Surviving the Derecho with Solar

Solar Homeowner Fairfax, Virginia

“When we moved to our house in 2003, the power would go out in our neighborhood several times every year,” says Jim. “We never knew when the next storm would hit and if it would be bad enough to knock out the power for days.”

Jim and his wife were fed up with the frequent loss of electricity. They realized their house had wonderful southern exposure for the solar, but most of all, they wanted the battery backup.

“I’m a Boy Scout and was a troop leader. It’s ingrained in me to be prepared,” he says. Jim, now retired from 20 years in the Navy and working at the Department of Defense, lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

An Easy Decision to Go Solar

When he decided in 2010 a solar-power system would be the best way to be prepared, Jim started with research on the internet. He found there weren’t many installers in the area at that time.

He contacted the installers he found on the internet. He reviewed the plans the different installers submitted for his solar-power system. And he evaluated the installers.

Switch to Solar (then named Switch to Renewable Energy) was the one of the few who could do the battery backup. Jim liked that the company’s owner, Chris Graves, designed a very detailed system. He also appreciated how Chris explained the installation process, plan and components well.

Switch to Solar installed a solar-energy system on the roof on the back of Jim’s house in 2011.

Jim’s system is a technical wonder. The power produced by Jim’s solar panels comes into his house, and provides his electricity for the day – plus some more. The extra power generated is split between charging his battery backup and sending electricity to the power company.

Solar plus Battery Backup System installed on Home in Fairfax, VirginiaThe Derecho Hits and Jim’s Preparation Pays Off

On June 29, 2012, a powerful wind and thunderstorm, referred to as a derecho, blew through the Metro D.C. region. In Fairfax County, the storm generated 4,000 tons of debris and left 230,000 homes without power.

With so much damage, the power was out in many communities for three and four scorching-hot July days.

Jim’s system worked exactly as it was designed to do. He and his wife were able to power their two refrigerators, an extra freezer, fans, lights, coffeemaker, and other appliances.

“We were able to open our house to friends who wanted to stay cool in front of our fans and to charge their cell phones,” says Jim. “The solar panels ran the house by day and the battery backup kicked in at night. I saved more than $1,000 during the derecho in not losing the food in the fridge and freezers.”

His solar-power system is robust enough to include running the pool vacuum during the storm cleanup. “Even with the temperature in the 90’s, I was able to stay cool by spending days floating in the pool, and a cold beer was always available.” he says.

Solar Battery Backup System on home in Fairfax, VirginiaThe Rewards Continue

Beyond the peace of mind that comes from having a reliable electricity source, Jim loves the financial benefits of owning a solar-power system.

“I don’t even think about the electricity bills beyond writing the small check every month. We’re paying a quarter of what our friends pay,” says Jim.

“Also, the large break on our federal taxes was really exciting,” he says. “And I still receive checks –mostly small ones at this point – for my SRECs.”

Advice for Homeowners Looking into Solar

Jim has some advice for homeowners exploring their options.

“Going solar with a battery backup can give you confidence you can always have your coffee or hot shower, even when the power company has an outage. I know I’m going to need it [the battery backup] at least a few times a year,” he says.

My top piece of advice is: if you are going to put it on your roof, you should make sure your roof is going to be good for a long time,” says Jim. When he had his roof redone six years after having his solar-energy system installed, Switch to Solar temporarily removed the system and then put it back.

See How to Power Your Home with Solar
Give the team at Switch to Solar a call today to schedule your free quote 301.740.8233 or email us at

 Free Solar Quote