Do You Need a Battery for Your Solar Power System?

When you think about a home with solar power, you may have an image in your head of a completely off grid house that sustains itself using just the power of the sun. And while that is possible with solar power, the vast majority of the homes that have solar power are actually tied to the grid, and many don’t have any batteries to store solar power. Rather, they draw on grid produced energy when they aren’t using solar power. But a battery is certainly an option, and it is a good choice for some solar power owners.

Do you need a battery for your residential solar power system? You certainly don’t have to have one to operate your system, but in some situations, a battery backup for solar power is very nice to have. Read on to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of using a battery with your residential solar power system.

Why Batteries Are a Good Idea for Your Residential Solar Power System

Using a residential solar power system with a battery backup means that you’ll be able to store your excess power for later use. When the sun is out and your energy usage is down, you’ll likely make more power than you use. In a traditional grid tied residential solar power system, that excess energy goes to the grid (and you get paid for it through net metering). But with a battery, you can keep as much as you can store, and you can use it later when it’s dark or you’re using more energy than your solar panels are currently creating.

A battery backup is also helpful during emergencies and power outages. When grid power goes out, you can continue to use your solar power, and if needed, draw upon your stored power in your battery. You’ll enjoy reliable power, drawing on the sun for power first, then your battery, then the grid. Some home owners with battery residential solar power systems will never experience a power outage due to this redundancy.

Why Batteries Are a Bad Idea for Your Residential Solar Power System

But batteries certainly aren’t a slam dunk for residential solar power systems. For one, they’re cost prohibitive. Batteries themselves can be expensive, and the installation of a residential solar power system with a battery will be more difficult, adding further to the expense.

Another big drawback is the financial incentives. Some utilities offer rebates, solar power purchasing programs, and other incentives to customers with residential solar power systems — but often, they exclude customers that have batteries. Why? They really want you to send your extra solar power to the grid. That means you may miss out on hundreds or thousands of dollars in savings because you have a battery on your solar power system.

Some home owners may encounter resistance from the utility during installation as well. Going off grid during a power outage with your battery means you’ll have to install a way for you to disconnect from the grid for safety reasons, and that is not necessarily a straightforward process.

Who Should Use Batteries for a Residential Solar Power System

Still, for home owners that value the ability to retain a store of excess power and a high rate of reliability in energy, a residential solar power system with a battery backup can be a good choice. Home owners that live off grid will have to use a battery backup to maintain reliable power. Others who live in a disaster prone area, such as those often impacted by hurricanes, may also enjoy great value in a battery powered system during extended power outages.

Ultimately, home owners should balance the cost and installation upgrades involved with a battery backup residential solar power system with the potential benefits. It will be worth it for some home owners, but for others, a traditional grid tied residential solar power system will effectively meet their needs.

Photo by Flickr user therefore