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Do You Need Solar Storage?

We know what solar storage is, but is it necessary? If you are connected to the grid, you can just skip solar storage entirely and save some money, right?

While solar storage and battery systems are very expensive, and can easily cost as much as the entirety of the rest of your system, there are times it is necessary or at least very beneficial. 

While solar storage isn’t necessary for everyone, for some people and situations, it is required. Other times, it may be beneficial as a backup, or a way to offset price increases throughout the day for your electricity. 

Keep reading to learn more information about solar storage, including when it is necessary, an idea of the costs, and what you may need to think about before getting a system. 

Is Solar Storage Necessary?

Solar storage is not necessary for everyone. If you just want to offset some of the costs of your utility bill, then all you need is a grid-tied solar system. 

However, if you want to be able to use your solar energy throughout the day, even during peak hours or at night when the sun isn’t out, you will need more than just a panel. 

solar battery and water

Additionally, having a battery can replace the need for a generator when the electricity goes out. When the grid shuts down, you can use the battery to provide power, even during a power outage or blackout. 

Finally, if you are going off-grid, using a battery, charge controller, and inverter is a must. This allows your system to convert power from DC to AC and will allow you to have energy and power even when it is nighttime or there isn’t any sun. 

How Solar Systems Work Without a Battery

Most solar panels that don’t have a battery are connected to the grid. If you don’t have an inverter, you would send all of the solar power you produce to the grid. 

The grid would then convert the solar power, and send you whatever power you needed. What you have extra gets bought by the utility company, which will often be applied as a discount on your utility bill. This is called net metering. 

However, this does mean that while you save money throughout the day, there are times when you are still pulling all of your energy from the grid instead of the solar panel system on your roof. 

You are also still susceptible to power outages, as the grid can’t take or send you energy. 

Hybrid Systems: When a Battery Is Useful

A hybrid system is when you are still tied to the grid, but you have a battery system as a way to allow you to use more solar power throughout the day and to act as a backup when the power goes down. 

universal battery

An inverter can stop power from going back to the grid, so when companies are out and about trying to repair areas with damaged power lines, you can still have power without worrying about injuring one of them. 

Most of the time, the energy storage system works automatically as well, so you don’t even have to think about switching from grid to battery power. 

It works by taking some of the excess power you usually send to the grid and storing some of it in the battery. When your battery is full, the rest still gets sent to the grid for net metering and to provide you with savings. If you get a battery like a lithium-ion, you can go a long time without having to pull from the battery. 

Homeowners also have options to reduce their rates with a solar battery. Based on how much power you use at once, you can get a demand charge on top of your normal utility bills for your house, as you are always pulling less from the grid. 

Finally, there is something called Time-of-Use (TOU) for almost every state. This is when the rate of your price for electricity goes up at certain times of the day. 

Usually, these are peak hours, like when people most commonly come home from work. You only get paid for the power you produce based on the time that you are sending it to the grid.

This means that you are usually getting paid basic prices for your energy. However, when the sun starts to go down is when peak hours often are, so you are pulling from the grid at a higher rate. 

With a battery, you can reduce the amount you are paying by offsetting your power needs with energy from your battery. 

Off-Grid: When a Battery Is Required

There are times when having a battery is more than just a bonus. 

For people trying to travel or go off-grid, having a battery is a necessity. Without a battery, you are stuck without power every time it is stormy or dark outside. 

Additionally, if something happens to your solar panels where they are damaged or aren’t working properly, then you are stuck with limited to no power. 

Standalone Storage vs. Solar-Plus-Storage

Standalone storage is the same as going off-grid. It is when you are only connected to your solar system and not to any other power source. While this is most common with solar panels, it can also be used with water power generation and wind. 

This method is best for people who are traveling and can only rely consistently on their solar energy system. It is also for people who live in remote areas where it isn’t worth the investment of trying to connect to the nearest grid. 

Your solar panels provide all of your power. This includes things like lights, appliances, and water heaters. Whatever excess power your solar panels produce is stored in a battery, which can be drawn upon as needed. 

Solar-plus-storage is a better option for people who live in urban areas. They are still tied to a grid but want a little more freedom to use their solar whenever they want, instead of sending it all to the grid for a small profit. 

These systems are used to beat the TOU price hikes, and also act as emergency power during maintenance or severe storms. 

How Much Does Storage Cost?

Solar storage systems can cost anywhere from $300 to $15,000. However, it is much more common that your average cost will be around $6,000 if you are still tied to the grid. 

Depending on the amount of power you need, an off-grid solar storage system can cost a bit higher. The general recommendation when you are off-grid is that you need a battery system that can handle at least 3 days of your minimum power requirements. 

While this isn’t as necessary for grid-tied systems, it may still be a good idea to have a system that can power basic appliances like the fridge for a couple of days. 

Factors That Determine Solar Battery Cost

Incentives

While the initial cost of the solar system won’t change, most green energy is applicable for a tax credit, including battery systems. This is a federal tax break to incentivize using green energy, but you can also look at local and state levels to see if there are additional breaks for solar energy systems. 

Manufacturer

Every manufacturer charges a little differently. More efficient and better quality systems will cost a little more, and manufacturers that are producing these systems will charge more. 

Backup Load

While a backup load panel isn’t necessary, it can be beneficial. Not many people can afford a battery system that is strong enough to power their whole home for days, especially traditional homes with large appliances. 

solar battery

A backup load panel allows you to focus your power on specific things in the home, such as your fridge, so you can keep powering the necessities during a blackout without wasting it all on things like computers, wax melts, and other items you may have plugged in. 

These are still expensive, but cheaper than getting more batteries to power everything. They are often around $1,000 to $2,000. 

Number of Batteries

Every battery costs a lot, so every battery you buy will increase your price. Most decent lithium-ion batteries cost about $600 apiece for about 200AH of power. So you need to add up that amount for every 200AH or so you need. 

Remember that good companies may charge more for their goods than companies looking to make a quick buck through the green energy trend. 

Battery Chemistry

There are different kinds of batteries out there. Lead-acid batteries are the cheapest, but usually have a shorter lifespan, and need more maintenance. Lithium-ion batteries have more benefits, but also cost a lot more.

There are also saltwater batteries that are new, and have a lot of ground to cover, but are looking promising. 

Labor

Every company charges different rates for their labor. You can call ahead to try and get quotes on how much installing a battery system would cost you based on the connections needed, amount of batteries, and location. 

FAQ

Is it okay to use solar panels without battery storage?

Many people use solar panels without a battery system. As long as you have an additional power source, such as still being connected to the grid, there is no harm in using your solar panels without battery storage. 

What is the average cost of solar storage?

For grid-tied solar, you can expect to pay around $15,000 on average, just for solar storage. For off-grid systems, you can expect closer to $20,000. 

How much solar storage do you need?

That depends on what you are using the system for. If you just want a battery backup, you just need enough to power necessary appliances like your fridge, and maybe the internet and a computer for work. 

However, if you are looking for something to power your whole house, you need to figure out how many amp-hours of power you need for a minimum of three days of power and get a system that big. 

What are the drawbacks of solar storage?

Solar storage is costly. Even two batteries for 400AH can easily cost $1200, without accounting for anything like labor, wires, mounting brackets, or a backup load panel. 

It doesn’t last as long as panels, though a good battery can last about 15 years. Additionally, lead-acid batteries need frequent maintenance, and you have to be careful not to draw too much power or you can drastically shorten the lifespan. 

What are the installation costs for solar storage?

Most systems cost an additional $2,000 to $4,000 to install. This is just the installation and not any of the parts or materials. That means that installation alone can usually account for 1/3 to 1/2 of your total cost. 

What are the warranties and guarantees for solar storage?

Many lead-acid batteries have about a 5-year warranty, while lithium-ion has around 10 years. Most of them will last longer than this if taken care of right.

Additionally, most companies guarantee that the efficiency of these batteries will still be about 60% or higher at the time of the warranty expiring.