By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Energy Writer
This Maine family created a resilient home with a combination of solar power, battery storage, and energy efficiency.
When a windstorm last fall knocked down trees and caused 500,000 people in Maine to lose power, Eric and Alison Rector knew that their home had emergency power. Although neighboring farmhouses were without electricity for six days, the Rectors enjoyed many of their modern luxuries. Their 1,100 square foot high-performance home uses a dynamic combination of energy efficiency and solar energy with battery backup.
Maine has one of the least reliable electric grids in the U.S. Multiple day power outages are relatively common after a severe storm, and the state ranks #49 in grid reliability, according to the Department of Energy. Many rural properties with wells are also without running water during power outages because pumps needs electricity to operate. These factors helped motivate the Rectors to find solutions to make their household more resilient.
Hybrid Solar System Provides Emergency Power
The Rector’s 6-kilowatt solar PV array provided backup electricity throughout the record-breaking outage last fall. “One 48-volt battery bank gives us running hot and cold water, heat, ventilation, lights, and power for some appliances,” says Eric. “If our solar system didn’t have batteries, we would be stuck with no power during grid outages despite all our solar panels.”
The solar panel system was designed and installed by Sundog Solar and originally contained just 3-kilowatts of solar panels and the battery bank. Eric and Alison later upgraded the system and added 3 more kilowatts of generation capacity.
The Rector house was built by GOLogic to the Passive House Standard, a stringent German certification for energy efficiency, resulting in homes that use 80% less energy for heating and cooling than a code-minimum house. Because the solar was producing more electricity than they were consuming, Eric and Alison purchased a 2017 Chevy Volt to utilize the surplus. They can now drive to and from town with solar energy.
Eric has been very satisfied with the solar system’s inverter/charger because of the peace of mind that it offers. “I call the Conext XW 6048 ‘the magic box’ because it seamlessly transitions between being on grid and off grid,” says Eric. “The way Sundog Solar designed the system, the ‘magic box’ keeps the battery bank full at all times when there is grid power. During outages, there is no need to switch anything manually. All our critical systems stay powered, and the solar system charges the batteries until the grid power returns.”
Freelance renewable energy writer