Blackouts. Many areas in Australia have small, localised power outages each year, caused by different factors not always in our control. Natural events such as storms, floods, lightning, heatwaves, bushfires, or even fallen trees in the right spot can cause a power disruption. Other factors like car accidents, maintenance works, or technical failures can cause blackouts too.
Large-scale blackouts are less common, but quite impactful. A prolonged blackout, like the one affecting Adelaide in October 2019 or the most recent in Queensland in May 2021, can put human health at risk.
It is a common misunderstanding but having solar during a blackout will not save you from a shortage of power supply during such events. When the grid fails, solar inverters are required by law to shut the whole system down automatically to protect any maintenance workers from being electrocuted while carrying repairs. Even if the sun is shining, your PV system will not generate electricity until the grid is restored.
We have good news for you though. A solar battery is not only a great investment to reduce your energy bills and increase your resilience and independence from the grid. With the correct solar energy storage solution, you can keep your home running in the event of a blackout.
What should you expect from this?
Let us dive deep into solar battery’s blackout protection.
What is UPS?
UPS stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply. It is another way battery manufacturers refer to the battery’s blackout protection capacities.
Different batteries can offer different levels of backup. There is:
- No backup at all
- Backup that takes a few seconds to switch over. While in backup mode, the battery has reduced capabilities
- Seamless backup with full battery functionality. However, you won’t be able to charge the battery from the PV system while the grid is down
- Seamless backup with full battery functionality to use power in your home that also lets you charge the battery from solar while the grid is down
In order to understand which level of protection is the most suitable for you, it is important you talk to one of our solar battery superheroes to talk through any options available for your specific installation.
Which circuits will be backed up?
Although some batteries are marketed as ‘full house backup’, reality is that such an installation can get very pricey very quickly, as it may require substantial rewiring of your home. Backing up only essential circuits – say your living and bedroom lights and certain kitchen appliances, not only will be cheaper but will also allow you to keep the battery running for longer.
Bear in mind certain appliances like air conditioners or washing machines utilise a lot of power, so running them off batteries alone could drain your storage fast. Consider what your essential appliances are, and how long can they run with a single battery charge.
Although the above is good indication of what you can expect from your battery in backup mode, each battery is different in terms of how much of a load it can handle while in backup mode – ask us about blackout protection to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations!
Do all batteries offer blackout protection?
No. When speaking to one of our solar battery superheroes, make sure to ask if the battery you are wanting to purchase comes equipped with UPS if this is important for you. Blackout protection is not included as part of standard installations, and there are costs associated with it that will need to be discussed before you agree to a quote.
How long will the battery last during a blackout?
As mentioned before, there are different levels of blackout protection. If your panels won’t charge your battery while the grid is down, then that means you will depend on how much energy is stored in the battery at the time the grid fails, until the grid is restored. If your battery can be charged off your solar even in a blackout, then that means you could go days without the grid – weather permitting.
Ultimately, what circuits are backed up and how much power you consume is the only indication of how long the battery’s charge will last.
I have a battery with UPS, what do I need to do to make it work?
If your solar system is equipped with a battery that has blackout protection enabled, there is nothing for you to do in the event of a blackout. The battery recognises when the grid fails, switches over to backup mode and will start powering your home.
If your solar system is equipped with a battery that is blackout protection ready but not enabled yet, one of our qualified solar installers can help you wire the circuits to back up at a later stage.
We strongly recommend that if blackout protection is important for you, you make sure to mention it to one of our solar battery superheroes, so they can help you find the best solution for your circumstances.