You know what winter means for those of us in non-tropical locations. Power lines downed by snow and ice can wreak havoc on the power grid, knocking out power for days or even weeks, long after the storm has passed and blue skies have reappeared. When the grid goes out, grid tie solar systems are required to shut down immediately. We’ve already talked about adding a battery backup to your existing grid tie solar power system with AC Coupling. We’ve also done videos on both AC Coupling and on DC Coupling to add batteries to your grid tie solar system. But what if you don’t have solar panels yet, or if you’re not quite ready to go all in on an AC or DC Coupled Solar System?
If you are looking for just a DIY solar system to help power a few crucial items until the power comes back up, we can help you be prepared. Another nice thing is, you can also use this backup system to power some things at your house year round, taking advantage of the equipment all of the time, rather than just occasional use. For a small investment, you can have a small off grid system up and running and ready to go. A small Emergency Preparedness solar power system can be as little as a 30 watt solar panel, a 5 amp solar charge controller to manage it, an 18 amp-hour battery, and a 350 watt inverter to convert the DC power to AC.
A Small DIY Solar Power System Means Staying in Contact
A small emergency preparedness solar system can give you the ability to charge your cell phone and your tablet. Communication is key during an emergency, and being able to stay in touch is crucial. Not having to depend on your tiny cell phone battery can be a game changer. This system can power a radio to keep up-to-date on the latest news and maybe listen to some tunes. Information is empowering. You can also power an LED lantern to provide light where it is needed. Being able to look for any potential damage with a good light source will bring peace of mind, not to mention how much easier it will be to repair any problems you find with a well lit work area.
You may also be able to power your internet router to keep you online if the power outage has not affected your internet provider. If so, you can stream some movies on your tablet to keep the kids entertained and help pass the time peacefully. If your telephone lines are still up, you can power your cordless phone. I know I haven’t had a wired phone at my house for years. You’ve now got the ability to contact people and services, hear what’s going on in the outside world, keep the family entertained, and have light to work by. You’re in pretty good shape.
What a Wee Little Solar Power System Isn’t
Now let’s talk about what a small solar system like this can not do. This isn’t to say that you can’t build a full home backup solar system to do these, you certainly can. But not with this small emergency preparedness system we just described. Check out some examples of some hybrid backup solar power systems that can do that here. https://www.altestore.com/store/Solar-Power-Systems/Grid-Tied-Solar-Power-System-with-Backup/c568/
Anything that makes heat or cold uses a lot of power. Therefore, this small backup system cannot power an electric heater to heat your house or power electric stoves or ovens, not even an Easy Bake Oven. Sorry. Be sure to have propane or charcoal ready for a BBQ for whoever draws the short stick to cook dinner outside. If you have a natural gas stove, depending on the severity of the outage, you may be able to use your gas appliances. It also won’t power your refrigerator or freezer, but hey, you know how to keep your food cold in the winter. If you know a storm is heading your way, put some containers of water outside to have ice packs ready to go and put them in the fridge to turn the whole fridge into a cooler. This small solar system will not be able to power your well pump. Your pump is probably a 240V high surge pump that would require a bigger inverter than we are talking about here. If you have city water, you should be all set through the outage, unless the outage has also affected the city water plant. Either way, it’s a good idea to have some water set aside for emergencies.
Enjoying a Power Outage Solar Style
If you’re looking for me during a power outage, I’ll be streaming my Jimmy Buffett music, sipping a margarita on the rocks, eating a cheeseburger, reading sailing stories on my Kindle, with tiki lights setting the ambiance. All while wearing my ski gear to stay warm. With proper planning, you can be ready for just about anything winter has in store for you and not have to pay much to make it fun.