Ins and Outs of Battery Storage: 9 Things You Need to Know to Maximize Solar Power

General

It’s really no surprise that battery storage is a growing trend in the renewable energy market. Solar power with battery storage allows you to generate, store, manage and monitor your home’s energy usage. Solar energy and energy storage go hand-in-hand. For many homeowners, the double benefit of convenient energy during a power outage PLUS the money saved from using battery-stored energy instead of buying it from the electric company is a no brainier. If you want true energy independence, solar and battery storage could be the perfect solution for your home.

Solar and Energy Storage
Battery storage is not a one-size-fits-all solution. At Icon Solar, we provide customized energy storage solutions that are designed specifically for your home, including the best in energy storage technology: Tesla Powerwall, Generac and the Enphase Ensemble.

We know that most of the homeowners we meet with have never purchased solar or battery storage which means, naturally, you may have many questions! Here are some we hear most often.

  1. How does battery storage work?

Generally speaking, during the day your solar panels capture sunlight and convert it to energy for your home. If at any point your solar array produces more electricity than your home consumes, the excess energy can be stored in the battery(ies). Instead of buying electricity from your utility company when you need power at night, you can use the extra electricity your system produced and stored in the battery during the day. If your battery is fully charged, any additional energy produced by your system is sent back to the grid.

Batteries work instantaneously with the grid and your solar system. On a cloudy day, a traditional grid-tied solar system may not produce enough energy to meet the needs of your home. Your battery and/or the grid will supplement the additional energy needed, depending on how much electricity the home is consuming at the time.

  1. Who benefits from battery storage?

At Icon, most of our prospective customers are interested in battery backup for one of the following reasons:

  • Utility company does not offer net metering
  • Utility company has a time-of-use rate schedule, or net billing
  • Lose power frequently
  • Looking to gain energy independence from their utility company
  • Looking to go “off the grid” – although a majority of our customers choose to remain grid-tied (and just offset their usage with their solar and battery storage)
  • Need a constant source of energy in case of emergencies
  • Would like to offset even more of their electric usage
  1. How many batteries does my home need?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about battery storage; however, the number of batteries you ‘need’ depends on many variables and is ultimately a personal choice. For example, some homeowners are interested in battery backup for emergency situations only when they lose power. Others are interested in battery backup to offset the electricity that would otherwise have been purchased from their utility company.

Because every customer’s living situation is unique, battery storage is not a one-size-fits-all solution. When designing your custom solar system with battery storage, your solar consultant will ask many questions about your home, electric panel, lifestyle habits that may affect electric usage, and more to get a better understanding of your goals so we can determine the right size system for your home.

  1. Whole home backup vs. Partial home backup

Partial home backup

Most of our customers choose a partial home backup. In the event of a power outage, the battery will only run the circuits for certain appliances, lights and outlets in the subpanel, which increases the length of time the battery will be able to supply your home with electricity.

Whole home backup

If you wish to run your entire home off your solar and battery storage in the event of a power outage, you will need more than one battery. For whole home backup, the battery system backs up your entire main electric panel.

When discussing your battery storage goals, it’s important you and your consultant are on the same page about what you’re trying to backup. Your consultant will ask questions to understand what’s important to you and from there they will determine which battery system makes sense for your unique situation.

  1. How long will my battery last in the event of an outage?

The answer to this question is also something that is unique to each home and depends on many variables. In a traditional grid-tied solar system with battery storage, if the grid goes down, your battery will instantly turn on, creating a quasi-grid. Some of the variables that affect how long your battery system can power your home in an outage include: the number of batteries you have, your average kwh usage per day, the orientation of your home, how many solar panels you have (this will also affect how long it takes the battery to recharge, see #7), and what circuits you plan on running in the event of a power outage.

Keep in mind there is a balance between the total capacity of what the battery can store in conjunction with the energy demands of your home. We will help find that balance, and the best solution for your home.

  1. Do I need solar to install battery storage?

No, solar is not a requirement to have battery storage. But, you don’t get the federal tax credit if you purchase a battery system without solar. In the event of a power outage, a battery has no way to recharge. Once the stored energy has been used it will not charge or turn back on until the grid is up and running.

  1. Will my battery system recharge at the same rate I am using it?

This is another common misconception people have about the battery storage. The rate at which a battery will charge fully depends on each home’s unique solar system.

Variables that can affect the rate of charging include: your home’s energy consumption, the orientation and number of solar panels in the system, shading, time of year or day, the type of battery, and the mode or setting of the battery.

  1. Will my battery turn on automatically if the grid goes down?

You don’t have to wait for your battery system to turn on like you do with a generator. In a traditional grid-tied solar system, as soon as the battery system senses the grid is down, the battery and solar instantly take over and will continue to power your home until the grid is back on or the battery has been drained. The battery systems turn on so quickly you most likely won’t even realize the grid is down! Your solar panels will charge the battery during the day with excess electricity.

  1. I want to go “off the grid.” Is that possible?

Technically yes, however it is a bit more complicated and expensive to go completely off the grid than it is to remain grid-tied.A lot of people say they want to go off the grid, but what they usually mean is that they just want to offset all of their usage with solar and battery storage so they are not dependent on their utility company, but will remain connected to the grid. An off-grid home is not connected to an electric utility company’s grid. To go “off the grid”, you will need more batteries to keep up with the average American family’s lifestyle.

Are you ready to be your own source of power? We’re ready to help! Let’s talk.