Dependable utility service is a media charade. I am reminded of the classic movie “Animal House” where during the hometown parade turned chaotic mess a public official is repeating “all is well… all is well”. A couple of weeks ago southern California and parts of Arizona experienced a nearly 24 hour blackout. Though it was a major event, it received little media coverage which blamed it on a utility worker flipping the wrong switch. Really? I will be the first to admit I am not the sharpest pencil in the box but it does not make sence to me that a single worker can take down a large portion of the SW power grid for nearly 24 hours by flipping the wrong switch.
For months we have been receiving an increasing number of phone calls from homeowners interested in small emergency solar generators. Feeling powerless during a blackout after a hurricane, tornado or just sitting at home when a utility work flips the wrong switch is scarry. Even a small home emergency generator can offer some real security and control over the helpless feeling one has when a disaster strikes.
Choosing the right emergency solar generator that fits your needs and budget first involves several key decisions. What equipment are you trying to power and how long do you want to power it? The first consideration is listing the equipment and how much
power it consumes. A refrigerator is usually at the top of any can’t-do-without list with cell phones and TV a close second. Look at the nameplate on your refrigerator and see how many amps it draws. My refrigerator at home says it draws 5 amps which means it consumes about 600 watts per hour of operation. (5 amps X 120 volts = 600 watts)
The next question you need to answer before you can make a decision about sizing your emergency solar off-grid generator is how long will my refrigerator run? To some degree that is also something you have control over. We usually factor in 10 duity hours when sizing off-grid solar equipment but if you keep your refrigerator full and limit the amount of times you open the door, you can reduce the amount of power your frig consumes.
Locked Rotor Amps
Anything that draws electricity that turns a motor, your refrigerator, well pump, sump pump or furnace needs enough surge power to turn over the rotor. Once the rotor is spinning, the electrical appliance uses less power. When considering how much inverter power your emergency solar generator or off-grid solar kit consider the surge capability of the appliances which is about 3X the watts. If your appliance does not have a watt consumption figure stamped on the nameplate, use the Volts X Amps = Watts calculation. Most appliances have the amps and volt listed on the nameplate.
Pure Sine Wave Power Vs Modified Sine Wave
Most main stream solar companies selling emergency generators or off-grid solar will have some discussion about pure sine wave power the inverter produces Vs modified sine wave power. Modified sine wave inverters (the equipment that converts DC electricity from the solar panels to AC electricity consumed by your appliance) will power fewer appliance motors than a pure sine wave inverter. Keep in mind that not all electricity from emergency solar off-grid generators is the same. Consider your highest power demand equipment then tailor your selection to meet the need of that equipment.
The one rule of thumb for choosing an emergency solar generator unless you have the discipline of steel, you are going to add power. One of the smallest off-grid solar systems we sell has 1800 watts of surge and only 1,400 watts of sustained AC power. If you have a sump pump it is going to draw about 4.5 amps X 120 volts = 540 watts. Put that with your refrigerator and you barely have enough power to run a couple of lights. But on the other hand, thats more than you would have if you had to sit through an extended utility blackout with even a small emergency solar generator.
Don’t go with the cheapest system when shopping. If you consider safety as well as battery amp hour in the emergency solar generator you select and choose a company that has a A or higher listing with BBB and technical support you cannot go wrong.