The recent snowstorm and power outages in Texas might have homeowners across the nation thinking of emergency preparedness plans and what they would do if their power went out. Living with no power means more than just using candles as light—it means no refrigerator or freezer, microwave, washer or dryer, no heating or cooling for your home, and even no potable water. This can cause your family hardship or even danger, and it helps to think about these things before they ever happen, so you’re prepared.
Traditionally, homeowners have used generators to power their home through power outages, but as solar power has grown in popularity, more and more homeowners are opting for a solar system with battery storage. With a traditional solar system, a home uses the power generated by the solar panels and any excess power gets sent back to the grid. When a solar battery is added, it can store extra energy for later use, allowing the home to be completely independent from the grid.
If you’re wanting to be prepared for any natural disaster, power outage, or just be energy independent instead of relying on the grid, a solar battery or traditional generator might be on the horizon for you. Let’s learn more about solar batteries and generators and compare both options to see what makes more sense for you and your family.
A typical solar system is connected to the grid, meaning that when a home needs more energy than what the panels produced, it draws energy from the power grid, and when the panels produce more energy than was needed, the excess energy is sent back to the grid to be used by someone else. In many cases, when your panels produce extra energy, your utility company will even pay you for this excess energy through a program called net metering. However, being connected to the grid can have its downsides. Because your system is not storing the excess energy for later use, there’s no way to power your home in those later moments without the help of the electrical grid.
That’s where solar batteries come in. Batteries are considered solar energy storage because they store the excess power generated by the solar panels to be used later when energy use exceeds energy production. This can be at night, during less-sunny periods of time, when your panels are covered in snow, or when there is a power outage. Without a battery in a power outage, you will also not have power just like your neighbors who are connected to the grid. With a solar battery, your system will disconnect from the grid and the battery will start powering your home without an interruption.
Solar batteries are quiet, require little maintenance, and can provide homeowners peace-of-mind knowing that they are independent from the grid and can rely 100% on the renewable energy they are generating. However, solar batteries can be very expensive and ramp up the price of your solar system by thousands of dollars. If going solar means you can’t afford a battery right now, it’s better to go ahead and install solar panels now, because a battery can be added later. The good news is that technologies are advancing and as batteries increase in popularity, they will become more affordable and widespread. Still, if you have solar panels and want to be completely energy independent and prepared for anything, it might be time to look into solar battery options.
Generators will also power your home during power outages, or when energy from your local electrical grid is unavailable. Generators are made in every size, and they can be used to power anything from devices used for camping to entire houses to even hospitals or factories on the industrial level. Unlike solar panels or a solar battery, generators don’t create or produce electricity, but they convert mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy. Residential generators use fuel sources such as propane, gas, or diesel to create mechanical power that can be turned into an electrical current.
Generators have been used for a long time, are reliable, and can range in price, but they do release harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. They require a little more maintenance than solar batteries, they are noisy when they are running, and you have to factor in the cost of the fuel, but even then, they are less expensive than solar batteries and therefore a popular option for homeowners who want to be energy independent.
What’s the better option?
Both traditional generators and solar batteries will power your home during times when the local grid is unavailable, but they are very different options.
If you already have solar panels and you want to be energy independent and rely completely on renewable energy, then a solar battery might be the best option for you. If you’re not wanting to spend money on a solar battery at the moment, then it might be helpful to save up for one and purchase one in coming years. You might also consider investing in a generator, keeping in mind that there are more costs involved down the line as well as replacing it eventually.
Also, if you have solar panels and are planning to purchase a generator, keep in mind that solar panels and generators cannot work in parallel. If the solar inverter sees power from a generator, it will try to back feed energy to the generator and sync up with it and this will likely damage the generator. If you’re installing a generator and you already have existing solar panels, you might want to consider getting it installed professionally and making sure it won’t void your solar system’s warranty.
If you don’t have solar panels, then a generator will probably be the better option for energy independence during power outages. Investing in a generator would be a great first step toward owning your own power, however, you’ll still be getting your energy from a utility company that burns fossil fuels and releases harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Solar is increasing in popularity, and there has never been a better time to make the switch to clean, renewable energy. With local incentives, state tax credits, net metering programs, and the extended 26% federal Investment Tax Credit, there are thousands of dollars in savings available to you that could be used to pay for your solar panels or to cover the cost of a solar battery or generator. Request a quote today and see how much you could save with solar panels, and to becoming 100% reliant on renewable energy!