Do Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?

Solar power in a power outage offers energy dependency so you can control your home and keep your essential items running. Although grid-tied solar energy users will face blackouts, there are ways to power your home when the grid is down.

Battery storage systems and other alternatives will empower you to keep the lights on, the internet running and food fresh in the fridge. Keep reading for everything you need to know about solar energy in blackouts, including learning how to survive outages with solar energy, why blackouts happen and the growing importance of solar energy.

Why Do Power Outages Happen?

Blackouts are becoming more frequent. Power outages often result from overload, human error or natural causes. Natural disasters are threatening homes and people — largely due to climate change — and the alarming rate at which these disasters occur calls for homeowners to invest in quality materials that will protect their property.

Along with natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, lightning is one of the most likely causes of a power outage. Other weather-related issues like heavy ice, snow, wind and rain can also leave you without power. Pesky animals, like squirrels, can also eat through power lines or cause damage to utility units.

Human error is another frequent power outage cause. Car accidents involving power lines or utility poles can leave you stranded without service. Additionally, excavators and other workers occasionally tear underground and disrupt the power cables. Sometimes, poor installation results in shaky connections and frequent disruptions.

On top of these everyday occurrences, utility companies often prepare for regular maintenance power outages without providing much, if any, notice. The grid can succumb to overload issues and quickly spread power outage problems to your neighborhood and beyond. Grid-tied homes and properties succumb to many of these instances regularly and don't have the power to do anything about them.

Difference Between Off-Grid and Grid-Tied Solar Power

Off-grid and grid-tied power refers to where you store your generated energy. When you're on the grid, your energy feeds into the grid, where others can use the power. Off-grid solar power requires a battery for your system and can have higher upfront costs.

Many homes operate with grid-tied solar. When power outages occur, these homeowners find themselves without access to power, creating an inconvenience in their lives. Grid-tied solar can be cheaper and empower homeowners to generate their own energy, but it doesn't address the concern of power outages.

Adding batteries to stay off the grid can result in significant costs over time, while staying on the grid can allow you to store energy freely. Many homeowners find that neither of these systems fits their preferences, which is where energy storage systems come into the picture.

Energy storage systems enable you to connect to the grid while using batteries for additional energy storage. Along with being able to access power during outages, you can also sell your power or use it later if you live in an area with a specific billing structure, like high-demand charges or time-use rates.

Although the batteries are still an expensive aspect of these systems, the additional help can save you time, effort and money in the long run. Additionally, if you live in an area prone to outages, harsh weather or inflated electric costs, the reliability of your batteries will provide a great layer of protection.

Will Solar Panels Work in a Blackout?

If you're grid-tied, your solar panels won't work in a blackout. However, what happens to your solar power in a blackout doesn't have to disrupt your day or evening. You can reserve power with solar battery storage. Solar panels can direct energy to the battery so you can power your home, appliances and internet throughout the night and any time you experience an outage.

Solar batteries during blackouts will provide extra power to keep your home running. The size of your battery and what you're using it for will largely determine how long a solar battery will last during a power outage. You can find batteries that will supply enough energy for 10 to 15 hours, long enough for you to reconnect to the grid and get the lights back on with your solar panels. However, you may need to limit your use of nonessential items to ensure your vital equipment, like the refrigerator, can stay charged.

How to Use Solar Panels During Blackouts

You can use the solar panels on your house during a power outage for essential tasks like keeping the lights on, preventing food from spoiling and allowing the internet to run. How long solar power lasts during a power outage depends on your battery size and energy use. Here, we'll describe how you can survive during blackouts and what you can do to maximize your energy efficiency.

Solar Batteries

As we've discussed, solar battery systems offer peace of mind and ease during outages. When the grid goes down, you can rely on your battery to supply energy to your home. These systems make the transition from the grid to the alternative power source seamless with minimal disruptions.

There is a wide range of solar batteries on the market, and you must find one that supports your home. Smaller batteries will likely be more cost-friendly but may not provide enough power for your home during extended blackouts. If you live in an area prone to outages, consider upgrading your battery to a more suitable size.

Solar Generator

Solar generators are another effective option for independent power during blackouts. These systems are a combination of a solar panel and a power station that can collect energy from the sun, convert it into electricity and store it in batteries. Small generators can charge cell phones and keep the lights on, while large models can run your refrigerator and televisions.

There are two types of solar generators: portable and solar backup. Backup generators are an extension of your home and connect to your electrical panel through wires. If the power goes off, these systems will automatically kick on while the sun is shining. Alternatively, portable systems are small, and you can use them in various settings. You can transport them to use them where you need them most, and the built-in batteries enable you to store energy when there is no sunlight.

Power Inverter

Power inverters don't involve a backup storage system or connection to the grid. These systems transform direct currents into alternating currents to run your home appliances. Essentially, after your panels produce energy, the energy will move to the inverter or battery, depending on the system you have. There are five kinds of power inverters:

  • Battery: When you want to keep your solar panels and battery separate, this is an excellent option. These inverters convert battery power and feed it to the switchboard rather than grid power whenever possible.
  • Central: These systems are not for residential properties and are very large. They resemble large cabinets and empower commercial spaces to continue operation.
  • Hybrid: These hybrid systems enable you to connect your system to batteries and will organize the electricity into charging and discharging.
  • Microinverters: These systems are very small and can optimize each individual panel for more energy.
  • String: This option is one of the most common for homeowners. These systems connect to panels to convert generated energy into usable home electricity. However, these systems will only work as well as the least-performing panel, so be aware of your system.

Tip for Surviving the Blackout

Solar panel blackouts require you to have a plan for your electricity. Although your backup power source will play a significant role in keeping your home running, there are a few tips you should keep in mind. You likely won't have enough electricity to keep every device running at the same pace as normal, so you'll need to make a few sacrifices. Here are ways you can prepare for blackouts and maximize your energy use:

  • Shut off the water heater: Water heaters require large amounts of power in many homes. Turning this appliance off can help direct your energy to other devices and appliances so that you can stay comfortable for longer.
  • Avoid laundry: Washing machines are nonessential during blackouts as most people have enough clean clothes to get through the outage. If you shut off the water heater, you likely won't run laundry anyway.
  • Minimize light at night: Turn your lights off as often as possible. If you have tasks that require light, complete them during the day when the sun is shining. Don't wait until the evening is drawing close to start reading or writing, and consider using candles if you need to illuminate a small space.
  • Cook your perishables: You can avoid spoiling food and cut some electricity by eating your perishable items. If you're able to consume or remove any food that would go bad without power, you can cut the supply to your fridge, empowering you to use energy elsewhere.
  • Cook outside: If possible, prepare your meals outside. Cook items over a small fire or use a solar power grill to eat those fridge items. Refrain from using your microwave or oven if you have another means of cooking.
  • Unplug nonessential electronics: Audio systems, computers, televisions and other consumer electronics will continue drawing power even if you're not using them. Unplug these nonessential devices to direct energy to essential locations. If you do need to use one, turn it off when you've finished.

Why Solar Power Is More Important Now Than Ever

Many people are growing tired of the lack of power security they have. The increasing grid instability is a large part of why so many homeowners are switching to solar power. Solar panels enable you to power your home and control your home's energy.

Places with a failing grid system, like California, are facing more and more power struggles resulting from natural disasters and people combatting severe weather. Making the switch to solar energy can help stabilize the grid and ensure you control your home.

On top of the performance benefits, the cost of solar power is declining, making it more accessible to many more people. Solar energy installation costs have decreased by about 65% in the last 10 years, and solar energy will likely continue becoming more accessible, empowering more homeowners to invest in switching to more sustainable energy.

Choose S&H Solar for Your Energy Needs

S&H Solar is dedicated to helping small towns and rural areas control their power. We want to help others reach their power goals while helping the environment. We value grit, transparency, integrity and honesty in each of our business operations.

We proudly serve areas across Texas and Oklahoma, empowering people to harness power from sustainable sources. We have years of experience implementing these systems, so you can count on us to do it right.

When you choose S&H Solar, you can gain access to a dedicated, hardworking and passionate team who can help with all your solar panel installation needs. We can set up systems to ensure your home runs during power outages so you can continue living your best life.

We can install backup generators and offer repair services anytime you need them. We know that rural towns in Oklahoma and Texas face blackouts from tornadoes, hail and thunderstorms. These events can cause spoiled food, safety issues, frozen pipes and productivity loss, impacting your daily life. With us, you can keep your home running with disruptions. We offer a larger and quieter solution for power outages, and you can easily make the switch. Get a quote from us and prepare for an empowering experience.

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