I’ve Gone Solar...Do I Need a Generator Too?
How to ensure your energy needs are covered at home or on the road
Let’s say you want to have a way to access back-up power in case your city goes through a blackout or faces a natural disaster. Maybe you live in an RV and you want to make sure you have steady access to power when you’re camping in remote areas. Using solar to power your RV or home is definitely one way to become more energy independent, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to keep the lights on with solar panels alone. Purchasing a gas or solar powered generator can be a great way to make sure your energy needs are covered in any kind of situation. Battery storage might also be a feasible option. But what’s best for you?
I live in a motorhome. Should I use solar power or generator power?
There are many benefits to installing solar on your RV. Solar panels on your RV can recharge your house batteries, allowing you to run AC appliances while on the road without needing to hook up to external power sources. Plus, solar panels can work all day long, whether you’re home or not, meaning you could be out for a hike and charging up your batteries in time for movie night at basecamp. This isn’t the case with generators.
Additionally, while you may have previously stayed in campgrounds or RV parks with hook-ups to ensure steady access to electricity, now you can go off-grid in your RV and head into more remote areas without being left in the dark.
Pros of Solar Power
- Solar is a reliable, cost-effective, portable, sustainable, and quiet energy solution.
- You don’t need to pay for gas.
- Solar is virtually maintenance-free.
- Solar gives you more camping options.
Cons of Solar Power
- You need to have enough sunlight to collect enough energy.
- Solar installations are more expensive than a gas-powered generator.
Pros of Generator Power
- Generators are reliable in all kinds of weather.
- A generator is usually cheaper than a full solar installation.
- Generators can handle high energy loads.
Cons of Generator Power
- Generators are heavy and noisy.
- You have to make sure you have gas on hand to run them.
- Gas-powered generators are a less sustainable choice than solar
Will solar panels keep the lights on during a blackout?
Many people go solar because they want to be more in control of their energy collection and storage. However, it’s important to remember that just because you have solar panels, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to access that power during a blackout.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re not connected to the grid and rely solely on battery storage, you’ll be able to keep the lights on with your solar installation. If you’re connected to the grid, then you most likely will not be able to access power. This is because it would be dangerous for your system to produce energy into the grid during a blackout while utility workers may be working on the lines to get things up and running again.
In order to maintain power during a blackout, you’ll need to be completely off-grid with battery storage or have access to back-up gas powered or solar generator.
I already went solar. Do I need a back-up generator?
Many people find that generators can be a great supplement to their existing solar installations. If you’ve already added solar to your home or RV, generators can be a great back-up energy solution.
I have a grid-tie system (on-grid): A back-up generator is recommended in case of blackouts and to cover excess energy needs that aren’t able to be met with solar panels alone. You won’t be able to use your solar panels during a blackout for safety reasons, but a gas-powered generator will enable you to keep the lights on or appliances running.
I have a hybrid system: A back-up generator is recommended in case of blackouts, but your battery bank should cover your excess energy needs in most other situations. Hybrid systems are becoming more popular as the cost of batteries continues to drop. Purchasing a battery bank of lithium iron batteries may be a more efficient, quiet, and eco-friendly solution for many individuals.
I have an off-grid system: You most likely do not need a back-up generator if you have a sizable battery bank. However, if you’re concerned about having enough sunlight to keep your batteries filled, a back-up generator may give you increased peace of mind.
Tell me more about solar generators.
Most of us are familiar with the traditional gas-powered generators. They’re easy to find, reliable, fairly affordable, but they’re also loud, heavy, and not the most eco-friendly solution.
You don’t have to purchase a gas-powered generator to make sure you’re prepared for the worst. Renogy has a range of solar-powered generators that you can charge with portable solar panels and use when you need them most. The Lycan powerbox has a capacity of 1075 watt-hours and can be charged with up to three, 100 watt panels. For those with smaller energy needs, Renogy also has the Phoenix 300, which has a capacity of 337Wh.
How Much Do Generators Cost?
Gas-powered generators vary in price between $500 and upwards of $3,000. Renogy’s solar powered generators $499 to $1199.
Using solar to power your RV or home can be a great investment. As the costs of batteries continue to drop, you may be able to meet your energy needs with solar panels and batteries alone and not have to purchase a gas-powered generator. That being said, adding a generator to the mix will give you increased freedom and peace-of-mind by ensuring that you have access to energy in any scenario, from natural disasters to blackouts. By weighing the pros and cons of each technology and considering the specifics of your situation, you’ll be able to make the best decision for you and your home.