During a power outage, solar panels will not keep your lights on unless they are equipped and configured to do so. To power your home when the power goes out, you will need to add a home battery. In states like California where public safety power outages are expected to continue for the next decade, pairing a home battery with your solar energy system is a promising long-term solution.
The Difference Between Off-Grid and Grid-Tied Solar Panel Systems
There are two primary types of solar power systems: off-grid and grid-tied. Off-grid systems are independent of the utility grid, while grid-tied systems are connected to it.
Your utility company provides electricity to customers through the electric grid. By installing a grid-tied solar system, you’re connected to the electric power grid and will draw power from it when your panels aren’t generating energy (at night, on cloudy days, outages, etc).
Off-grid systems, on the other hand, are not connected to the utility grid. When you live off-grid, you do not have access to electricity unless it’s generated by your solar system and stored in a home battery or produced by an onsite generator. Because of this stored backup power, you’ll be able to power your home or business if the grid goes down.
Most solar energy systems are grid-tied and designed to save home and business owners money on their electric bills. They are not designed or installed with the intent to operate as an independent power source unless the home is located in an area with limited access to a utility grid.
Why Won’t My Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?
Grid-tied solar panel systems function when sunlight is captured and converted into energy, which then passes through an inverter to supply power for your lights or keep food cold. When your panels produce more electricity than you need, the surplus energy flows into the electric grid.
When the grid fails, your solar system is designed to disconnect from the power grid and all grid-tied inverters are required to automatically shut down. This prevents the flow of solar energy through the grid while utility workers fix downed power lines or any other failures. As a result, the solar system switching itself off during blackouts is an important safety feature.
Battery Storage Can Provide More Consistent Power During Outages
Adding a home battery to your solar panel system will allow your home or business to continue operating during a power outage. As long as they have stored energy available, home batteries will ensure your home continues to have power, even when the sun isn’t shining.
Although home batteries will provide power to your home during a blackout, it’s typically less than the amount provided by the grid when your home is connected. As a result, you’ll have to decide which appliances and devices in your home will receive power during a blackout. These could include things like emergency lighting, medical equipment, refrigerators/freezers and personal electronics/chargers.
You’ll need to manage that power carefully though. You want to ensure you have enough power for the night, so your home battery can recharge the next day when the sun is shining.
If You Live in California, Batteries May Help Cut Your Utility Bills
During the day, when your solar panels are sending power into the grid, utilities such as PG&E compensate you for that electricity at a lower rate than what they charge you for power in the evening. Currently, California’s three main utilities charge you different rates depending on whether electricity is being used during peak or off-peak hours. These Time-of-Use (TOU) rates affect how much the utility company charges for power, with the highest rates charged from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the evenings.
A grid-tied solar panel system paired with a home battery is designed to reduce your utility bills by powering your home during those peak rate times. The battery is then recharged from your solar system during the day. This allows you to use your solar panels to power your home normally during the day and then draw power from your batteries at night to avoid those expensive peak rates.
Financial Incentives for Home Batteries
Home batteries are made of lithium-ion cells, which require an advanced manufacturing process. As a result, when evaluating backup power options, it’s wise to prepare yourself for a significant investment in a storage solution that will provide enough energy to power your home during an outage.
Fortunately, financial incentives like the Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) in California and tax incentives and benefits can make solar systems more affordable. Additionally, before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, only energy storage systems that were paired with solar panels and used by at least 75% for five consecutive years could become eligible for a federal tax credit. Stand-alone home battery systems are now eligible for the tax credit, whether or not they’re paired with solar panels.
Adding energy storage to your home can help protect you from rising energy costs and keep the lights on in case of a power outage. Whether you’re interested in a SunPower SunVault or a Tesla Powerwall, our team at Solar Technologies can help you find the best home battery to meet your energy needs.
If you’re ready to see how much money you could save with a home battery, contact us today for a free customized quote.