Do Power Outages Affect Homes With Solar?
“If I install solar, I’ll be immune from power outages, right?” This is a common question that we receive from prospective customers who are considering making the switch.
It seems like a logical one: by generating your own electricity, you shouldn’t need to depend on a public power utility, and that means you shouldn’t have to worry when the utility goes down for a short period. However, that is not exactly the case.
How Solar & Local Power Are Connected
Even though you’re generating your own power, your home still needs to be part of an electrical circuit. This is especially true if you want to draw from that local power grid during low-production or no-production hours, such as when the sun goes down at night.
This connection always remains active, even during the day. Excess energy you don’t use is sent back to the power grid, and any extra energy you need is brought in from the grid.
Your power inverter is responsible for precisely adjusting and matching the voltage between your home and the local lines at all times—too large of a difference could create a serious electrical fire and potentially even blow out your entire home’s electrical system.
The circuit your home is on includes many of the homes around you, all of which are connected to a local substation. When something goes wrong with your substation, or the electric company needs to do work on the power lines, they’ll have to shut off your power for their safety.
Even low-voltage lines can reach an excess of 50,000 volts, which means even the slightest bit of electrical exposure could be fatal almost immediately. So while you might be able to produce your own power, the fact of the matter is your home still depends on this connection. When these power lines go down, your home also needs to shut off as well in order to protect the integrity of the lines.
If You Have Solar Panels Do You Still Need a Generator?
If you have solar panels, you should still consider owning a generator. Switching to solar does not protect you from power outages unless you completely severed your connection from your public utility grid.
Since going off the public utility grid takes a lot of work and is a huge investment, it is wise to consider having a backup generator.
Why You Need a Backup Generator
Backup generators are different from solar power. Whereas solar power requires a connection to your local grid to continue to run, a backup generator creates a small, low-voltage circuit in an extremely limited area, which enables it to run during a power outage.
Because the power from this generator both enters and leaves your home through the same location, the connection to the grid is bypassed, and you’ll be able to maintain the power you need.
Just be careful you stick within your generator’s voltage and amperage limits—drawing too much power can overload your generator and cause it to die. Likewise, when the power comes back on, turn off your generator as soon as possible.