What does the term “solar energy” signify to you? Environmental protection? Trying to save money? Maybe it’s independence from the power company. Solar panels enable you to generate your own free and sustainable electricity. However, the majority of solar panel systems deployed in the United States are connected to the power grid. With a grid-connected system, you can still create free, clean energy and, in many jurisdictions, receive “free electricity storage” via regulations such as net metering or New York’s Value Stack. You will also have (almost) constant access to electricity.
That’s why if you asked: Can I run my home off solar battery if the power goes down? Let’s check the answer immediately.
Can I run my home off solar battery if the power goes down?
The short answer to whether or not solar panels will work during a power outage is no. Grid-connected systems must follow utility standards, which means no power when the grid goes down unless you have a battery-backed solar system. During a power outage, solar panels will not be able to power your home or business. There are two exceptions to this: your system has energy storage, or you forego the benefits of grid-tied solar in favor of an off-grid system.
The Difference Between Off-Grid and Grid-Tied Solar
Your utility generates and distributes electricity via the grid. You will be connected to the grid if you install a grid-tied solar system. When your system isn’t producing energy, you’ll be able to draw grid power from your utility, and you’ll be able to transfer excess energy to the grid for credit in many jurisdictions (this is called net metering).
Of course, an off-grid system is not connected to the utility grid. In exchange for that delightful freedom, you will only have access to electricity generated by your solar system and stored in batteries or generated by an onsite generator. If the electricity goes out, you will be able to power your home or company.
When it comes down to it, the majority of solar energy systems built in the United States today are designed to save money on electricity. They are not installed with the goal of serving as a stand-alone power source. Many individuals prefer grid-tied solar because of the money they save and the dependability it provides. However, this means that the vast majority of solar systems in the United States will be unable to generate electricity if the grid fails.
Why are my solar panels not working during a power outage?
A correctly installed solar system need just sunlight to generate free electricity. So, when the grid falls down, why can’t you use this electricity in your own home or business?
It’s because of how a grid-connected solar system operates. Sunlight strikes the panels, generating electricity, which is then routed through the inverter and utilized to power your lights or keep your food cold. When your panels generate more electricity than you consume, the excess is fed back into the grid.
It’s a significant concern if the electric grid is down and your solar system is sending extra electricity to the grid.
Utility crews are repairing the same power wires to get the area back up and running. They are doing this under the assumption that the lines are no longer active. Electricity from your solar system would invalidate that premise, perhaps causing major consequences. To protect utility personnel and the grid, all grid-connected solar energy inverters must immediately shut down when the system fails and the power goes out.
How to use solar panels during a power outage?
There are two major ways to use solar energy when the power goes out: establishing an off-grid solar system or adding a method of energy storage, such as batteries.
Off-Grid Solar Power Systems
Off-grid solar requires a sufficient number of batteries to store enough electricity to last through the night and on overcast days. This frequently makes it far more expensive than grid-connected solar systems. For most households and companies, off-grid solar is rarely a viable investment. Furthermore, if your solar system isn’t producing enough energy and the energy you’ve saved has depleted, you won’t be able to draw power from the grid.
If you want to change to solar panels, you should read What is an umbrella policy for solar panels?
However, it provides complete energy independence, allowing you to use your solar system even if the grid goes down. Off-grid solar is an excellent choice for buildings in distant places where grid-connected electricity is unavailable. If you have a remote cabin, an off-grid system may be advantageous.
Solar Systems Powered by Batteries
For consumers hoping to save money with solar panels, a grid-tied system is frequently the superior option. If you build an energy storage system, you can still have backup power when the grid is down. Because it does not require as many batteries as an off-grid system, it is likely to be less expensive.
Installing one or two solar batteries will enable you to store any unused electricity generated by your solar system. You’ll then be able to use that power without placing utility personnel in danger if the power system goes down.
If a battery backup system appeals to you, it’s critical that you understand its limitations. Though solar batteries are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, they are still prohibitively expensive for the majority of households and businesses. They have the potential to significantly increase the cost of your solar system. As a general guideline, a 9.8 kWh battery might cost roughly $15,000 (including installation) before incentives.
As a result, many solar contractors will advise you to select only a few essential products for which you want to provide power. Emergency lighting, medical equipment, refrigerators, and personal electronics/chargers are examples of such items. Installing enough batteries to keep your home or business working normally for a few days would almost certainly cost more than most people are prepared to spend. Here’s a chart to assist you figure out how many batteries you’ll need.
Backup generators are generally a less expensive option if backup power is necessary to you but you don’t want to spend the money on a battery system. You can keep your home or business going for a few hundred or thousand dollars at your local hardware shop. However, these generators are frequently powered by fossil fuels. Not only are fossil fuels non-renewable, but they might also be scarce in times of emergency or natural disaster.