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image-of-hurricane-matthewGenerator VS Solar With Battery Backup

As I write this Hurricane Matthew is pummeling Florida and moving north toward Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Counties have been evacuated and a state of emergency has been declared. Massive damage to life and property is expected. Millions of people will be effected by this storm. Our prayers are with them all.

Hurricane Matthew won’t be the last of its kind. There will be more, but hurricanes are not the only disaster that can threaten our power grid. There are the more common, severe thunderstorms that can knock out power for days, and ice storms which we usually have at least once in the winter in the southeast United States. There are, of course, the more sinister threats like a cyber attack on the power grid, or god forbid, a terrorist attack or EMP pulse either from an attack or naturally from a solar flair. Yes, a solar flare could happen anytime, and it could take months or years to rebuild the grid. That’s Mother Nature for you. We have a choice. We can all do nothing about it and hope for the best, or we can prepare ourselves for an emergency by making sure we have shelter, water, food, and some form of security.

If you want power when the grid goes down you have the choice of getting a generator or a solar with battery backup system. (Also called an off grid solar system.) An off grid solar system will cost more than a generator but is far superior if correctly designed. Here is why:

No Fuel Needed! The sun and batteries are your power source now! And they will replenish as soon as the sun comes out. This is obviously the most important one. If you have a generator, when the grid goes out and the generator kicks on, you immediately start counting down the hours until your fuel runs out and you are left in the dark. No light, no water, and your food spoiling in the refrigerator.

No Storage Problems! A generator may get you through a few days or maybe a week, but you will need a huge amount of fuel on standby at all times. If you have a gasoline generator, it won’t be long before you have to go looking for gasoline and in a natural disaster the gas stations will run out with-in a day.   We saw this with the gas crisis we had just a month ago. A gas pipe in Alabama broke and disrupted the gasoline supply for the whole southeast United States, showing just how quickly gas runs out in a crisis. Let’s say you have a propane tank or diesel storage tank to run your generator. You will need a really big tank stocked at all times. Say 500 gallons or larger! And it’s still only a matter of time before it runs out.   Which brings me to my next point…

Much Longer Lasting! An off grid system, if properly designed, will run 7-15 years before the batteries need to be replaced. Some batteries can even be taken apart, cleaned, and reassembled to last another 15 years. That’s a tad better than a generator which will probably only get you a few days to a week off grid. If you are prepping for an extended power outage why would you even consider a generator? Seems like a waste of money. The solar panels themselves should last 25-30 years.

No Noise! When the grid goes down you can hear the generators cranking up from a block away. They are noisy! So it won’t be long before you can expect a few knocks on your door from neighbors hoping to charge their phones, looking for food, water, etc. Hopefully, they are friendly neighbors and you don’t mind helping them. But in a natural disaster, you may have unwelcome guests ready to take whatever you have. That’s an unpleasant thought but let’s just say if you don’t want to advertise you have power, food, and water, then your only choice is a solar with battery backup system.

Less Maintenance and More Reliable! A generator requires maintenance and they break easily. Unless you know how to fix them yourself you may be disappointed. I receive many calls from people who have generators, and when a storm struck and they needed it, it didn’t work! The larger whole house generators need to be serviced every 3 months.   They need to be regularly turned on and tested. Basically, there is a lot that can and does go wrong with them. You can’t just buy one and a year later hope and pray it turns on when you need it. A properly designed battery system will always be ready because the inverter is constantly maintaining the batteries in a float charge and can also run equalizations charges on a regular basis if programmed to do so.

What we do. Sun Dollar Energy has several happy customers who have installed solar with battery back-up systems. We can custom design an off grid solar energy system to meet your specific needs. There are several factors we must consider when designing an off grid solar energy system. We will analyze your energy consumption, peak usage, and storage requirements. This analysis will determine what size solar array, size, and model of inverter, size and type of battery system will work best for you with in your budget.

Call us at 919-508-6907 to request a quote.

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Or Youtube and see some of our installations.

Sun Dollar Energy is seeking applicants to install residential solar energy systems.


  • Pulling inventory for each installation job
  • Pre-assemble components in the warehouse if needed
  • Roof preparation  (installing flashings and railing system)
  • Layout and install solar modules
  • Document completion of completed installation
  • Clean up of job site
  • Attend mandatory training sessions on new products, installation methodology and safety


  • *NABCEP Entry level class a MUST HAVE!
  • Previous solar installation experience strongly preferred
  • 1 year of roof work, general construction, or carpentry
  • Must be able to lift 50lbs
  • Ability to work in extreme environments (example: hot sun, cold, crawl spaces, etc)
  • Must be willing and able to climb ladders, stairs, work on rooftops and able to work on your feet for long periods of time
  • Basic computer skills including familiarity with Microsoft Office programs
  • High school diploma or GED required
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills required
  • Excellent customer service skills required
  • Thrive in a team environment
  • Regular, reliable and predictable attendance required
  • Must have a valid state driver’s license
  • Must have a clean driving record (example- no DUI in the last 5 years)
  • Must be able to successfully pass a pre-employment criminal, driving and drug screen

We recently installed an 8kw ground mount pv system with battery back up for a customer in Johnston County.   Now his refrigerator, well pumps, kitchen, living room and bed room circuits all off the grid.  All other circuits are still powered by the utility however his solar system should net zero or come close to zeroing out his annual electric bills because any extra energy that is produced when his batteries are full is exported to the grid and credited against his monthly electric bill.   He has a great application in that the solar panels are facing due south in a field with sun all day long!

Thats a nice looking array!
Thats a nice looking array!

We used mono crystalline black Axitec panels, the schletter pv racking system, SMA inverters and smartformer.   If we had to do it again I would probably research different racking systems to use.  The schletter racking is good but I felt it was extremely over designed.  We had to drill 24 inch holes 6 and a half feet deep and fill it with concrete.  That’s a lot of concrete!  At least its not going to fly away!  My concern is that in many places you may hit rock before  you get that deep so a different design would be preferable.   The SMA inverters are always great but SMA really needs to come out with a 240V battery inverter so we don’t need to use the autoformer.   Outback and other have battery inverters that output 240V however those models would need to be located out in the field near the solar panels or we would have had a huge voltage drop getting to the house which was nearly 200 ft away.

Going truly off the grid is a big undertaking and customers should know what to expect.  Everything takes longer and it more complicated than a traditional grid tied pv installation.  As a rule of thumb costs are generally double for a off grid system as opposed to a grid tied pv system of the same size.  This varies a lot depending on the system size, types of inverters, types of batteries, storage and on and on.

Below are some photos of the installation and a quick video blog showing the system.   Enjoy!


Unfortunately there are scammers and charlatans in any industry.  Read my article about things a solar buy needs to beware.

However here is a new scam I thought my customers would want to know about.

Here is an article about a contractor claiming to be with Solarworld who would take deposits from customers and disappear.  This happened multiple times and he was just arrested finally.

Worth remembering to only do business with a reputable contractor.


In this video Dan talks about string inverters, microinverters, power optimizers and more options to choose from.