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10 ways to get through a summer blackout (and 1 way to avoid the need for them)

As we pointed out last week, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation is warning that an unprecedentedly big wave of summer blackouts is on the way.

Unlike winter outages, summer blackouts also bring the risk of food spoilage and heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Here are 10 things the Department of Energy and CNET suggest to help you and your family get through one:

  1. Have plenty of flashlights and batteries on hand. The DOE suggests a flashlight in every room. Plus plenty of spare batteries; even the longest lasting don’t hold a charge forever.
  2. Don’t use your phone flashlight. If the blackout goes on and on, you’ll need your phone charged to communicate for help.
  3. Keep candles and matches on hand, too. Unlike flashlights, candles may burn down, but they never run down. Once lit, don’t leave candles unattended or light them anywhere near a possible gas leak.
  4. You can safely light your house with LED lanterns with long-lasting batteries or solar lanterns. Check on how long those hold a charge, or else you’ll have to wait until the morning after the blackout to charge and use them.
  5. If you take medicines that need to stay cold, get ice packs and a cooler to put them in. During the blackout, open it only when you need to get your meds. Each time you open it – or your fridge or freezer – cold air gets out and warm air gets in.
  6. If your water comes from a well, keep bottled water on hand. The DOE suggests one gallon a day per person.
  7. Canned foods are nonperishable and don’t need cooking. Keep a few days’ supply on hand. And if you don’t need them during a blackout, you can always eat them later.
  8. Stock or buy your own first aid kit – and know how and when to use it.
  9. If your family’s not together at home when a blackout hits, have plans for how you’ll all communicate and where you’ll all meet if your home’s not an option and if communications went down when the power did.
  10. Make sure you know places you can head to if the heat becomes literally unbearable.

Of course, the best way to get through a blackout is to have your own emergency backup system – either a fossil-fuel-powered backup generator or a solar installation with battery storage.

Being solar installers, we naturally favor the latter – but there are solid, objective reasons for choosing them.

 Backup generators run on fuel that needs replenishing during longer blackouts. And if improperly installed, or installed too close to the windows of a building that people use, they can pose a serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Unlike backup generators, solar installations with battery backup work for you day in and day out, cutting your electric bills by as much as half, earning you money from selling electricity back to the power company, and substantially increasing your property value.

At the same time, they store up electric power for a summer or winter blackout. When the grid goes down, the batteries kick in, powering your lights, your well pump, your refrigerator and freezer, and other critical loads without even so much as a flicker. There’s no flammable fuel to worry about, and no threat whatsoever of carbon monoxide poisoning. Better yet, when the sun rises in the morning, they automatically “refuel” themselves. For free.

 To get truly dependable and long-lasting service from a solar battery storage system, though, there are two important things to look out for – quality of components and quality of installation.

Milestone has installed more battery backup systems than any other West Virginia solar installer. Based on feedback from distributors and manufacturers, we believe we’ve installed more solar/battery backup systems than anyone within 200 miles of our office (including parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia). So we know how to do it right.

Components make as big a difference as installation. While some batteries can store electricity only overnight, the ones we install are good for more than three days’ worth, even if those days are cloudy. When it comes to solar panels, we’re the only West Virginia solar installer selected to be an Authorized Panasonic Installer. Panasonic and REC modules are arguably the world’s highest-performance, highest-efficiency solar panels, so you get more energy, more dependably. And because we’re Authorized Installers for both, you also get more inclusive warranty protection and up to five additional years of coverage.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact us for a free solar consultation. While you still have electricity to power your computer.

Get ready for a wave of summer blackouts

It used to be that winter was when people in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia had to worry about power outages. That’s when the accumulated weight of snow and ice on the overhead power lines would break them.

But now the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is warning of the growing possibility of blackouts across vast areas of the country this summer.

One of the causes, NERC says, is a one-year, 196% increase in the price of natural gas, which fuels many of the nation’s power plants.

Another is a surge of hotter than expected summer heat waves, which add a double whammy: First, hotter temperatures make people turn up the air conditioning, draining more power from the electric grid. And second, they cause droughts, which lower the water supply available for hydroelectric power and for cooling gas-, coal-, and nuclear-fueled plants.

Combined, that can lead to what NERC’s annual summer assessment calls a “high risk of energy emergencies.” Over close to 30 years, “This is probably one of the grimmest pictures we’ve painted in a while,” said John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment and performance.

If you’d like to protect your home or business from summer blackouts, there are two options to consider. One is a fossil-fuel-powered backup generator, and the other is a solar installation with battery backup.

Being solar installers, we naturally favor the latter – but not out of selfishness. Backup generators run on fuel that needs replenishing during longer blackouts. And if improperly installed, or installed too close to a building people use, they can pose a serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Unlike backup generators, solar installations with battery backup work for you day in and day out, cutting your electric bills by as much as half, earning you money from selling electricity back to the power company, and substantially increasing your property value.

At the same time, they store up electric power for a summer or winter blackout. When the grid goes down, the batteries kick in, powering your lights, your well pump, your refrigerator and freezer, and other critical loads without even so much as a flicker. There’s no flammable fuel to worry about, and no threat whatsoever of carbon monoxide poisoning. Better yet, when the sun rises in the morning, they automatically “refuel” themselves.

If you already have a solar installation, you can add battery storage to it. You’ll qualify for a 26% federal income tax credit. In Maryland, you’ll also get a state income tax credit just for adding battery backup.

Once you decide, though, make sure that:

  • You use batteries with lithium-iron-phosphate chemistry, which have a much better safety record than the lithium-manganese-cobalt oxide kind.
  • You choose batteries that can hold a charge for several days instead of just overnight.
  • The batteries aren’t too large for the other components. Not only will you be wasting money, but because the system won’t be powerful enough to fully charge those batteries, their lifespan will be curtailed.
  • The solar installers you choose really know what they’re doing. Some solar installations are play-and-play, but battery backup solar isn’t. They’re complex and involve high-voltage DC.

 To get truly dependable and long-lasting service from a solar battery storage system, though, there are two important things to look out for – quality of components and quality of installation.

Milestone has installed more battery backup systems than any other West Virginia solar installer. Based on feedback from distributors and manufacturers, we believe we’ve installed more solar/battery backup systems than anyone within 200 miles of our office (including parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia). So we know how to do it right.

Components make as big a difference as installation. While some batteries can store electricity only overnight, the ones we install are good for more than three days’ worth, even if those days are cloudy. When it comes to solar panels, we’re the only West Virginia solar installer chosen to be an Authorized Panasonic Installer. Panasonic and REC modules are arguably the world’s highest-performance, highest-efficiency solar panels, so you get more energy, more dependably. And because we’re Authorized Installers for both, you also get more inclusive warranty protection and up to five additional years of coverage.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact us for a free solar consultation.Before there’s no electricity to power your computer.

One more reason choosing Milestone makes sense

Milestone Solar is honored to have been selected as an REC Certified Solar Professional installer.

This certification is in addition to our selection as an Authorized Panasonic Solar Panel Installer (West Virginia’s only one) and as one of fewer than 100 solar installers in all of North America to have earned double NABCEP [North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners] certifications.

We’ve always believed that true economy in solar installations comes not from choosing the cheapest components, but the highest-quality, highest-performance ones. And that description certainly fits REC solar panels.

According to Clean Energy Reviews, REC is “one of the solar industry pioneers and a leading innovator of solar PV [photovoltaic] technology.”

In terms of efficiency and performance, their solar panels are ranked among the world’s top ten.

Solar Reviews calls REC solar panels “an excellent choice,” noting that “If you are looking for a panel that is built with quality in mind that will power your home for years to come, REC panels will deliver.”

While that’s the reason we’ve been recommending and installing REC panels for years, it’s only part of the reason REC named us as a Certified Solar Professional.

What REC calls Milestone’s regional solar expertise is one reason they selected us for this certification – but only one of them.

First, we underwent a thorough screening.

Next, we had to complete three courses of technical and onboarding training, pass a separate exam on each with a grade of 100%, and then complete in-person training with an REC regional manager.

Having earned REC’s certification, we can offer two important assurances that other solar installers – even those who install REC panels – can’t.

One is the assurance that we really know the product and know how to install it properly.

The second (but probably first in importance to home and business owners), is that only certified installers like Milestone can offer even stronger protection than REC’s already impressive standard warranty: 25 years of product coverage instead of REC’s standard 20, plus up to 25 years’ coverage for labor, which REC’s standard warranty doesn’t cover at all.

Residential or commercial solar is a big investment. It’s one that can pay dividends in the form of utility-bill savings, tax credits, and increased property value. So it makes good sense to protect that investment by choosing a solar installer with the certified knowhow to do the job right.