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Will My Solar Panels work in a power outage (without battery backup)? Spoiler: NO

We are getting this question a lot lately. In general, the question goes like this:

Customer: "Josh, since I have solar panels on my home, can I use them to generate power when the electric grid fails?"

Josh: "Not unless you have a special setup" (ie: hybrid inverters, batteries, charge controllers, etc).

The real answer is:

It depends on the type of solar array you are using and how it is configured.

If you have a standard grid-tied solar system, which is the most common type of solar array, it will not work when the power fails. This is because grid-tied solar systems are designed to automatically shut off during a power outage to protect utility workers who may be repairing power lines. This requirement is typically referred to as "UL 1741 Compliant" or "anti-islanding technology". What this really means is that the power companies don't want your home to be an "island of power" in the middle of a dead power grid. Since your grid-tied solar panels can push power back onto the utility grid (generating power credits via net metering), it's important to recognize that without a UL 1741 compliant inverter, your system could push power onto a dead utility grid and inadvertently electrocute a lineman who is working on the power lines, trying to restore power to the area.

If you would like your existing solar panels to generate power for your home (or business) when the power fails, then the path forward would involve adding a battery backup system to your property. Without a battery backup system, the solar panels will not be able to generate power during a power outage. This is because the inverters need to "see" grid-related frequency in order to stay online. A battery backup system will artificially create this frequency for the inverters while also isolating the entire system from the power grid (thus abiding by the UL 1741 requirements). Once the grid power is restored, the battery backup system will allow the solar panels to return back to their grid-tied operation (i.e.: net metering).

On the other hand, if you already have a solar system with battery backup, the solar array will continue to work during a power outage. The battery backup system allows the excess energy generated by the solar panels to be stored in batteries for later use. When the power goes out, the battery backup system will automatically switch on, and the stored energy will be used to power your home.

It's important to note that the size of your solar array and battery backup system will determine how much power you can generate and how long you can power your home during a power outage. Additionally, you may need to configure your solar system and battery backup system to ensure that it can handle the increased load during a power outage. It's recommended that you work with a qualified solar installer to design and install a solar system with battery backup that meets your specific needs.

Thanks for reading "Will My Solar Panels work in a power outage (without battery backup)?"

If you'd like to learn more about adding batteries to your existing system, give us a call!

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