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Power outage sign. Vector warning sign with lightning.Installing a solar roofing system is a great way to save thousands on your electric bill. But savings aren’t the only benefit to installing a solar system: they can also come in handy in case of emergency. At Simply Solar, we’re proud to be the #1 solar installer in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, so we’re here to explain how solar roofing can help you survive a power outage. 

 

How Solar Panels Work During a Blackout

Solar roofing allows your home to generate power independent of the power grid. So at first blush, it seems like you should be immune to a blackout, right? Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that. 

Most solar power systems are called “grid-tied” systems, which means your solar panels and house are still connected to the electrical grid. This is necessary because most homeowners still need to supplement their solar panels with power purchased from the grid during the nighttime, and it also allows you to sell excess power back to the grid for energy credits. 

However, a traditional grid-tied system means that if the power goes out, your solar panels stop working, as well. This happens for two reasons. First, your solar system is programmed to constantly adjust the voltage and current to keep your panels operating at maximum efficiency as the sun changes – but those electronics stop working during a power outage. Even more importantly, it’s critical that electrical lines are completely free of current during a power outage to ensure that any workers are safe. Connecting live solar panels to the grid during a blackout would send a current down the lines, potentially endangering workers. 

Horizontal composition photography of a young men, specialized technician or just home man, trying to restore power after electricity outage in the dark with his light. He is looking on the circuit breaker, and try to find the right button to operate. Picture shot in the dark, with a LED hand light, which gives a cold colorimetry image, and selective focus on the finger human hand and button of the circuit breaker (ON-OFF), fuse box switch. Electrical cabinet, open, with electrical circuit breaker. Side view in selective focus.

So a standard grid-tied system won’t work during a power outage. But with some slight modifications, you can adapt your solar system to work during a blackout. 

 

One option is to get a solar battery. This hybrid system allows you to charge the battery with the energy created from your panels, then power your house with the energy saved in the battery. For those seeking true energy independence, a solar battery is often the best bet. Another option is to get a specialized inverter. Certain inverters like the SMA Sunny Boy are able to supply a limited amount of power from your solar panels in the event of a blackout. It’s not enough to operate your home normally, but it’s enough for minor appliances like laptops, cell phone chargers, and lamps. Either of these solutions allows you to keep your solar system running during a  blackout, giving you energy when others go without it. 

 

Schedule a Solar Roofing Consultation Today

While not all solar systems work during a blackout, it’s easy to modify yours to provide partial or complete energy independence even in the case of a blackout or emergency – and with PG&E’s new rolling blackouts during fire season, this is more important than ever. If you’re ready to claim your energy independence, take the first step by requesting a consultation online today. We can’t wait to help you make the switch to rooftop solar power!