With few exceptions, a grid-interactive solar energy system can’t provide power to your home without battery backup. Batteries allow stored solar power to be used at night and during cloudy weather. They also buffer times when your usage is greater than your solar production.
Battery backup can technically be installed with or without solar panels, but it is much more practical with solar panels. There are many types of battery backup solutions available, each tailored to your specific home and needs. Backup systems can cover your whole home or just critical loads that you need during an outage.
Battery Backup System Components
When we talk about batteries in the modern solar industry, we are really talking about a variety of battery types and components. There are traditional “dumb” batteries that need an inverter to convert DC to AC power. There are also “smart” batteries that have integrated inverters. All systems need a transfer switch of some kind. Charge controllers may be needed. It all depends on the system type.
There are schools of thought on whether older DC-coupled technology or newer AC-coupled technology is better. Both have come a long way. Each has its own merits and its own place where it shines. The type of system you should purchase depends on many factors. If you have an existing PV system or modest backup needs, you may be better off with an AC-coupled system. If you need a very large system and you’re starting from scratch, a DC-coupled system may be better.
The battery chemistry itself has evolved dramatically recently. Lithium Ion batteries, the type used in laptops, phones, and electric vehicles are gaining popularity. Older lead-acid batteries, like the type used in vehicles, are tried and true, and offer lower pricing for the same storage, but are much larger, heavier, and messier. Most modern system are switching to Lithium Ion of some sort. While these are more expensive initially, they offer much longer lifespans.
Should I Buy Battery Backup
Battery backup for solar panels is not for everyone. A strictly grid-interactive solar energy system is the most economical way to participate in the solar energy revolution. There is a distinct and attractive return on investment and environmental benefit. The same cannot be said for batteries.
Battery backup is strictly a cost and a luxury. There is no return on investment, at least in Florida where residential energy is billed at the same rate for all times of day. Batteries are an alternative to generators, which have advantages and disadvantages when compared to solar with battery backup.
Early adopters will be rewarded with stable and endless power as long as the systems are used within their design parameters. This can mean you need to alter your lifestyle to some extent when utility power is lost. But the benefits can be tremendous for those with a realistic understanding of what batteries can and can’t do.
What Types of Batteries Do We Recommend?
At this time, we recommend the Enphase Ensemble system with Encharge batteries, primarily because we recommend Enphase microinverter grid-interactive systems. However, we also recommend other brands of LiPO battery systems that use the flexible Sol-Ark inverter/chargers. Other batteries and inverters are possible, but we find these two systems cover most needs. The components and sizing of systems plays a big part.
We are asked often about the Tesla Powerwall. While this is a highly capable and slick battery product, there are some serious drawbacks, and they are almost impossible to reliably source (as of late 2021, early 2022). Ask us for details on why we do not recommend this product and manufacturer. There are better alternatives.
How To Get Started With Battery Backup
You need a solar consultant that is going to tell you the truth about batteries and advise you on what can be done based on what your needs and desires are. Battery backup is very complex with many factors controlling how good your experience will be. Sizing a system right from the start and understanding the capabilities and limitations of battery systems is key to a successful implementation.
Schedule a consultation with us and learn whether batteries are right for you, or if a simple grid-interactive solar energy system is what you want.