During hurricane season from June to November, panhandle residents connected to the grid often experience unexpected power outages. But you can prevent power outages and keep the lights on with backup solar batteries. Plus, you can offset your energy costs.
How can strategic use of solar backup batteries offset energy costs? Here, we’ll get into the difference between on-grid and off-grid solar power, what solar backup batteries are, and why you need them.
What are backup solar batteries and how do they work?
Backup batteries are just what they sound like: backups, or alternative energy sources, for your home. When you combine your solar panels with a home battery, any excess electricity your PV system produces during the day will go into your battery. You can then draw on that energy source when the sun goes down and not have to draw energy from the utility company.
Battery systems allow your home to be completely off-grid, but they might not the right solution for every home.
Two big benefits of battery systems are that you can store your own surplus energy and that you are not beholden to any energy price changes that occur throughout the year. So if the energy company raises the price of energy, you will not feel the pinch.
You can speak to your PV system provider about the different types of batteries on the market — how long they last and need to be replaced. The most common types of batteries are lead-acid or lithium-ion. These batteries require maintenance, but not as much maintenance as a gasoline or natural-gas-powered generator. Also, they last much longer.
When hurricanes and heavy thunderstorms hit and leave Florida homeowners without power, you won’t have to worry if you’ve fueled your generator if you have emergency solar battery backup!
Why do you need backup solar batteries?
Solar panels collect the sun’s energy and convert it into DC current. But (at least as of now) solar panels cannot store that energy themselves. The light particles hit the panel, the panel knocks electrons loose from the atoms, and the electrons flow through the circuit in the silicon cells of the panel, which creates electricity.
Then, the current flows through an inverter. Once it’s gone to the inverter, it’s normally put straight into your house to power your home. But if your panels produce more than your home is using at that time, it flows to the electrical grid, generating power for other homes that need it (and being more eco-friendly, of course). Homeowners get credit for any added energy and that credit can lower the cost of electricity used from the grid.
But if you want to cut out the energy company as the middle-man and use that power yourself, then that’s where a backup battery comes in handy.
Again, if inclement weather hits or if for any reason the grid power goes down, backup batteries will mean you don’t have any interruptions. Also, energy companies charge more for electricity during peak hours. So if you have backup batteries, you can use your stored energy instead, saving money on your bottom-line costs. Backup battery storage is a great way to get the most out of your solar panels as you can keep and use all of the power you generate.
Backup batteries can be seen as safeguards against unforeseen circumstances when the power company cannot provide your home with power and when your solar panels aren’t producing enough power for your current usage (such as at night).
Two things to consider with any backup battery system is that a.) they’ll need servicing and b.) they’ll eventually become less efficient and stop working. Your solar panel lifespan is around twenty-five to forty years, but the battery lifespan is much shorter. So they will need replacing before your solar panels need upgrading.
Can backup solar batteries save money on energy costs?
Yes. The best way to conceptualize solar batteries is as long-term investments in energy independence and cost savings.
With strategic use of solar backup batteries, even though they do come with costs and you will have to replace them down the line, they’ll pay for themselves with two huge benefits: they’ll offset your energy costs by completely eliminating your reliance on grid power and they’ll equip your home with the capacity for full self-sufficiency off the grid. It’ll take some time to recoup your investment, but when you do, the benefits are unparalleled.
Grid-tied vs. off-grid solar batteries
Solar battery systems store excess energy your solar panels produce for later use. Solar panels, naturally, produce the most electricity during the middle of the day when the sun’s heat is more potent. Perhaps ironically, that’s typically the time when you use the least amount of electricity (if you’re out at work, school, etc.).
When you install a PV system, you can choose to have your solar panels connected to the electrical grid or a backup battery system.
If your panels are connected to the grid and the grid loses power (i.e. during a storm), then you will still be able to use the solar energy for your home. During an outage, when the batteries are charged, you can still maintain your lights, energy, refrigeration, etc.
The system will stay charged and ready to use for emergencies. A grid-tied battery system works best in metro areas; however, backup systems do need maintenance to keep batteries in top condition. The important thing to remember about grid-tied solar systems is that all excess solar energy stored gets sent back to the utility grid and the utility company, which can save you money on electricity.
In an off-grid battery system, you will still be able to keep energy for your home if your inverter trips. They work the same as on-grid systems when there are emergencies. But instead of sending power back to the grid, your excess energy is stored in your own backup batteries. You are not tied to the grid at all. Off-grid systems are best for more remote locations. The batteries will charge when excess electricity is generated from your solar panels (not draw energy from the grid and the solar panels combined as in the other system) and then dispense the energy if and when it’s needed later.
Image source: Green Coast
Which system works best for you will depend largely on your location. You can ask your solar panel experts for advice and the pros and cons of each, depending on your specific situation.
Learn more about solar battery benefits from Compass Solar
To find out how Compass Solar can help you with your home solar needs, read our top reasons to go solar or read all about how solar power generates a good return on your investment, saves the planet by providing renewable, clean energy, and ensures a good resale value if you ever decide to move.