Using Solar Power for Emergencies

Everything stops when the power goes out. During a power outage, your home practically stops working. Your refrigerator no longer cools, your air conditioner or heater turns off, not to mention you have no lights — even when it’s dark outside.

Power outages can hit during natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, or they can simply occur during grid overloads or errors. A power outage can happen at any time, and traditionally powered homes are always vulnerable to the potential of losing power.

Power outages are especially unfortunate during natural disasters, when the loss of power can last for hours or even weeks rather than a quick flick off and back on during a thunderstorm. Damaged electrical lines mean that you may have to wait for an extended period of time, sometimes weeks, to get power back as crews work to repair electrical infrastructure.

But if you have the right solar power system installed in your home, you can avoid the dangers and inconvenience experienced during power outages. A solar power system with battery backup is a reliable solution for power that can keep your lights on and power your home even when your neighbors are without power.

The Dangers of Power Outages

While power outages are rare, particularly extended power outages, they do still happen. And while the loss of power may not seem initially dangerous, it can spell serious trouble for your home and your family. Power outages can come with these dangers:

  • Extreme heat or cold: This is a particular concern during summer hurricanes and winter storms. Without power, your home won’t be able to regulate its temperature against deadly high temperatures or freezing conditions. You’ll have to find other ways to stay cool or warm.
  • Spoiled food: Power outages that last for four hours or more can result in spoiled food in your refrigerator and freezer. This can result in food loss, make your family sick, and be expensive as you replace perishable foods.
  • Damage to electronics: Computer systems and other electronics can sustain damage due to a sudden loss of power. This damage can be mitigated with the use of uninterruptible power supplies and surge protectors.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning: Using a portable generator or grill in an area that is not well ventilated can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

Non-Solar Power Outage Solutions

There are a number of solutions for maintaining power during an outage. The most popular of these is a portable backup generator, which runs on the same gas as your vehicle does. Most won’t have the horsepower necessary to maintain power for your entire home or even your HVAC system, but they may be able to power your refrigerator and a fan or space heater.

Portable backup generators are convenient for short term power outages. Unfortunately, portable generators can be difficult to maintain over long periods of time, as you’ll need to get gas to power it — and during a natural disaster or period of extended power outage, you may find it difficult to locate available gas. Portable generators are also extremely loud and very dangerous when used indoors, as they will build up deadly levels of carbon monoxide, and should only be used in well ventilated areas.

Another option is a natural gas backup generator that is installed in your home. Often available from your natural gas provider, this is a more sophisticated solution that is tied to your natural gas line and can kick on as soon as you lose electrical power. However, these generators can be very expensive, and unlike a portable generator, their only available use is as a backup power source.

Solar Power Solutions for Power Outages

During a power outage, solar power can provide a seamless solution. While there are standalone solar power generators available, many home owners who have installed solar power systems can take advantage of solar as backup power as well.

This is possible with a grid tied residential solar power system with batteries, or with an off grid system with batteries. Unfortunately, grid tied systems without batteries will not be able to use any solar power generated during a power outage, as inverters will disconnect from the utility grid for safety reasons.

A grid tied residential solar power system with batteries can be installed with an alternate inverter. When it switches to this inverter, you’ll effectively disconnect safely from the grid while using your battery bank to power your home. Solar power generated by panels will continue to be fed into your batteries.

Residential solar power systems with a battery backup will allow you to have power whether the sun is shining or not, and whether grid power is available or not. During the day, solar energy will charge your battery, and your battery backup system will seamlessly offer power for your home, even during a power outage.

Realistically, battery backups on your solar power system will likely not have enough stored energy to run your home on battery power 24/7 for an extended period of time. However, it can reasonably support emergency loads for a refrigerator, fan, space heater, and even a water pump.

Solar power systems offer a superior solution for power outage backup solutions (or even simply regular power), as they are quiet, powered by renewable energy, and can turn on seamlessly. They require very little maintenance, unlike portable generators that must be refueled frequently.

As your home uses solar power during a power outage, you’ll be contributing to the stability of the electricity grid. Without your home on the grid, there will be less strain on the grid, making it more efficient and easier for other grid powered homes in your area to come back online faster.

With a solar power system that uses battery backup, you’ll be able to enjoy clean, renewable energy, even during a power outage. This is incredibly convenient during natural disasters and other emergencies. Knowing that you have a solar power system that will provide your home with power in practically any situation can give you peace of mind as your family won’t be left without power.

Of course, solar power for your home is an excellent benefit whether grid power is out or not, as a residential solar power system offers major financial savings and satisfaction as you power your home in an environmentally friendly way.

Photo by Flickr user bagalute