3 Options for Emergency Home Power Supply

November 20, 2020

You probably don’t think about your electricity too much until your power goes out. Then, you quickly realize that most of your daily activities can’t occur without it. Say goodbye to Netflix, working from home, and all the leftovers tucked away in the freezer. A sudden storm, lightning strikes, flooding, ice storms, or a downed power line can mean you’re out of power for a couple of hours – or days. If power is off for more than an hour, it may become more than an inconvenience. For example, a lack of heat might mean your pipes freeze and burst; offline medical equipment could put you or your loved ones at risk, and a dead battery might leave you without access to your smartphone or laptop.

To reduce any potential disruption to your household because of a power outage, consider investing in an emergency power supply system. There are several options to explore as you decide which system will help you prepare for snow, rain, or any other weather event that could interrupt your daily life.

What is an Emergency Power Supply System?

Types of Backup Power Supplies

How Big of a Generator Will You Need?

What is an Emergency Power Supply System?

An emergency power supply system is a way to keep your home appliances, lights, and other essential items humming along even during a worst-case-scenario like a blizzard or other natural disaster. Depending on the size of the system, you can power a few essential appliances or your entire home.

Types of Backup Power Supply Systems

Curious about your choices for emergency backup power? Check out a few of the options below.

Portable Generator

Propane, natural gas, and diesel-powered generators have traditionally been the only choices for both homeowners and businesses. But now, there are several types of portable generators available that use a variety of fuel sources. 

A typical gasoline-powered portable generator capable of lasting during an extended power outage can cost anywhere from $350 to $1,000. However, these noisy generators release exhaust fumes and pollutants, presenting a significant disadvantage for home use.. Portable generators often require more maintenance compared to battery backup options. Besides refueling, these generators need to be tested regularly to ensure they actually work in the event of an emergency. 

Whole House Generator

Also known as standby generators, these backup power systems are typically installed next to the house and cost between $2,000 to $6,000. Whole house generators turn on automatically during an outage, so there’s no need to connect cables or flip a switch. A whole house generator can be run indefinitely on natural gas or propane.

Unfortunately, a whole house generator can’t be installed in areas prone to flooding and can’t be moved during flooding. So, if your home is in a low-lying area, it’s a bad idea to install a whole house generator.

If you live in a storm-prone region and your home isn’t vulnerable to flooding, adding a whole house generator is one storm protection upgrade to consider.

Solar Panels with a Battery System

If you choose to go the solar route as part of your emergency power supply system, you’ll need to install not only an entire solar electric system, but also backup solar storage. Curious how the system works? Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels take in sunlight and convert it into usable electricity using an inverter. Whatever extra electricity is generated and isn’t used by your household is sent to the grid – unless you have a way to store it. 

That’s where the solar power storage system comes in. If you install a grid-tied solar power system with batteries, any extra power generated by your solar panels is stored in the batteries for later use, such as during a blackout. Electricity isn’t sent back to the grid unless the batteries are fully charged.

Solar systems installed with batteries mean you can use that stored power during emergencies as well as during the night or on rainy days. This type of system is one of many alternative energy upgrades that can provide you with power in the short term and the long term.

Not only is this system a strategy for saving on electric bill expenses, but it’s better for the environment with fewer pollutants and no exhaust fumes.

Battery Backup Power

Even if you don’t pair your battery system with a solar system, you can still rely on batteries alone. A more eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered generators, battery backup systems offer many of the same functions as conventional generators, but without the need to refuel. A home battery backup system isn’t cheap; it will cost about $6,000 before installation. With installation, your cost increases to $10,000 to $20,000. The price ultimately depends on the size of your generator and the number of batteries you need to power your house. While the upfront costs are high, the lifetime savings typically offset the initial investment. 

Home battery backup power runs on electricity, which can be charged through the regular electrical grid or through a solar power panel system as described above. 

In most cases, battery power will keep the lights on in a typical sized house. Outlets, lights, and small appliances can be kept running. Bigger appliances like a well pump, for instance, require a surge of electricity that not all backup power systems can handle. 

Battery power works by being connected to an inverter. Single battery systems can provide adequate power during shorter blackouts while larger battery systems may be able to power your home for up to two days. Battery backup systems offer several benefits including no exhaust fumes, no refueling, no cords, and relative silence.

While these systems aren’t cheap, they can be eligible for PACE financing. This means you can install battery backup today for no money down, and pay for the system over time as part of your property tax bill.

How Big of a Generator Will You Need?

The generator size that is right for your home depends on what you want to use during a power outage. One way to figure out what kind of power needs you’ll have during a blackout is by determining the wattage of all the different things you want to keep running or power on. 

Keep in mind that certain appliances like a refrigerator or air conditioner will have a “surge wattage” that’s higher than its normal operating wattage. This “surge wattage” is the extra electricity required to power your device or system. Basically, anything with an electric motor has surge wattage. The different generator sizes, according to basic wattage considerations, are included below to give you a better idea of what you may need for your own home.

Recreational Generator

Cost: $400 - $1,000

Max Wattage: Up to 2,000 watts 

A recreational generator allows you to run your refrigerator, some lights, your laptop, a phone charger, and your home security system. Some would consider these your basic essentials. 

Mid-Sized Generator

Cost: $1,000 - $1,7000

Max Wattage: Up to 3,500 watts. 

Your refrigerator, laptop, lights, smartphone charger, home security system, and an appliance like a coffee maker or hair dryer can be powered during an outage. 

Large Generator

Cost: $1,400 - $4,000

Max Wattage: Up to 7,500 watts 

A large generator will provide up to 7,500 watts of power to keep items like your refrigerator, laptop, lights, smartphone charger, and home security system plus a well pump or a dishwasher running during a blackout.

Home Standby Generator 

Cost: $2,000 - $6,000

Max Wattage: Up to 20,000 watts 

This type of generator provides homeowners with up to 20,000 watts of power, which can power everything and anything you’re likely to have in your home. If you experience frequent power outages, a home standby generator might be a good investment even though it's the most expensive in the traditional generator category.

Battery Backup System

Cost: $10,000 - $20,000

Max Wattage: Depends on system

If you want to make the switch to clean energy, a battery backup system integrated into your solar power system is one of the best ways to do so. The initial investment may be costly, but with financing options like PACE and other federal incentives, you could be looking at a practical way to prepare for an emergency without a large carbon footprint.

Don’t Get Left in the Dark

Nobody wants to think about the worst-case scenario, but it pays to be prepared. With the right precautions in place, you and your family can be confident that your life won’t be disrupted during an outage. And you can stay comfortable and cozy inside despite any stormy weather happening outside.

With PACE financing, you don’t have to pay for your home power supply system out-of-pocket. Install the right-size system for your needs and then repay the cost over time as part of your property tax bill. As catastrophic weather events become more and more common, make sure you and your family aren’t left in the dark.