Writing from central Kentucky, Clay Whitenack poses this question: in an all-electric house, what’s the best way of providing power when the grid is down?
Whitenack and his family live in a new house, a house that does not have a fireplace or a wood stove. “This leaves us vulnerable in the event of a power outage during a bad winter,” he writes in a post at the Q&A forum. “We live in central Kentucky, so the winters here are usually not too bad, but we do have times when the temps get below freezing for extended periods of time.”
The house is well-insulated and heated with ductless minisplits; domestic hot water is produced by a heat-pump water heater. Whitenack’s first thought about emergency backup power is a solar array.
“I would like to start researching a small solar array that would allow me to keep the essentials going,” he says. “Things like heat, hot water, the fridge, stove, and maybe a few outlets around the house for a few lights, charging mobile devices, etc.”
He wonders how to calculate the amount of electricity he’d need in a pinch, and what the capacity of a photovoltaic system might be. At least that’s where this Q&A Spotlight begins.
How long is an outage really going to last?
A well-insulated house in Kentucky isn’t likely to have plumbing freeze-ups even in very cold weather, says Dana Dorsett, so a small woodstove might be enough to keep everyone comfortable during a power outage, and it would not require “punching huge holes in your efficient building envelope.”
More to the point, Kentucky has a reliable electric grid and power outages that extend beyond a day or two are “extremely rare,” Dorsett says, adding, “The capital…