Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer system. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.
QUESTION: If I install photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of my home, and the electric power grid goes down in my area, will the solar panels still supply electricity for my home while the public power system is out?
ANSWER: No, they will not supply power in a blackout because you are still technically connected to the public power grid. As you probably know, your solar system is designed to sell extra electricity from your panels to the grid — operated by your local public utility — in order to defray some costs of your system. It’s the concept known as “net-metering.” But at the same time, the public power system is still connected to your house to keep your electricity going on shady days or during the night when your panels do not supply enough power.
Now, you can go off the grid completely and supply all your own power, but you’d have to install very, very expensive batteries — perhaps in your garage —where you would store your excess electrical power for times when your panels are not producing electricity. To sum up the situation, homes with solar panels may lose power in the event of a grid outage if they don’t have some backup form of energy storage, like the batteries.
Q: I’m buying a 1,700-square-foot house that is being constructed by a builder. The builder has made me an interesting offer. For just $600, he will either upgrade our air conditioner from a 14 SEER to a 16 SEER level or he will increase our attic insulation to R38. Which of these would be a better choice for me?
A: The best decision is to improve your insulation and stick with the 14 SEER air conditioner. The insulation improvement will provide benefits for a whole lot longer than a slightly better air conditioner would. And, of course, a more efficient air conditioner would not provide savings at all times of the year. The letters SEER stand for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently your AC will use energy to do its job. But the truth is that the insulation will last much longer than the AC will.