What Happens To My Power on a Cloudy Day?

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Southern California is blessed with over 300 days of bright, unhindered sunshine most years, and that means the area is a prime location for utilizing solar panels to power your home. However, prospective solar customers and some skeptics will often express concerns about what will happen on the days where solar energy generation isn’t optimal, such as when heavy cloud cover and rain make a somewhat-rare appearance. Does that mean your lights will turn off and you’ll be left in the dark with no power? On this blog we’ll explain the fairly simple answer to this question.

Do Rainy Days Mean No Lights?

One of the biggest priorities for those switching to solar is to ensure they aren’t without power. However, when your panels can’t generate power, what will happen to your home? Well, when you think about it, this doesn’t just happen during cloudy days, but every night when the sun goes down as well. How can solar power customers keep their lights on in these cases?

The answer is simple: solar power doesn’t have to be the only way your home gets power, but can be the primary way and push your connection to the public utility grid to a role as a secondary power source. That way, when your panels are able to generate power thanks to the brilliant and long hours of sunshine we get here in California, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of clean, renewable electricity. However, when your solar panels can’t generate enough power to keep up with your demands, your electrical system can also draw power from the public grid to fill the gap and keep your lights on.

Does that mean you’ll still receive an electric bill? Yes, it could. However, thanks to California’s extremely friendly net-metering policies, you can actually sell your unused solar power back to the public grid in exchange for a credit on your utility bills. This not only helps with peak-time electricity demands and makes the power grid more stable, but actually saves you money. You could even end the month owing less for energy used than the energy company owes you for the energy you supplied, in which case you’ll be given a credit on your account. If you finish the year with an outstanding credit, your utility company will send you a check for the difference!

Going “Off the Grid”

Now there are some customers who want to do away with their connection to the public utility network entirely, better known as going “off the grid.” This is an admirable effort, as it means you won’t have to depend on fossil fuels or public utility infrastructure for your energy, which in the long run could save you thousands and greatly reduce greenhouse emissions. However, this isn’t something that’s right for everyone as it carries a risk: when you don’t have power available, your lights will turn off. That means when the sun sets every night, your panels will stop producing and you will be without power unless you have an alternative solution.

The most popular option to solve this problem to install a battery backup system. These large-capacity battery packs store energy that your solar panel system generates but your home doesn’t use, keeping it safe for when you need it later, such as that evening or later on cloudy days. Those who go off the grid will generally also install a battery backup system that can keep their entire home powered for up to three days at a time to ensure that there’s minimal risk of their ever running out of power. And to be extra safe, some owners will also install backup generators that can produce just enough energy to keep their critical appliances running when power reserves get low.

However, you don’t have to cut the cord to take advantage of a battery backup system either. Many homeowners who don’t sever their ties to the municipal grid system will still install a smaller battery backup system that can provide their crucial appliances and systems with enough power to keep running for anywhere from 12 hours to a day or two. That way when the sun goes down and the power goes out in the municipal grid, they can keep a few lights on and their refrigerator running while the rest of their neighborhood is forced to deal with the extended period of darkness.

For more information about battery backup systems or installing solar power in your home, contact Sunpower® by Sea Bright Solar at (909) 480-3783 and speak with one of our Southern California solar installation experts!

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