Solar Roofing for Wildfire Protection
Rooftop solar panels were a good idea even before the massive and tragic wildfires of the last few years. They’re an even better idea now. New developments in solar rooftop technology, new understanding of fire causes and the advent of “public safety power shutoff” power outages are making solar panels the right choice for more families in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.
Not just for homeowner pocketbooks. Not just for the global environment. But also for the safety of your home and the whole community. Here are some ways rooftop solar panels do their part for wildfire mitigation.
Rooftop Solar Panels Offer Direct Protection from Wildfire
Photo-voltaic panels, when properly and professionally installed, add an additional physical layer of protection against wind-blown embers. Since the panels are relatively smooth, any embers that land on them from a distant fire have a better chance of safely blowing off your roof in the next wind gust. The panels themselves are made out of metals and plastics that have a high ignition point, compared to the wood and other materials under your eaves and roofing.
The panels also provide a shade layer against radiant heat and a physical layer of protection from fire-weakened branches or other debris that may damage the shingles, tile or asphalt. During a fire emergency, each square inch of damage to the roof’s integrity is another entry point for a potentially home-destroying ember.
Solar panel installation time can also be a great time to add other active fire mitigation features to your roof and walls. The solar panels can tastefully hide a sprinkler system. Active mitigation like sprinklers can be set to automatically water down your roof if temperatures rise to a certain point indicating a nearby fire. The water will douse any embers that do land on the panels or exposed roofing. Since the power is likely to be knocked off or deliberately cut off, the panels themselves can be used to charge batteries that will power a pump to supply that home-saving water to the sprinklers.
While your professional installers are taking care of the energy-saving solar system, you can use that construction time to install fire dampers on vents and seal or repair any cracks, holes or gaps in the roofing material.
Rooftop Solar Benefits Your Home and Family During Fire Emergencies and PSPS
Even when your home is not directly impacted by fire and smoke, wildfire season is directly impacting all our lives in ways it never had before. Electrical utilities have been found directly liable for several catastrophic California wildfires. To protect the communities they serve from more fire starts – and themselves from additional lawsuits – the utilities have started issuing widespread and long-lasting Public Safety Power Shutoff outages, or PSPS.
The liability lawsuits and the utilities’ realization that they must retrofit a huge portion of the grid will also mean huge costs. Much of which will be passed on to California consumers through increased electrical bills. No better time to reduce the hit to your family’s budget by investing in solar power generation before rates inevitably increase.
Letting your home create and store its own energy from the sun’s rays already hitting your roof will keep your energy flowing while the rest of the grid is shut down. You’ll be able to keep the lights on and your devices charged during these outages. If you work from home, you’ll be able to keep working with your computers, tablets and internet service. If you have kids whose homework is dependent on devices and the internet, they will be ahead of their peers.
Keeping the power flowing can also save you money directly. Long-term power outages like those seen in Northern California can mean hundreds of dollars in direct losses from food spoiling in refrigerators and freezers. The elderly and people with chronic illnesses have critical medical devices that cannot be left uncharged or unpowered for long. And even hobby investments like aquariums can be saved with a steady source of electricity during PSPS outages or while you are evacuated.
New developments in household solar technology, batteries and grid interconnection cutoffs mean that your home can keep running during outages without feeding electricity back into the grid at those times. This keeps the lines un-charged for fire safety as well as lineperson and first responder safety.
Communication is key during fire season. If your cell phone, radio, TV or other preferred method of receiving emergency announcements is off due to a power outage or finally runs out of juice, how do you find out if your community is under evacuation orders? Or that a loved one needs help to be evacuated? Rooftop solar and battery banks are a great way to ensure that you can keep up to date.
Rooftop Solar Helps Your Community Mitigate Fire Risks
For every family that is still able to received emergency communications from law enforcement and fire departments about evacuation orders, that’s less time police and sheriff officers need to spend going door to door telling people to leave. Residents with their own power sources frees up resources to help your neighbors who really need help, including the elderly and differently abled.
In the long term, if rooftop solar is widely adopted by many Southern California residents, there are huge benefits for fire mitigation. Less draw on the main power grid means less energy that has to go through the transmission lines. This means less heat generated by the lines, as well as shorter and weaker arcing when lines are damaged by wind. Reducing the amount of power flowing through transmission lines makes the lines safer. Under heavy electrical loads, the additional heat generated actually causes lines to sag, moving them closer to the very tree branches and other hazards the utilities are worried about.
Less draw on the power grid also means reduced carbon emissions at the power plants feeding the grid. Over time, this may mean fewer of the climate change caused stresses on California’s environment, which may impact the severity and frequency of wildfires in our state – and around the world.
Rooftop Solar is Just One Part of a Complete Household and Community Fire Plan
Having a professionally designed and installed rooftop solar system on your home will help your overall wildfire preparedness plan. But it is just one part. Make sure that your family is “Wildfire Ready” by having a plan for evacuations, mitigating your property well in advance, and always following evacuation orders promptly.