When the power goes out, it can be critically important to have back-up power. Keeping the power on means food stays safe, phones can stay charged and our family is fine through whatever the situation is. You may not have access to fuel when an emergency hits, but you’ll always have solar power, if you have a generator to use it. What size solar generator should you get for your home and family?
The size solar generator you need to have is determined by your needs. A small generator (under 1,000 watts) will power a few smaller devices like laptops, phones and lights. Generators between 1,000-3,000 watts can power larger appliances such as a refrigerator or microwave. Powering an entire house calls for larger capacity solar generators with 5,000 or more watts.
A solar generator is quiet, doesn’t need gas, and is practically maintenance-free. The marketplace is full of generators, and lots of manufacturers claim their generators can power your home in an emergency situation. What should you really know? What factors should help you make a decision?
What’s a Solar Generator?
First, the term “solar generator” is a little off. The device does not generate energy. A gas or fuel powered generator does generate electricity.
A solar generator collects the sun’s energy via solar panels and transfers it into useable electricity. Batteries store the energy so the energy is there when you need it, not necessarily just when it’s getting solar energy.
So maybe it could be called a battery?
Together with housing a battery, a solar generator additionally consists of an inverter, energy controller and a battery monitor, each with a certain function:
- The inverter alters the energy to the right current for your house.
- The controller manages the current and voltage.
- The electrical outlets let you connect in your appliances and devices.
Maybe it would make more sense to call a solar generator a power plant. We’ll go into effective types of solar generators for a house or an RV, for a stationary need or a portable need.
Types of Solar Generators
Solar generators can generally be back-up stationary generators or mobile portable generators. It’s good to know the best uses for each one.
Home Back-Up Solar Generators
Generators for back-up to a home’s power supply are large devices with enough power for several home appliances. Because they are not gas-powered, solar generators can be stored and run inside. Their larger capacity of watts lets you power multiple appliances for a longer time.
There are several downsides to the back-up units:
- Size – Systems this size are large and not made to be mobile.
- Cost – Large generators consist of numerous batteries, increasing the price. You can spend $5,000 or more for a 3,000-watt system, prior to installation.
- Installation – Hooking up a generator and appliances or large systems such as water heaters or a home’s HVAC system needs qualified electrical contractors to change or replace electric panels. If you currently have a system and use net-metering, then you will need to have a transfer button so power from your system does not go into the grid.
Whole home solar generators are substantial investments. Talk to a solar specialist to discover what you’re going to need for installing a whole house generator.
Portable Solar Generators
Smaller solar generators are more economical, can be portable, and still provide enough electricity for numerous appliances. They require little upkeep. An electrician is not needed, but still fine if you feel better with a pro, for installment. Think of them as plug-and-play devices that will certainly keep your phones charged, offer you some light and power a few necessary appliances in a time of emergency.
These generators can also be used in non-emergency circumstances. Outside usages include outdoor camping, boating and in RVs.
The solar panels for portable generators are smaller than those for roof installment. Lugging photovoltaic panels around is unnecessary for using a generator on a trip as many portable chargers can be plugged into a vehicle’s power charger.
Questions to Consider
How Much Power Do I Need?
Before buying a generator, figure out what power needs you will have. Are you powering a few devices and a few lights? Is this for recreation? Is this pretty bare bones in an emergency? Is it for emergency use, but you expect most or all of your house to run on it? What about big power-using appliances or systems like a refrigerator or HVAC?
Plan Out What You Need. Planning out what you’ll need is a three-step job.
1. Choose what you intend to power.
2. Know how much power everything uses.
3. Know how much power the generator will put out.
Know How Much Power Your Devices Use
Make a list of every appliance, system or device you’ll use on the generator. Include only items which can be plugged into a home outlet. Appliances like a water heater that’s wired directly to a circuit box will not function. Neither will something like an oven that requires a 220-volt outlet. If air conditioning or heat is vital due to your area or a clinical condition, consider acquiring a smaller cooling or heating system.
Once you’ve got the list, you need to know the watts each device uses. If a device provides just amps, multiply amps by the voltage. For example, a space heater that operates on 120 volts and attracts 12.5 amps is using 1,500 watts.
Next, determine how long you expect to use each item on the list. For example, you might wish to use 3 60-watt light bulbs, yet only in the evening. So now you can multiply the total watts times the number of hours to get the watt-hours.
In this case, 3 x 60w = 180 watts, and 180 x 4 hours equals 720 watt-hours daily.
The Watt-Hours of the Generator
Knowing the number of watts your devices will use in total will tell you a lot about the generator you’ll need. If you need to use a 900 watt microwave and a 1,500 watt refrigerator, you might get a 3,000 watt generator and be fine. A 2,000 watt generator will let you use one appliance or the other, but not both at the same time.
Watt-hours is a measurement of the length of time a generator holds a charge. A 700-watt refrigerator constantly running uses 700 watts per hour. A generator with a battery capability of 7,000 watt-hours could run a running refrigerator for 10 hours before the battery is drained.
Fortunately, a refrigerator does not run continually. To obtain an approximate run time for a home appliance that does not run continuously, divide the quantity of power it makes use of in a year by 365, and you will understand know how much it will use in a day.
When is it a Good Time to Call an Electrician? Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.