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Obsessed

Well-Known Member
I would be very interested to know how you go about doing running off solar when power goes out without use of batteries. I have solar panels and was told I needed batteries (which are WAY too expensive) if I was setup "on the grid" and wanted to use the power they were generating when electricity went out.
This is a quote I received from my question about a large discrepancy between what my system monitoring application reported to me and what Mid American Energy reported to me.

"Any energy produced by the solar and consumed simultaneously does not reach the meter and is not recorded on your Mid American bill. The only energy recorded or shown your MidAm bill is excess energy produced that can not be consumed internally at the time it is produced."

This pretty well sums up how it works. If the sun is shining and you're producing electricity at the same time you're attempting to consume it, you will be able to power your devices straight off of your solar panels. I think the key is that you must be disconnected from the grid, via a transfer switch, or else you'll just be dumping your electricity production back out onto the grid, above and beyond what you can consume before it goes. Transfer switches usually go hand-in-hand with backup generators, but you can have one installed at any time, and it gives you the option to add a generator at a future date, or just have the ability to disconnect from the grid and run off of solar on sunny days.

On a smaller scale, I have built a solar collector to heat my kids treehouse. It has a port with a computer fan in it that's attached to a small solar panel. When the sun's out, the fan is running. No batteries and not connected to the grid. Exact same concept.

I'm no expert on this stuff, so please reach out to local solar companies, like One Source Solar out of Ankeny. They should be able to provide much more detail than I can.
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
Who are some reputable solar contractors? This is something I have contemplated for several years.
I went with 1 Source Solar out of Ankeny
They're a reputable company to work with.

If anybody decides go with them and wanted to provide me with a referral for them, I'd be happy to treat you to a meal or a case of beer, etc...

That being said, I'm a big DIYer, and in hindsight, I probably would have just worked with an electrician and done it all myself, to save some $.
 

sure shot

Member
I know very little about solar systems, but I would question how it works when you are shut off from the grid. Say you're off the grid and drawing 100 kW of power to run your house, but your solar system is only able to produce 80 kW. That will result in a voltage drop (aka brown out) that can damage your electrical devices. I'm not sure if the solar systems have protective devices in them to shut off power supply if that occurs or not.

At some point as nighttime approaches, your house power draw will overtake what your solar system can produce.

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Obsessed

Well-Known Member
I know very little about solar systems, but I would question how it works when you are shut off from the grid. Say you're off the grid and drawing 100 kW of power to run your house, but your solar system is only able to produce 80 kW. That will result in a voltage drop (aka brown out) that can damage your electrical devices. I'm not sure if the solar systems have protective devices in them to shut off power supply if that occurs or not.

At some point as nighttime approaches, your house power draw will overtake what your solar system can produce.

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Correct.

No sun shining... No electricity being produced...

For my situation, if SHTF in the dead of winter, (no grid electricity coming in and run out of LP). I'd unplug everything but the essentials. For me, I'd leave my wood boiler system fan and circulation pumps plugged in, along with my wood stove blower fan, so at least I could warm my house during the day and not worry as much about burst pipes. Maybe a radio too. Not my arc welder or freezers though, unless maybe if it was a sunny blue bird sky day. If in the summer, I might try to keep a freezer running during a sunny day, but not my AC, etc.

At high noon on a sunny day, I believe I produce enough/surplus electricity that I could pretty much run everything in the house, but slight cloud cover would quickly cause a brown out. So, nothing but the essentials. We're talking survival mode type situation here, not living in the life of luxury while the world burns around us...
 

sure shot

Member
But will the system even work? Most sites I just found online say that when the power is out, the solar panels are disabled.


I don't know how the voltage regulator/ inverter works and what tells it when to shut down. If it has to sense the main grid supply to function, then it won't work when power is out.

If you are able to disconnect from the grid and get it to function, does it have a shut off protection for when voltage drops too low as the sun disappears?

Your solar company should be able to answer those. Maybe they already have, and you're good to go. If not, I've give them a call and make sure.

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Obsessed

Well-Known Member
But will the system even work? Most sites I just found online say that when the power is out, the solar panels are disabled.


I don't know how the voltage regulator/ inverter works and what tells it when to shut down. If it has to sense the main grid supply to function, then it won't work when power is out.

If you are able to disconnect from the grid and get it to function, does it have a shut off protection for when voltage drops too low as the sun disappears?

Your solar company should be able to answer those. Maybe they already have, and you're good to go. If not, I've give them a call and make sure.

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My assumption is that when my solar panels are producing electricity and I'm disconnected from the grid, my solar panels are also supplying power to the voltage regulator / inverter, as it's tied into my house as well. If not, then I'll bet I can figure out a relatively easy solution to power my home directly from my solar panels if SHTF. It would become a top priority pretty quickly, I imagine.

EDIT:
I'm going to have to call my solar company and ask. Now that I think about this more, I believe I'll need to have some sort of stand alone battery, generator, or other electricity generation device, to power the inverter, in order to provide solar panel power directly to my house. Solar panel DC electric must be converted to AC in order to power the house, and the inverter, which operates on AC electric and converts DC to AC, can't power its self with AC electric before it converts it from DC to AC. Hmm, head scratcher... Maybe my inverter runs on both DC and AC electric. If AC isn't available, it can operate off of DC. Not entirely certain...
 
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Farm boy

Member
We put up a system last year.
We r tied into the grid so if we over produce what we use it goes back into the grid. We still use the same meter as before but added 1 to keep track of what we produce.
We did not go with batteries they would have been as much as we paid for the solar system.
In order for our system to work the invertors need to get power from the grid to turn on, its a safety feature so if power goes down from electric company you Don't energize their lines.

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Hardwood11

It is going to be a good fall!
I looked at a system and it is expensive (7k-10k) but it would be an LP system that takes care of my entire house. Unfortunately the generator is back ordered for several weeks.
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
We put up a system last year.
We r tied into the grid so if we over produce what we use it goes back into the grid. We still use the same meter as before but added 1 to keep track of what we produce.
We did not go with batteries they would have been as much as we paid for the solar system.
In order for our system to work the invertors need to get power from the grid to turn on, its a safety feature so if power goes down from electric company you Don't energize their lines.

Sent from my SM-G715U1 using Tapatalk

A battery or small AC generator would need to be connected to power the inverter then, (if the grid goes down long term and I run out of LP for my whole home generator, and can't get more). Bummer! This article helps shed some light on what needs to be done: https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.co...er-from-solar-equipment-when-the-grid-is-down
 

Obsessed

Well-Known Member
I looked at a system and it is expensive (7k-10k) but it would be an LP system that takes care of my entire house. Unfortunately the generator is back ordered for several weeks.
Yeah, whole home generators and transfer switches aren't cheap. I bundled mine into my solar power project and paid for it all together. Check out FB Marketplace and Craigslist for used diesel generators, if you're willing to go that route. (Occasionally, you'll find used LP generators.) You can buy a transfer switch for $300 to $500 or so. You should be able to do it for well under $7k. The generator I bought was a 20kw Honeywell from Costco, that came with a 10% rebate. It was rarely in-stock in 2020 when I bought it, so I snagged one online as soon as I found it was in-stock. Good luck.
 

Arrowsmith1

Member
We are on Southern Iowa Electric. We have had only two brief power outages in 3 1/2 years. We are prepared though. I have a Westinghouse 12,500/9,500 dual fuel generator. I have an interlock switch on the main panel. 50 amp exterior generator outlet. I had the local propane supplier run a line from our propane tank to a riser with a regulator up closer to my generator outlet. I did the trenching and backfill for the propane line extension. I have a Champion 4000/3500 generator for a backup.
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