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Solar Panels in a Blackout: Can You Use Them?

Solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy using photovoltaic cells. They will produce power including during a blackout provided there is sunlight.

However, on-grid (grid-tied) systems will not be able to export or receive electricity from the grid during a blackout. This is a safety measure to protect line workers from electrocution while they are repairing the grid.

With on-grid PV systems, the inverter is programmed to be disconnected from the grid automatically when there is a power outage. This means that even if your solar panels are generating electricity, you will not be able to use it or send it back to the grid.

If you have an off-grid system, your system will continue to generate power during a blackout. Because your solar panels are not connected to the grid your system will not be affected by power outages.

Almost all off-grid solar systems have some sort of battery storage. This allows you to store energy from your solar panels for use during a blackout.

So, using an off-grid solar PV system you can continue to power up your home either with stored energy in a battery or by generating power from your solar panels during a blackout.

If you have a grid-tied system, you will need to find another source of power for your appliances during a blackout. Here is a video

Here are some options that can help you stay powered during a blackout:

Use a backup generator

diesel mobile generator on trailer

Backup generators are a great way to keep your appliances running during a power outage. However, choosing the right generator can be tricky. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a generator:

Determine power needs

Determine your power needs ahead of time. Consider what appliances you need to keep running during a power outage. You also need to know how often and for how long do blackouts in your area typically last. Knowing this will help you choose the right size backup generator.

Although there may not be an exact science to this, a good rule of thumb is to choose a generator that can provide double the power you need for the length of time. Even if you may not need that much power, it’s always good to have a little extra.

Determine installation space

Backup generators come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you have enough space to install the generator before purchasing one.

If you decide to use a generator, never operate a generator inside your home or garage. Generators burn fossil fuels and produce carbon monoxide gas. Always operate it in well-ventilated areas outdoors, away from doors, windows, and vents.

If you plan to run a generator in a space adjacent to your home, plan a dedicated ventilation path for the exhaust fumes. This path should be free of obstructions and lead directly outdoors.

Choose the type of fuel

We have said generators burn fossil fuels, but there are different types of generators that run on different types of fossil fuels. There are generators that run on gas, liquid propane, natural gas, or diesel.

Although each fuel type has its benefits, diesel generators are quite popular for their reliability and long-term performance.

Plan fuel management in advance

Generators need fuel to run. If you’re using a gas generator, make sure you have enough gas on hand to last the entire duration of the power outage. If you’re using a propane generator, make sure your propane tank is full.

If you’re using a diesel generator, make sure you have enough diesel fuel on hand to last the entire duration of the power outage. The last thing you want is to run out of fuel in the middle of a power outage.

Choose the type of generator

You can choose either standby or portable generators.

Diesel Portable Generator

Standby generators are permanently installed and wired into your home’s electrical system. Portable generators are not attached to your home, so you can take them with you once the power outage is over.

Use Solar batteries

Solar batteries can help you keep powered during a blackout. If you have a solar PV system with battery storage, you can use the stored energy in the battery to power your appliances during a blackout.

With a solar battery, switching from grid connection to battery backup is automatic, so you don’t have to worry about it. And if the power grid is down, your solar battery can keep your appliances running for hours or even days.

There are a variety of solutions available, ranging from a bank of deep-cycle lead-acid batteries to the latest lithium-ion solar batteries. Tesla Powerwall is a popular option, but there are many other Powerwall alternatives available on the market.

Other companies like LG and Sonnen also offer solar batteries that are at least as good as the Tesla Powerwall. So, if you’re looking for a solar battery, it’s worth checking out the different options available.

A grid-tied solar PV system with battery backup keeps your home powered during a blackout. Once the power is out, your system gets disconnected from the grid and starts using power from the batteries.

While the grid is down, your solar PV system continues to generate power and charge the batteries. As long as your battery has enough capacity, you could run like this for a long time.

Use a Solar generator

Solar generators work by converting sunlight into electrical energy that can power your appliances. They are superior to gas generators in many ways. They don’t produce any noise, they don’t produce fumes, and they are much more environmentally friendly.

mobile solar generator

Using a solar generator you don’t need to plan for fuel, because they run on sunlight. You can even use them indoors, as long as there is enough sunlight coming in through the windows. Most importantly they don’t need you to spend money on fuel.

They are also much safer than gas generators. Not because they are less likely to catch on fire, but because they don’t produce any fumes. This means that you and your family will be able to breathe easily, even if the power is out for a long time.

Companies like Renogy and GoalZero offer a wide range of solar generators that are perfect for emergencies.

The problem with solar generators is that they are not as powerful as gas generators.

Once your solar generator gets depleted, it will take a long time to recharge it. Because these generators rely on a few small-sized solar panels that are not very efficient. Thus, it can take a quite long time to replenish the generator’s power.

Use a UPS System

UPS systems, or Uninterruptible Power Supplies, are a great way to keep your appliances running during a blackout.

Backup Power UPS with Battery

A UPS system is basically a battery that is connected to your appliances. When the power goes out, the UPS system will automatically switch to battery power and keep your appliances running.

In the event of a blackout, the UPS quickly switches to battery power to provide a continuous power source for the duration of the battery. Battery life varies by system and is dependent on how much power is used. The battery backup allows you to power essential devices and keeps them running until the power is restored.

The UPS also functions as a surge protector, shielding connected devices from power issues such as surges or aberrant voltages, which can damage, shorten the lifespan, or impair the functioning of electronic equipment and devices.

In order to have a UPS system supply all of your home’s power, the system will need to be sized appropriately. If it isn’t necessary you may choose a portable system that only powers a few devices.

The flexibility of a UPS system is one of its main advantages. You can use it to power anything from a single light bulb to an entire home.

Here is a video that will help you to use your home’s solar panels in a blackout:

Conclusion

Off-grid systems will continue to work when the grid goes down, but you should still have a backup plan in place. Because your batteries can only store so much energy, you may need to ration your power usage.

Grid-tied systems will not work when the grid is down unless they have a battery backup.

There are a variety of other ways we have mentioned that you can keep your home powered during a blackout. These include using solar batteries, solar generators, standby generators, and UPS systems. You can also use a combination of these methods to ensure that you are never left in the dark.