The NE is no stranger to emergency power blackouts, especially this year. Normally utility power will go down during storms a couple of times a year but recently, it is a all too common fact of life. Long ago we bought a noisy portable gas generator to keep our refrigerator cold and run our well and sump pumps during an outage. We even put in a transfer switch to run those circuits in the house to make things easier. Recently we started looking at home solar generators to replace our noisy gas generator.
During Hurricane Irene we were out of power for four days and since we were away the first two days of the storm we lost most of the refrigerated items. Some of our neighbors have propane gas powered whole-house generators that come on automatically. They are noisy too.
In looking for an upgrade to our portable generator and solar seemed like a natural choice. I noticed that some companies are selling “solar powered generators” that essentially are a small off-grid system of a few solar panels, an inverter and some batteries to store the electricity for overnight usage. Home solar generators seem to have the advantages that they are silent, do not require fuel and could be used all the time instead of just during an outage to reduce some electrical costs. Do you think I should replace my 20-year-old Coleman generator with one of these solar generators?
The people I know who didn’t lose power for some period during Hurricane Irene are truly in the minority. I lost it for the better part of five days. I tend to think the ones who didn’t lose power just kept quiet about their good fortune so as to not appear to gloat.
The wisest thing I did when I set up my gas-operated backup generator was the transfer switch. The transfer switch’s main function is to prevent generated power from traveling out your main service entry cable the one that goes to the meter and then to your electric panel from going out on the line and potentially injuring or killing the power company employee who’s working to restore power somewhere out on the grid. When the transfer switch is thrown to the backup generator the line main is locked out and can’t become energized by the generator. And it’s a code violation not to have one if you power a circuit wired from your panel. I see Jerry-rigged generator installations all the time by folks who posses a slight knowledge of how electricity works and a profound desire not to spend a nickel for safety.
The noise of fossil fuel generators is an issue for sure which of course you do not have with a solar powered generator. Safety is also an issue. Storing gasoline can be a bad thing. That’s all I too heard during the power dark days post Hurricane Irene. The quietest gas generator I ever used in construction was a Honda but you still heard all the time it was operating. Folks try to position their generators so to minimize the sound for them, but not so for the neighbors. Solar generators are a quiet alternative.
Solar power technology has come a long way in the past few years and like any technology, the more prevalent it becomes the better people understand and accept it. Initially the biggest obstacle to solar power was its cost. To purchase and install a solar system to act as a emergency generator close to the output you’d need, plus battery back-up storage for those hours the sun doesn’t shine, could easily run you close to twice or more what a conventional internal combustion engine-powered backup power generator system costs.
Since solar is considered a green technology both the federal government and many states offer hefty incentives to bring the cost of solar installation down to the point where it not only makes sense, solar generators have now become competitive with fossil fuel back-up generation. The feds have a program where they will give you 30 percent of the cost per half kilowatt hour. The offer expires Dec. 31, 2016. The home solar tax credit program is for existing homes and new construction for your principal residence. Rentals and second homes do not qualify. I would recommend you take a look at buying a home solar generator for your home. Do it before the next storm hits.
Source Home Town Annapolis by Jim Rooney