The other side of home solar, what to do when the sun don’t shine!

(Or, if you have a wind turbine what to do when the wind don’t blow) The reality of climate change is one of the huge drivers for us having a solar array on the roof. A recent NIST article sharing the science of climate change cemented my position even further. But beyond the science there is a selfish reason as well.

We live in a metropolitan area of a large city. I am sure you are thinking, so do a lot of people. Since moving to this larger area, we’ve had four major power outages. I define a major power outage as literally more than 10 hours of no power. Based on the amount of air in your house and depending upon the season, you can very quickly raise the temperature in your hosue by 5 or more degrees, or you can drop the temperature by 5 or more degrees in that time period.

Solar Arrays on your roof give you sunlight protection from brownouts. They free you from reliance on the power grid. Now, solar arrays don’t work at night so you still need another form of power. There are many options. I am not advocating the complete move away from connection here, just to make sure you can stay connected when the grid is stretched thin.

There are days that are peak usage days. Those are the days you get a solar array, wind turbine and a backup generator for. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine (at night it never shines) and times wind doesn’t blow. So, to remain secure in knowing that your home won’t lose power for days or many hours the solar array, wind turbine and some form of backup generator.

SolarCity recently released their new battery backup system for new home installations. Yes, there is an added cost for the batteries (the same battery system in the Tesla cars) but you then have peace of mind, power is always available. The other option you have is a home generator.

Home generators are interesting, they come in two distinct forms. The first form is portable you can take it with you. You have to start it, and frankly it has to be outside. The second is an auto-on generator that sits outside your house and automatically turns on when the power is gone. There is a 3-7 second delay so make sure you have a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) between your electronics and the wall. That way if you are watching there is no interruption of service.

There is a third kind of generator that fits between the two above, that being a solar generator. You can buy one, charge it with the solar panel and then use it when there is an outage. Each of the systems has a value proposition. The advantage for most home owners of actually having a whole home generator is the reality of wiring.

Portable generators require some way to connect to your electronics. They also tend to be smaller than a whole home generator (the larger the generator, the harder it is for it to be portable). Personally, I know, if I were looking for a house today I would make sure it was already wired for a whole home generator. Having one means you never have to worry about power again. Portable generators are awesome, but you have to have the wiring in place as well.

We are currently using a Generac Whole Home generator. The unit is installed in our back yard, it is loud when it tests itself, but not as loud as a whole home generator. Our house was wired for a generator when we bought the hosue (the previous owner ran his business from the basement for a while so we have overkill on wiring.) Although the previous owner committed one of the worst mistakes with a generator, placing the generator in a shed. Never put a gas-powered unit in an enclosed space. You are just asking for CO to fill your house.

The coolest think about the Generac system, beyond the fact that it kicks on automatically is that it has a load system. It won’t power on devices once you reach the peak load. You can also designate which devices have to have power. In our hosue it’s the heating/cooling system and the washer and dryer. In one particularly long power outage (3 days) my wife had to go to the Laundromat. That was, in her words the worst day ever.

Home energy production is the future. A solar array gives you a chance to reduce the impact of your family on the environment and, per the NIST study at the link above, help reduce the impact of humans on the overall global environment.


I am carbon down, power up!