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By Jenna Vasquez and Kaitlyn Short
If you’re in the market for solar, or think you might be someday soon, chances are you want to know the ins and outs of solar batteries, how they work, and how they can pair with a solar system.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about solar batteries, from lifespan and types of batteries available to how solar batteries work and what they cost.
There are many benefits of adding a solar battery to your solar system, which we’ll discuss in greater detail below. Check out our quick links to get your questions answered, or read on for a full overview of solar batteries.
While there are a few different types of solar batteries, most homeowners will be interested in the most popular type — a lithium ion solar battery.
Lithium ion batteries are used in a variety of consumer electronics and electric vehicles because they are typically very reliable, long-lasting, and maintenance-free. This also makes lithium ion a great choice for a solar battery.
Lithium ion solar batteries have a high energy density compared to other solar battery types. This means they can hold more energy in a smaller space and don’t take up as much room in your home or garage.
Most lithium ion solar batteries also have at least a 10-year warranty, so they last a long time. The best solar batteries are the ones you rarely have to think about, and lithium ion definitely fits the bill.
Because of these great perks, lithium ion batteries do tend to cost more than other energy storage options for your home. However, for many homeowners, the benefits of lithium ion batteries far outweigh the cost associated.
Check out these top-rated solar companies that also offer lithium ion batteries:
ADT Solar Verified
While they are the top choice for many homeowners, lithium ion batteries are not the only type of solar battery on the market today. Other types of solar batteries are ideal in more niche situations, but if you find yourself in need of a lithium ion alternative, you may be able to take advantage of one of the options below.
Solar energy batteries typically last between 5 and 15 years while a solar panel system usually lasts 25 to 30 years. This means you’ll need to replace your battery (or batteries) at least once during the lifetime of your panels. The lifespan of a battery typically depends on the type of battery, where your battery is stored, and how often you use the battery.
Lithium-ion batteries have the longest lifespan. They also have the best storage capacity and depth of discharge (DoD) – the percentage of available energy relative to the battery's overall capacity.
Lithium batteries are often the most expensive option but usually provide the most value. Other types such as lead-acid, nickel based, and flow batteries have a lower DoD, require frequent replacement, and need routine maintenance.
Solar batteries perform best when kept in a temperate climate. Your battery may last longer if kept in a garage or a place with a controlled temperature.
In hotter surroundings, a solar battery has to work harder to maintain efficiency. Hot weather puts added strain on the battery and may impact the overall lifespan if exposed for long periods. If the battery is exposed to extremely cold temperatures, the electrons slow down and the battery drains faster.
You might notice that your phone battery drains faster the older it gets. Just like a phone battery, a solar battery has a limited number of battery cycles and slowly loses storage capacity.
The more often you use your solar battery, the shorter its lifespan will be. A solar battery used just for emergency blackouts will last longer than one used every night.
Paying attention to the depth of the discharge will also increase the lifespan of your battery. To maximize your battery’s lifespan, read the manufacturer’s recommendation for your battery type and avoid draining your battery past the DoD.
One possible alternative to solar battery storage is gas powered generators. Generators typically cost $800 to $20,000 with installation depending on the size and brand. People in areas with unpredictable weather or frequent power outages might buy a generator to keep their homes running during power outages.
We’ve created a quick chart comparing a gas-powered generator vs. a solar battery backup. For simplicity, we will compare a residential solar lithium battery to a 26kW home standby generator.
|Solar lithium ion battery||Standby generator|
|Cost||Starts at $7,000||Starts at $6,000|
|Lifespan||5 to 15 years||25 to 30 years|
|Best warranty available||10 years||5 years|
|Environmental impact||Runs on renewable energy||Emits carbon monoxide|
|Size||Fits on the wall||Needs about 50 sq ft|
|Possible long-term savings||Save up to $1000 per year||No energy savings|
|Tax credits available||Yes||No|
|Requires routine maintenance||No||Yes (Every 6–12 months)|
The basics of how solar batteries work with a solar system are pretty straightforward. Essentially, your solar panel system on your roof produces energy to power your home utilities.
Any excess energy produced by your system can either go back to the public utility grid or into your personal solar battery. To learn more about energy going back to the grid, you can read up on net metering.
When you have a solar battery installed, energy from the sun hits your panels as direct current (DC) electricity and flows through an inverter to become alternating current (AC) electricity. This AC electricity powers your home appliances during the day while the sun is shining.
The extra electricity produced during sunny days gets stored in your solar battery and essentially recharges it. That way, in the evenings or on a cloudy day, your home appliances will be powered by the energy in your solar battery, rather than you having to “borrow” energy from the public electricity grid.
In this way, solar batteries work as a backup power source when your panels aren’t actively producing electricity, either due to it being nighttime, cloudy, or a power outage affecting the grid and your solar system.
Residential solar battery storage options cost anywhere from $300 to more than $20,000. You will also need to pay for installation, which typically costs between $2,000 and $4,000.
Lithium ion batteries are the most expensive type of battery, costing between $7,000 and $30,000. Lead acid batteries are usually about half the price of lithium ion batteries but require more maintenance and don’t last as long as lithium batteries.
Factors that affect the cost of the battery include energy capacity, power, chemistry, warranty, installation company, and depth of discharge.
The truth is most people won’t save money by installing a solar battery. Solar batteries are expensive to install and don’t last as long as solar panels. If you are able to utilize your battery on a time-of-use rate or sell back extra electricity to the grid, you may be able to save around $500–$1,000 per year.
If you live in an area offering net metering and time-of-day electricity rates, you may save money by adding battery storage to your solar panel system. However, even these factors do not guarantee savings. You need to be smart about how and when you use your solar battery backup.
Here are some tips to maximize cost savings:
Customers can typically choose between a cash purchase, loan, or lease when buying a solar battery.
You can learn more about solar financing options here.
Some of the benefits of adding a solar battery have been discussed throughout this article, but in a succinct way, here are some perks of including a solar battery as part of your solar panel system:
If you can afford it and have the space to install a solar battery, it’s a great option for homeowners who are considering or already have a solar system installed.
As more and more homeowners make the switch to solar, solar batteries are likely to increase in popularity as well. If you want to include a solar battery in your home solar system, check out top solar installers in your area that offer battery storage solutions.
Check out top solar companies offering solar batteries.
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