Rooftop solar panels.
Rooftop solar panels can provide homes and businesses with dependable power for everyday use and during emergencies and multi-day outages. (Danile Johnsen photo)

Have you grown weary of the grid shutdowns yet?

With public utility officials predicting another decade of power outages, you and your family need to consider a long-term backup solution.

“We, as consumers of public utilities, might want to be prepared,” says Marshall Howen, president of Sunrise 805.

However, not all backup plans are equal. The best solution will work for many years — not just in an emergency — and is financially viable.

So, while you may have to settle for something less than ideal in the short-term, you can start now to prepare your home for the next wave of outages.

Here are the good, the better, and the best solutions for you during continued blackouts.


At the most basic level, you should have supplies you can use during a power outage.

The Santa Barbara County emergency preparedness program recommends that you add these items to your disaster kit:

» Battery operated flashlights or lanterns

» Back up batteries for electrical medical equipment

» Back up oxygen tank, tubing and mask

» Car charger and external battery pack to charge phones and devices

» Cash in small bills

Beyond that, many people have been buying generators to power their homes. This can work in the short-term, but keep in mind that gas-powered generators are expensive to buy and run.

“People just go in, and they’ll drop $400 or $900 on this little gas generator,” Howen says.

Then, running the generator for a weekend can easily eat up half a monthly electric budget, especially with gas well over $4 a gallon.

Additionally, a 3,000-watt generator is the most powerful option that doesn’t require an emissions permit, but you’ll need to prioritize what gets power.

“It’s a couple of plugs and maybe backing up the refrigerator,” Howen says. “It’s not a lot of energy.”

You are much better off making an investment in some sort of battery storage system.


You can partially power your home with batteries, which are programmable and can save you money.

You can choose what you want connected to your batteries if there’s a power outage.

Batteries charged by a solar system.

Batteries charged by a solar system or the grid can provide safety and security during a power outage. (Marshall Howen photo)

For example, you might choose to have the refrigerator, internet router, and certain outlets connected so, during an outage, the batteries keep power running to the important parts of your house.

Additionally, you can use them regularly to save money.

Because a utility company may charge more during peak hours — such as when people are getting home from work — you can program your batteries to charge during off-peak hours.

Then, they can kick on during peak hours, so you’re not pulling from the utility’s grid during the more expensive times but using your stored power.

The cost of battery storage systems vary, so talk to a professional about your needs, but an entry-level, portable system that can be integrated into your home may run about $3,500 to $5,500, Howen says.


Generating your own power, so you are not completely reliant on public utilities, is the best long-term solution for getting through outages.

You can generate power to charge your batteries with solar panels, and then have it available to use it in emergencies or multi-day outages.

With the ability to backup specific loads or circuits, or even designing a system that could back up the whole house, and use solar to re-charge your battery storage system, you could be self-sustained for an extended period.

“It becomes ridiculously dynamic,” Howen says.

Swell Energy, a sales and engineering design group, proposes a standard installation of two Tesla Powerwall units, which provide about 27 kilowatts of power storage.

See for yourself how long the Powerwall unit can last on Tesla’s interactive calculator. 

Although it costs money up front, the benefits outweigh the cost, and there are programs for which everyone is eligible, including businesses, to participate in.

Certain battery systems may qualify for the California Public Utilities, Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), and also potentially the Federal Tax Credit.

To see if you qualify, go to the Swell Energy Application Portal and see if it might be right for you.

“Renewable is more expensive, but it’s a much better long-term, clean solution,” Howen says.

As public utilities struggle to provide enough power for all their customers at reasonable costs, you can rest easy, knowing you and your family are covered in a way that will last for years.

“This is cutting-edge stuff,” Howen says.

If you want to incorporate solar, battery storage, or both into a new building or retrofit your home or business for solar, contact Sunrise 805.

This local, family-owned company is committed to providing resilient energy for home and business owners in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast.

Click here to visit Sunrise 805, or call 805.895.6096 for a free quote.