If you’ve been looking to install a solar electric system recently, you’ve probably come across the topic of solar batteries. Even though grid-tied solar + battery backup systems are becoming increasingly popular, there’s not as much information about them as there is about solar panel systems.
In Maine, people who install batteries with solar usually do it for one reason: emergency backup power.
It is important to note you do not need batteries to have grid-tied solar. However, when there is a power outage, your house loses power even with solar, just like everyone else’s, if you do not have battery backup.
Differences Between Grid-tied, Grid-tied + Battery Backup, and Off-grid?
Grid-tied systems are our most common type of solar electric system installed throughout Maine. However, other solar system options are available, such as grid-tied + battery backup and true off-grid battery-based systems.
These are the most common type of solar electric systems in Maine and are less expensive because they don’t need batteries or other additional equipment. With this system, the sun powers your home when it is shining. You are still connected to your utility provider (often referred to as the grid), so you still also have power when sunlight is unavailable.
Net Metering allows the electricity generated by your solar system to offset the electricity used from the grid during the night or when it’s cloudy. This ensures all of the electricity your system produces offsets your usage and ultimately your electric bill. However, if the grid goes down, your system will shut off, and you will lose power.
Installing a grid-tied solar electric system is an excellent step towards energy independence, however, during a power outage, your system does not provide power. By pairing a grid-tied solar electric system with battery backup, you can bank the energy you produce for times when you need it, like when the grid goes down. Although whole-house backup is achievable, most grid-tied battery backup systems are designed to only power “critical” electrical loads. These systems are more costly than just grid-tied alone.
Many people like the idea of installing a true off-grid solar electric system because of its independence. However, it could require a lifestyle change to reduce energy consumption as you cannot rely on the consistency of the utility grid.
These systems tend to be most prevalent in rural locations where the nearest power line may be miles away. You will need batteries to store your energy, must monitor the battery health, and be aware that you have a finite amount of energy you can collect and store on a daily basis.
Off-grid systems have unique design and operation requirements making them more challenging to install and service. They also require more components and usually cost more. Maine Solar Solutions has a design and installation team experienced with off-grid solar systems if you would like to learn more.
How Does Grid-tied Solar + Batteries Work In Power Outages?
Sunlight is captured by your solar panels and then converted into energy you can use for your home. As that energy ﬂows into your house, your electric appliances use it first, and any excess energy is stored in the battery. Once the battery is fully charged, additional electricity your system generates is sent back to the grid to be collected as energy credits for later use through net metering.
Installing batteries will allow you to store power generated by your solar system. In a grid outage, the battery automatically provides backup power to critical loads in your home.
What Can You Power With Grid-tied Solar + Batteries During An Outage?
Although whole-house backup is achievable, most home and solar battery backup systems are designed to only power “critical” electrical loads. Critical loads include refrigerators, well pumps, most heating systems, lights, and items such as cell phone chargers and garage door openers.
How Many Batteries Will I Need?
The size of a battery backup system depends on what electrical loads you wish to operate and how many days you want to run them before recharging the battery. Our solar consultants will provide guidance about the capabilities and cost of our various energy storage systems.
Grid-tied Solar + Battery Backup Options
Our team continuously evaluates the best technology to offer the most reliable and cost-effective energy storage solutions. We tailor each solar battery solution for your home or business’s energy storage needs and offer a variety of batteries, including traditional lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion. The most popular option among our grid-tied solar customers is the lithium-ion-based Tesla Powerwall, but we also install Generac and Sol-Ark systems. Maine Solar Solution is also Ford Lightning Vehicle-To-Home system’s preferred Maine installer. Our solar consultants will discuss your options during your consultation.
Can I Install A Battery Backup If I Already Have Solar?
Yes, in most circumstances, you can. A battery backup system can retrofit most existing home solar systems. In this case, a homeowner will usually have a few different brands that make up their solar electric system. Contact us, and we will be able to tell you if your current solar configuration supports adding a battery backup.
Can I Install A Battery Without Solar?
Though most batteries installed without solar can charge from the grid, most Mainers install solar with their battery backup. Unlike areas with high variation in on-peak and off-peak rates (think California), it isn’t as financially rewarding here. This adds a cost to the system’s price, but consider that batteries are eligible for the 30% Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. Even stand-alone battery systems will qualify for the 30% starting in 2023.
Installing With Maine Solar Solutions
Although pairing solar panels with energy storage (batteries) is becoming more common, it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Our solar consultants and electricians can help you find the right solar + battery backup solution for your home. We take care of everything from designing the system specifications, permitting, installation, financing options, and customer support. We present fixed cost pricing that includes the battery, transfer switch, any additional electrical equipment required, permits, and installation services by our team of qualified electricians. We also offer our zero-down low-interest financing for solar + battery backup.