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Solar Battery Vs Generator For Home: Which is Better?

When the grid goes down and there is a power outage, it can be dangerous for everyone in the affected area. The occurrence of power outages in California has been significant, with extreme weather events accounting for nearly 61% of major outages from 2000 to 2023, according to Climate Central.  You can choose between a solar battery and a generator to mitigate unusual power outages. If you need a more reliable power source during outages, you have a few options. Another option is a solar panel system with battery backup.

Installers must understand the pros and cons of generators and solar panels. This includes knowing the necessary equipment, cost, reliability, capacity, and other important factors. We’ll compare solar battery backups and generators and discuss some of the top options available today.

Solar Battery Vs Generator

Solar Battery Vs Generator

Comparing generators to solar batteries is like comparing two vastly different things. Solar panel installers explain options and suggest the best solution based on analyzing energy use for clients.

Both options require a significant investment, so installers should be ready to discuss the payback period and associated costs.

Solar Battery Backup Systems

Solar systems equipped with battery storage enable customers to conserve surplus energy generated throughout the day. You can utilize this reserved energy at night or during power blackouts. These batteries accumulate and discharge energy produced by a solar setup.

Some batteries do not have a design for connecting to the grid and are only suitable for off-grid setups. Installers have the ability to assess a client’s energy requirements and savings objectives to suggest the most suitable setup.

Here are some common options for solar battery backup:

  • Off-grid DC-coupled batteries: People commonly use off-grid DC-coupled batteries for remote properties and RVs. They have inverters to change DC to AC power.
  • Off-grid AC-coupled batteries: Off-grid AC-coupled batteries function similarly to DC-coupled batteries. The energy conversion from DC to AC occurs before reaching the batteries.
  • Grid-tied AC-coupled batteries: Grid-tied AC-coupled batteries for home energy storage. They come with an inverter, making them suitable for new solar panel setups and upgrades to existing systems. Note that grid-tied connections usually require solar permits and utility approvals.
  • Grid-tied DC-coupled solar batteries: DC-coupled solar batteries with grid connection: These batteries employ inverters that can manage high-voltage burdens. Although they are not appropriate for off-grid uses, their small dimensions make them popular among house owners.

The amount of power used compared to the battery capacity is an important factor. This is known as the depth of discharge (DoD). The DoD indicates the percentage of battery capacity that has been used.

A lower DoD value indicates that less of the battery’s total capacity has been used. This can help prolong the battery’s lifespan.

Pros of Generators

Residential clients can enjoy key benefits by installing a standby generator with solar battery backup and PV panels for their homes.

  • Generators have a long history, which makes them readily available for purchase, installation, maintenance, and fixing.
  • They are dependable, supplying energy both during the day and night, irrespective of the weather conditions.
  • Many generators are portable, allowing homeowners to move them to different locations as needed for emergency backup power.

Cons of Generators

Despite their advantages, backup generators have several drawbacks:

  • They depend on fossil fuels, which emit CO2 and other greenhouse gasses during usage.
  • It’s crucial to use a generator safely to prevent risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shocks, and fires.
  • Generators are not only smelly but also noisy, contributing to noise pollution.
  • They do not use them often, only running during blackouts. Many homeowners think they are a waste of space and resources.
  • Generators require significant maintenance, including regular servicing, trips to the gas station, and frequent refueling.

Gas generators need fuel constantly, while solar batteries recharge for free with solar energy, making gas generators a bad investment. Generators incur ongoing costs, both for homeowners and the environment.

Home Generator vs. Portable Backup Generator

Home generators and portable generators serve different purposes and have distinct features:

Home Generator

  • Purpose: Designed to provide whole-home backup during power outages, ensuring continuous electricity for essential appliances and systems.
  • Fuel Source: Usually powered by natural gas, propane, or diesel and is commonly connected to the home’s utility lines.
  • Installation: Fixed in a specific location near the property and connected to the house’s electrical circuit.
  • Capacity: Provides a higher power output to cater to the entire house’s electricity requirements.
  • Automation: Comes with an automatic transfer switch that triggers the generator to start when there’s a power outage.

Portable Backup Generator

  • Purpose: Provides temporary and movable power for various uses, such as outdoor activities, camping, or powering specific appliances.
  • Fuel Source: Operates on gasoline, propane, or diesel and needs manual refilling.
  • Installation: It’s portable and can be relocated to various places as required; there’s no need for a permanent setup.
  • Capacity: Has a restricted power output suitable for powering specific appliances or devices.
  • Automation: Needs manual initiation and connection to appliances via extension wires.

Deciding on a home generator or a portable generator depends on a few factors. These factors include the amount of power required, how easy it is to move, and how long backup power is needed. Home generators are great for long power outages and backup for the whole house. Portable generators are good for temporary or smaller power needs.

What does a Solar Backup Generator entail?

A solar backup generator, also known as a solar battery backup, merges solar panels with a power storage system, typically batteries, to provide a dependable power supply during power grid failures. It collects and reserves solar power when the grid is operational, enabling homeowners or businesses to utilize the stored power as required. This ensures an uninterrupted power supply and enhances resilience to power disruptions.

Do You Need Solar Panels to Have a Battery?

You do not need solar panels to install a battery at your home. The main difference is that without solar panels, you cannot store excess energy in the battery with sunlight during a grid failure, unlike a gas generator that can be refueled if you have access to fuel. A battery can be charged from grid power, but this means you are subject to your utility’s pricing.

With a solar battery backup, you can charge and recharge without needing maintenance. Many people mistakenly believe that solar only works effectively in sunny “hotspots” in the United States. Plenty of sunny hours each day in the U.S. can power many households and fully charge a battery.

Choosing Between Solar Battery Vs Generator

Choosing between a solar battery backup and a generator backup depends on your specific needs and situation.

  • Think about how much power you will need during an outage and for how long. Solar battery backups are usually better for shorter outages and lower power needs.
  • Generators are better for longer outages and higher power needs.
  • Solar battery backups cost more upfront than generators. However, in the long term, they are more cost-effective. This is because they do not need fuel to operate.
  • Generators are cheaper to install but need fuel, which can be expensive, especially during long outages.
  • Solar battery backups are a good choice if you worry about noise, pollution, and the environment. They are quiet and don’t emit harmful gasses.
  • If your area frequently experiences power outages, a generator may be a good choice. A generator can continue to operate as long as you have fuel.
  • Solar battery backups depend on sunlight, which might not always be reliable in some areas.
  • Solar panels need minimal maintenance, like occasional cleaning. Generators need regular maintenance, such as oil changes and filter replacements.

Choosing between solar battery backups and generators depends on your specific needs.

  • Solar battery backups are good for the environment and save money in the long term. However, they may not provide enough power during long power outages.
  • Generators are more affordable and reliable but can be noisy, pollute the air, and need regular maintenance and fuel.
  • You might also consider a hybrid system that combines both solar and generator backups for reliable power during outages.

Final Thoughts

Solar battery backup has become increasingly popular in recent years. Comparing the pros and cons of a solar battery vs generator can help clients choose the right option for their needs. Solar Earth Inc offers design and engineering services for both solar battery backups and generators.