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Your Guide to Backup Solar

Backup Solar

More and more, the government warns us to prepare for emergencies. We buy flashlights, water and canned food. We hear that back-up generators are available but we can’t always gauge how these generators can help us. There are so many different styles that it is hard to choose what is right for our home or office. Many generators do not have enough power to take care of more than a few critical items such as radios, computer, cell phone charger and possibly the fridge.

If your area experiences numerous power outages due to electrical storms, hurricanes or tornadoes, you may want to consider a stronger system. A long-term power outage is more than inconvenient. It can become costly, ruining the contents of your refrigerator and freezer and making stove and microwave use impossible.

If outages shut down computer access, refrigerators or other items critical to your business survival, you may need a stronger system to keep your business going.

A solar power system can is supplied with power from the solar panels during the day and then switch to batteries at night. They do not have to be recharged like stand-alone battery systems nor do they need oil or gas like some backup systems. They also do not run on a generator that is noisy. Their operation is noiseless and odorless.

Since a backup solar system is powered by the sun, it is always ready. There is no need to turn it on if it is connected into your power system already. When the grid shuts down, your backup solar system will automatically cut on. This system can handle all the electrical needs during the day, while charging batteries to operate your system all night.

Solar backup systems consist of two main parts. The first requirement is a bank of batteries. These can be powered by your electric grid but if the system is down for an extended period of time the batteries will die. To provide power and to recharge the batteries, six or more solar panels are added. Systems allow for more battery backups to be added and for solar panels to be doubled. A battery pack with an adequate number of solar panels is a $8,000 investment. Additional solar panels would double the wattage that can be run at any one time.

You can assess the power you need by adding the wattage requirements for your basic appliances. Think about everything you use: computer systems, refrigeration units, freezers, air conditioning, heat. You can also ask a wholesaler or solar distributer to help you make an assessment.

When considering the cost for home use, think about the needs of your family. Some special considerations are the fragile health of family members, a young baby or an elderly relative. These persons may need heat or air conditioning to prevent health complications that could lead to hospitalization. Also, a person who requires oxygen relies on energy to power their oxygen generator. Persons with diabetes may need power to ensure that there is food to meet their special dietary needs.

When considering the cost for a business, think about the money you will lose if your business is shut down. Some businesses aren’t needed in an emergency situation. They can afford days off. But if your business is a restaurant, you may find that you can make extra money if you can remain open. After all, if homes are without power, home owners may want to eat out. Also, you can’t afford for food in freezers or refrigerators to spoil. Businesses which perform essential computer operations daily also cannot afford to lose time to power losses.

All in all, solar backup power does have benefits that can outweigh the costs. Each home owner and business owner must weigh these benefits against their own set of financial concerns. At least with solar backup power, preparation is accomplished before the emergency requires it.

Getting your family ready for an emergency situation is a goal that requires planning. A residential solar backup system can do it if the power grid shuts down.

Each family should assess their own threat level for power loss. Factors are based on the climate. Hurricane areas often lose power (see our hurricane preparedness list). This can cause power losses from days to months. Tornados can take out power stations. Ice storms cannot only take down the power grid; they can also leave residents in a dangerous position without heat. Likewise, heavy snowfall or blizzards can take down the power grid. The unlucky residents who lose their power lines in emergency situations may be waiting in a long line for the power company to restore their power. Mudslides, fires, and other disasters can take out the power grid. Once you have assessed your personal threat level, you will better understand how this impacts your emergency plans.

Obviously a backup generator would be a plus in a bad situation. Non-solar backup power requires a generator that operates on batteries, oil or gas. It cannot run for long without a tank refill or a battery recharge. This type of generator can be mobile or permanent. All of them tend to be loud and some of them emit noxious smells that may be harmful if the area isn’t vented properly. Most backup generators must be turned on. Then a power surge is needed to start up refrigerators and other heavy appliances.

A solar backup system is battery-based. When your power goes off, the solar backup system is immediately activated. There is no turn-on switch or start-up wait. The power does not surge because it moves seamlessly to the solar system if the power grid is suddenly turned off. This is not true of other generators.

To construct a solar backup system, there are a few basic parts. The first is the solar panels, of course. But they won’t work without the connection to the system. A solar backup system connects the solar panels to a battery bank that is hooked into the electric grid. The solar panels create power during the day. The batteries store power to keep things running at night.

A system can cost about $8,000. The system can be expanded with additional costs if you want to add more solar panels or another battery bank.

How do you decide if you need a system that is this extensive versus a small generator that can operate only a few items? First, if you have the income to put the system in place, you probably want to install it. It is cheaper in the long run to spend the money up front. Then you can relax when the weather threatens.

Since the government is promoting the use of solar power, a backup system including solar panels should qualify you for a federal tax credit that could take thirty percent off the cost. Some states also offer rebates. This can significantly lower the overall cost of the system.

If like many people, money is an issue then you will want to decide if the cost outweighs the benefits.

As stated, you can assess the possibility of a climate threat. Consider how often your home has lost power in the past and how weather threats have affected nearby areas. The second part of your family equation is health. A new baby may have special needs. An elderly relative may not be able to stand heat or cold. A critically ill person or one with a chronic illness may have needs that require a temperature-controlled situation. Then, there is the maintenance of an oxygen machine or other electric medical necessity. It is important to make a decision that takes into account these factors.

Also, if you have a home business, you will need to keep your computer running, your phones in service and so forth. If you live on a farm, you may need to keep your electricity flowing to chicken houses, milking machines, industrial refrigerators or freezers, or other equipment.

A residential solar backup system can prepare your household for an emergency lose of power. Only you can decide if this preparation is worth the costs.

Last modified: August 19, 2020
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