Solar panels during a long power outage
November 23, 2022
I bought my house in Cape Coral in 2017 almost exactly one month after Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida. At the time I was living in a condo in North Fort Myers and not having electricity for a few days after Irma hit was very unpleasant. I was on city water, so I had water, and I had plenty of non-perishable food. But I didn't have any power until the electric company restored power to my neighborhood.
When I bought my house I started planning for the next major storm where I would lose power for a few days. I knew that it was going to happen, I just didn't know when.
I started by buying solar panels for my house. I didn't buy enough solar panels to generate all of the electricity that I use, but I did buy enough to cover a big chunk of it. Last month my solar panels generated about $120 worth of electricity, which made a huge difference in my electric bill!!
What I didn't understand at the time was solar panels by themselves aren't enough. Solar panels turn off when the electric grid goes down, and that is by design. So I needed a whole house battery backup to pair with my solar panels. In 2021 I bought a whole house battery backup and had it installed to go with my solar panels. Now when the grid goes down my house automatically turns off the AC and my hot water heater and switches over to the battery backup. And when the sun comes out my solar panels recharge the battery backup so that it will keep running until power from the grid is restored, no matter how long that takes. When power from the grid is restored, my system connects back to the grid and my AC and hot water heater are turned back on automatically.
When Ian hit the grid went offline at 2 in the afternoon and my AC stopped working. But my lights were still on, my refrigerator was still on, and I was more comfortable than uncomfortable. Several days later when power came back on my refrigerator was still cold, I had taken a cold shower every other day, I had eaten hot meals every day, and my lights worked 24x7. When my friends and neighbors with generators ran out of gas and were waiting in line at gas stations for hours trying to buy what little gas was available, I was staying at home being grateful that I'd planned ahead and didn't need gas or propane to keep power going at my house.
Life wasn't perfect without the grid power being on, I couldn't run my AC, stove, or hot water heater, and I had to be careful how much I ran my well because it wouldn't run 24x7 the way it normally does. But life was so much better with my solar system than it would have been with a generator or without it.
The biggest and best benefit of all of this is my solar panels will produce enough electricity to pay for my system by 2037. Because electricity rates just went up my solar panels might pay for the system by 2032!! Yes, it's taking time for my system to pay for itself, but it will pay for itself and even earn me a small profit on top of that!
I can't recommend a system like mine strongly enough for anyone who lives in a hurricane zone. It will pay for itself over 20 years and it will make your life much more comfortable when a hurricane takes out your power for several days as long as the storm doesn't do too much damage to your house. Investing in this system was a complete success for me!