generator. The two generator options are the cheapest, yet the solar generator is more environmentally friendly. The downside of the solar generator is that it won’t be able to power your entire home.

In an ideal world, solar batteries are the best backup option because they can power your entire home seamlessly during a blackout. Unfortunately, however, their ridiculous price tag makes them unattainable for most homeowners. Hopefully, research and technology will lead to more affordable solar battery systems in the future.

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