Power outages can be frustrating and annoying, especially if they find you in the middle of urgent work, a program, or an exciting game. With increased consumer demand and extreme weather patterns like wildfires, heat waves, and storms, blackouts have become common even in the developed world.
How to Use Solar Panels During Power Outage? Solar battery storage is one of the best ways for your solar panels to generate power during a blackout. Nowadays, more and more utility companies are seeing the significance of solar storage and are finding ways to integrate more renewable energy into their infrastructure.
Maybe you have thought about installing solar panels for power outages to solve this problem. After all, the sun is here with us most of the time.
But can you use solar panels during a power outage? Let’s address this question in this article and see your options.
Are you interested in exploring how many solar panels are needed to power an off-grid house? I wrote a whole article that I encourage you to read.
What Happens To Your Solar Power During a Power Outage?
It depends on how you have connected your solar panel system. Most people have their solar panel system linked to the grid, allowing them to supply excess power during the day to the grid.
This net metering can significantly reduce your electricity bill. The power you supply during the day will help offset your electricity bill at night when the sun is not shining.
If your solar panel system is connected to the grid and your region experiences a power outage, your solar system will also shut down.
Why? During a power outage (caused by a faulty system, a tree has fallen over the electric wires, etc.,) the utility company sends its technicians to correct the situation.
What do you think can happen if your solar system continues to supply power to the grid?
The technician will be electrocuted! So, your grid-tied solar system must shut down during power outages to enhance safety.
Why Are Your Solar Panels Not Working During a Power Outage?
We have already seen that power outages are experienced during the following:
- Extreme weather conditions.
- High consumer demand overloads the system.
- Utility companies anticipate potential overload.
And when the grid shuts, your grid-tied solar panel system also shuts to protect technicians working to fix the damaged power lines.
Another reason your solar panel system shuts down is that it is connected to the national grid through a solar inverter.
The solar inverter connects to the main AC panel at your home, and a smart meter records the energy you use and the amount you send to the utility company. When there is a blackout, grid-tied solar systems cannot work even if the sun shines bright.
But what can you do to ensure your solar panels continue to light your house when the whole neighborhood is in darkness?
Why Do You Need Solar Batteries During a Power Outage?
Your solar panel system can only continue to run during a power outage if it is connected to solar battery storage. If you have solar storage batteries, you can harness electricity during the day when sunlight is intense and use it during a blackout.
Solar batteries power your home during blackouts. You can produce and store your electricity if you install the best solar power batteries at home. You can then use this stored energy to power your essential appliances at home during power outages or at night.
During the day, when sunlight is intense, the solar panels produce power you can use in the home while storing excess energy on batteries for future use.
Most solar power bank batteries can store adequate energy, ensuring you are energy-independent. However, you may not benefit from the net metering policy in your region. But, hey…who needs net metering with a good solar battery system? Produce and use your own electricity.
This off-grid solar system gives you the freedom you need from blackouts. However, besides boasting some advantages, going off-grid also has its drawbacks.
Advantages Of An Off-Grid Solar System
Going off-grid has several benefits, as outlined below:
1- You become energy independent
Power outages are the result of over-relying on the grid. If you go off-grid, you produce your own power without artificial inconveniences.
You are not tied to a utility company anywhere, so you will not suffer from a blackout when they cut power in your neighborhood.
I advise you to invest in a reliable battery system to enhance your energy accumulation. Otherwise, you will be in the dark late evening and at night.
2- Zero Cost Of Electricity
As other people cry about rising energy costs, your electricity bill will be zero dollars. Solar power is infinite and free once you have installed the panels.
The only cost you incur is the initial investment for the system, which you will offset from energy savings. With an off-grid solar system, no more anxiety over monthly electricity bills.
3- Ideal For Rural Areas
Rural or remote areas are prone to blackouts, leaving residents with major losses.
The infrastructure is often underdeveloped or lacking; therefore, an off-grid power system can free you from inconsistencies in the village grid.
4- Environmentally Friendly
Electricity from the grid comes from hydropower and coal plant, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and global warming.
However, solar is a clean, renewable energy source that heals the planet. So, going off-grid will help your family’s carbon footprint and make you an environmental champion.
Disadvantages Of Going Off-Grid
The sacrifice to produce your electricity and move away from the grid has its consequences. Here are some challenges you may have to face.
5- Unstable Power Supply
An Independent solar system relies on the sun’s intensity to generate electricity. However, the sun is sometimes unpredictable; clouds may cover the sun throughout the day, resulting in limited electric production.
You will also face the biting cold of winter without a proper heating source unless you live in the countryside and have a good amount of firewood.
6- High Initial Cost
If solar panel systems were cheap, most homes would have installed them. But the reality is that you need a substantial amount of money to install off-grid solar systems.
Households with modest means will struggle to raise money to buy solar panels.
7- Batteries May Not Be Sufficient
You may run out of energy in months when your consumption is high, and weather patterns do not allow for more generation.
How Can You Use Grid-Tied Solar During a Power Outage?
All is not lost when you are using a grid-tied solar system. Technological development makes it possible to continue using your panel during a power outage.
Here are some ways to disengage your solar system from the grid until the utility company sorts out the damage.
Use a Special Inverter System
As a homeowner, you can use your solar panels’ energy without connecting to the grid or a storage battery.
Enphase and SMA manufacture special solar panel inverters designed to automatically disengage your solar system from the grid during a blackout. This allows you to continue harnessing power for your home during the day.
So, you don’t have to wait until power is back, and you don’t need to set up battery storage. The inverters convert energy from the panels to usable power units you can use in the house.
Let’s discuss the inverters from SMA and Enphase.
1- Sunny Boy from SMA
While solar panel inverters can automatically shut off during a blackout, Sunny Boy inverters have a special circuit that you can manually switch to tap solar energy from the panel after an outage.
However, it can only convert up to 2,000 watts at a time; otherwise, it will shut down if you draw out excess power.
If you are wondering what 2,000 watts of power can do- it can light 20 100-watt bulbs. So, if you thought you could run your air conditioner with Sunny Boy, I am sorry.
This inverter produces “opportunity power” for essential appliances. You can run your fridge and TV and probably charge your smartphone.
Enphase has also produced an inverter to ensure you continue to utilize your solar system when the grid shuts down. The company has made an energy management system fitted with microinverters to utilize solar power off-grid.
The inverter can send power directly from the solar panels to your appliances without using batteries, provided the sun is shining brightly in the sky.
But you can also buy the energy storage solution from the company, providing you with power from stored solar when grid power is out.
3- Solar Generator
Investing in a whole-house solar battery may be expensive for some households. You can buy solar generators if you don’t have deep pockets for a battery system.
These generators are often a few hundred dollars and could provide enough power to keep your refrigerator or space heater running.
The good news is that you can charge them with solar panels or electricity from the grid. Charging the generator makes them ready to produce electricity during a power outage.
What to read next:
- Are Solar Panels Worth It in Florida? (And everything you need to know!)
- Can You Put Solar Panels on a Mobile Home?
- Are Solar Panels Worth It in Texas? (Including their pros and cons)
Grid-tied solar panels will not produce electricity during a power outage unless you have installed special inverters that disconnect your solar panel system from the grid.
Solar panels can generate electricity during power outages if you have solar battery storage to store energy. Since the battery is not connected to the grid, you can continue to light your home and power appliances even with a blackout.