Will my solar system work when the power goes out?

Many people ask that question and the answer is “maybe”.

Solar panels continue to make electricity anytime light shines on them. It’s a chemical/physical reaction known as the photovoltaic effect and there is no way to stop it. However, solar panels make “direct current” which is the same type of electricity that you get from the battery in your car or your flashlight. It won’t run your refrigerator or your TV or your lights.

The “direct current” has to be turned into “alternating current” in order for it to be useful in your home. That is the job of the inverter. Because you will at some points be sending excess electricity back to the grid, the inverter monitors the grid and makes sure the electricity it produces is exactly like the electricity your utility is sending you. The inverter, based on it’s UL approval must shutdown within milleseconds of the grid going down-so no grid, no power from the solar system. It’s really a safety issue so yur system doesn’t send electricity onto line that service people might assume are dead.

However, there are solutions to the problem. The first is an amazing piece of equipment that works with the inverters to isolate the system from the grid and then trick the inverters into thinking they see the grid. However, this requires a bank of batteries and the expense and maintenance that goes along with them. And the second is a unique inverter that has an outlet built into it and produces power during daylight hours. The power is limited but will run a sump pump or refrigerator.

The question becomes, how many times do you lose the grid” and how important is it to have electricity. If you have a mission critical use or a medical need that absolutely, positively can’t be without power then price is not the object. For many others, the costs are far in excess of the perceived benefit. That equation may change in the future but for now, most people will buy a generator or just decide to “tough it out” if the power fails. Whichever way you decide to go, is a way to meet your needs

 

 

 

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