Home Battery Backup: All You Need to Know

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Home Battery Backup: All You Need to Know

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    What is Energy Resilience?

    You might be asking yourself what exactly energy resilience means and how can a home battery backup system help?

    When you walk into a room and need light, you just flip the switch on. If your phone battery drops too low, you can find an outlet to plug in to and you’re set. You can even control the temperature in a room, just by adjusting a small box on the wall. This is energy resilience.

    Typically, we don’t have to think about not having power when we need it. What’s happening in those instances is that the electrical grid is doing what it is supposed to do.

    While the grid is certainly an amazing achievement, it’s made it so easy to power things, that we hardly ever think about how reliant on it we’ve become. Increasingly often, we are realizing it doesn’t always work. Installing a battery backup system is the solution.

    The Fragility Of Our Electric Grid

    Blackouts, downed power lines, natural disasters, and even utility mandated shut-offs, are just some of the events that can make us realize how fragile our centralized energy systems can be.

    If you’ve ever come home to a refrigerator full of spoiled food after a trip, or had to bundle up while you wait for the heat to come back on, then you can understand that sometimes the power is just not there when you need it.

    However, what happens when you have a medical device that you can’t wait around for the energy grid to come back on? There are circumstances where it can truly be disastrous or even deadly to go without power for an unspecified amount of time.

    Down powerlines caused by heavy snow in Washington state.

    Solar Battery Backup: The Best Way to Become Energy Resilient

    That is really what energy resilience is all about; having the ability to control your own power supply, even in situations that are out of your control. One of the best ways to do that is by installing solar power with battery backup! 

    Thousands of people have found that a renewable energy source plus a home battery system is an effective way to increase their resilience while meeting their energy needs. This video by LG Chem does a good job visually showing how it works:

    Type Of Solar Batteries

    Here is a complimentary guide to solar batteries to help you determine if one of these types of systems may be for you:

    Lithium-Ion Batteries

    This is the type of battery technology that has been used in laptops and phones for decades. They are poised to become the technology of the future due to falling costs and increasing production. Battery backup systems, such as the Tesla Powerwall are powered by Lithium-ion technology.

    Lead-Acid Batteries

    This style of battery is the type of technology that has been used in cars. These are commonly used in off-grid applications where it would be overly expensive to grid-tie the system.

    The following table shows a comparison between these two types of battery technologies.

    lead acid vs lithium ion batteries comparison chart

    Important Battery Backup Specifications:

    The capacity of the battery is what lets you know how much energy you will have stored. Manufacturers of batteries will list the total capacity of their products in kilowatt hours (kwh), similar to the usage numbers that you see on your bill.

    Capacity is a good way to compare which ones may be able to meet your energy needs in the event of a power outage. Average residential consumers are usually in the range of 6.8-20.3 kwh of stored backup power.

    But there is a more important measure that you need to consider! The actual usable energy. Batteries have what is known as a depth of discharge (DoD) that will only let them use a certain percentage of their total capacity.

    Depth Of Discharge (DoD) Comparison

    • Lithium ion batteries typically have a DoD of 80% and above

    • lead-acid batteries are usually somewhere between 30-50%.

    That means the usable energy you would be able to get from a 6.8 kwh lithium-ion battery is really only about 5.7 kwh of actual usage.

    Still, if the average refrigerator was the only thing drawing power, without no recharge, that would be enough to keep the refrigerator on for over 4 days.

    Number Of AMPS Comparison

    Another important thing to consider is the number of amps you need to backup. Some batteries will not be able to supply enough to power certain things on their own, so in order to back them up you will be forced to install additional units.

    For example, the average refrigerator uses between 15-20 amps. With a battery that can only go up to 30, you’re already close to tripping the circuit and shutting the whole system down.

    We can help you determine what type of capacity and amp range you might need depending on your situation. They can help design a system that will be able to supply you with the backup energy you need to feel secure in the event of an outage.

    Physical Size Of Home Battery Backup Systems

    There is a wide range of battery options available that can vary in size from somewhere between a split system air condition, up to a refrigerator.

    The actual size really depends on which energy technologies you prefer to use, and how much backup you would like to store. Lithium-ion batteries tend to be smaller than the lead-acid batteries with the same amount of storage.

    Some of the newer lithium-ion batteries, such as the Panasonic EverVolt, can be mounted on the wall are only 2 feet wide and 5.5 tall. These newer models only protrude from the wall 10 inches, so they take up minimal space in your home. The smaller options can be a goodv option for someone who just doesn’t have the room for bulkier models.

    Read More: Generac PWRCell vs Tesla Powerwall

    We often run into this question as potential consumers begin thinking about what it may actually look like on their home.Is installing the battery in the garage, or will it be better to have it in the basement?  Is it possible to put it outside? While there is quite a bit of flexibility in where you place and mount your system, it really comes down to the following constraints:

    1. Outside or Inside: While most batteries are placed inside to help control temperature fluctuations, there are some that are designed to go outside.

    2. Electrical Accessibility: It is possible to run conduit and wiring through walls to other locations, but that all comes at an added expense. The most cost-effective placement is right next to your electrical box.

    3. Space for Storage: Given the size of the batteries, it often comes down to one simple question - where do you have room for it? If you need more capacity and want multiple batteries, then it could make sense to install more wiring and place them out in the pumphouse rather than the garage.

    Working with an accredited solar installer who has experience designing battery systems will allow you to have these questions answered. They will be able to help you visualize what being energy resilient would look like in your home.

    The simple answer is of course! Battery backup is designed to provide you power in those types of situations after all. But did you know that in the event of a power outage, your solar panels will stop producing energy? That means in the event of an extended outage you will probably drain the entire battery and run out of power.

    In the majority of cases, power will come back on within several hours. However, there are instances where people have had to wait days, and even weeks to see their lights come back on. There are ways to design a system with compatible energy solutions that will allow you to continually keep using and producing power. This is known as the ability to operate as a micro-grid and is an important consideration when looking into having a system installed.

    How Much Do Home Battery Backup Systems Cost?

    This is the main question that people who are considering installing a solar plus storage system will have. In my opinion, there is a lot of bad information going around about this very topic. 

    The below table compares the top four solar batteries that are currently on the market. All of these options can be stacked in order to increase the available capacity and the number of amps that you are able to backup. The installed costs reflect the price for an individual battery pack.

    solar home battery backup cost comparison chart

    Many major retailers, such as Tesla Powerwall, are advertising that you can get a solar battery for around $7,000. Given the capabilities it provides you with, that sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

    The problem with those numbers is that they ignore the costs of a compatible inverter, additional wiring, and the labor to install the battery pack. Companies will try to get you on the hook for one of these systems, and then the eventual total costs will end up being nearly double or more from what you originally thought you would pay.

    It’s time to end the misinformation. Consumers deserve to have the best information available so that they can make their own informed decisions.

    Generally, a battery backup system will cost somewhere between $11,000-$32,000 depending on the size and brand you choose to install. This includes all hidden costs that some companies don’t immediately disclose in their pricing.

    The best way to find out a true cost is to request from us a free consultation.

    New Oregon Battery Incentive Program

    Beginning January 2020, the state of Oregon released funding for a new battery backup incentive program. This new incentive provides up to $2,500 to add an energy storage system. You may also add solar and received a maximum of $7,500 to install both batteries and solar panels at once. 

    Are Battery Backup Systems Worth It?

    With more and more battery backup installations happening more often, the most important question to ask yourself when considering a battery backup system is: what do you stand to lose in the event of an outage?

    Sometimes it may just mean losing what is in your refrigerator at the time. However, that isn’t something you ever want to happen, but it can all be replaced.

    Other times it may just mean that you go without power for a few hours. A daunting task in this age of technology. To certain individuals, however, an outage can mean so much more.

    Protecting Power To Critical Medical Devices

    Take for example an elderly client we had that decided to install a battery backup on her home near the coast. She knew that the weather there is often unpredictable, and power outages can be common.

    One particularly stormy evening she was sitting at home enjoying the furnace when everything shut off. Within 2 seconds, everything came back to life and her power was restored. It happened so fast that she hardly even realized anything was wrong.

    Until she saw that the surrounding house were all dark.

    Having the battery backup system allowed her to stay warm on that stormy evening, while her neighbors had to either go fire up a generator, or bundle up and wait for the utility company to get the power back on.

    So really the value of these systems comes down to what being energy resilient means to you. Do you want to continually rely on the utility company in these types of situations that are out of our control?

    Or is it worth the expense for you to take control of your energy supply, and be able to have your own power no matter the situation?

    Battery Brands We Provide

    Because not all energy problems require the same out-of-the-box solution, we offer a wide range of batteries that in order to solve the unique challenges you may face.

    Have Questions?

    We hope that you have found this guide helpful in your efforts to determine if a solar with battery backup system may be a good option for you. As mentioned previously, feel free to contact us with any further questions you may have.

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    Adam Walters

    Adam Walters

    Adam has over 8 years of experience working directly with Portland-area solar installers and supporting companies. Over his years, he has worn many hats and gained a holistic understanding of local PNW solar markets.

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