Solar energy has grown in popularity in recent years and will likely continue to grow in the future. This is especially the case now that the International Energy Agency has concluded that it’s cheaper to generate solar energy than it is to generate electricity using coal or natural gas.
As the use of solar energy continues to grow, don’t be surprised if you see a home or business in your area sporting solar panels sometime soon. Many residents are thinking about investing in a residential solar energy system or want to learn more.
One important component of a solar energy system is solar batteries and how they can take your solar energy system to the next level. Before we get into a quick tutorial on solar batteries, you should first understand the basics of a solar energy system.
The basics of a solar PV system
Solar energy is pretty simple when you think about it. Most residential solar systems consist of an inverter, solar panels, roof-mounting equipment, and a monitor to keep track of solar energy production.
The solar panels grab the sun’s energy as it beats down on the panels. The panels then turn the energy into electricity using an inverter that converts the energy into power that we can use to turn the lights on in our house. Pretty self-explanatory, right?
To tie into the grid or to not tie into the grid?
Here’s where it gets a little more confusing. Most solar energy systems are tied to a power grid, which allows a user to give and take energy as needed. This is helpful in case your solar panels do not generate enough power for your home. You can pull the extra electricity that you need from the grid.
The process of taking and borrowing energy from a grid is called “net metering.” But net metering programs work both ways. If your solar panels produce more energy than you need and you give this extra energy to the grid, you could receive a credit on your power bill. The energy is then passed on for communal use. So, whether you need more power when it’s cloudy or have extra energy on a sunny day, being grid-tied can be a win-win for everyone.
Store energy with solar batteries
Another great option for making the most of your solar panel system is solar batteries. Solar batteries are ideal because they allow solar users to be essentially energy-independent.
If you don’t want to send the solar energy your panels collected back to the grid, you can store the energy for later use with solar batteries. We don’t recommend going cheap when purchasing a solar battery, as the higher the battery capacity is, the more energy you can store to use later.
What you should know about solar batteries
You should always consider the estimated lifespan of the battery, warranty, and storage capacity. Here are a few questions you should ask before you buy a solar battery:
- How long does a solar battery last? A solar battery generally lives anywhere from 5 to 15 years. Look for a solar battery with an extended lifespan to save money in the long run.
- What type of warranty does it come with? Solar battery warranties are usually spelled out in years or cycles. It’s common to see a solar battery that comes with a warranty that lasts for 10 years or 10,000 cycles. In this instance, the warranty will likely expire when you hit either the 10-year mark or 10,000 cycles.
- How much power can the solar battery hold? The power capacity is the total amount of solar electricity it can keep before it is full. Most solar batteries are stackable, meaning you can use many solar batteries in a single system. One thing you should understand is the depth of discharge (DoD), or the amount of battery storage you can use on the solar battery you are purchasing. For instance, if a solar battery has 95 percent DoD, you can use 94 percent of the solar battery. Your DoD should be at least 40 percent or higher.
- What type of solar battery am I buying? There are many different types of solar batteries to choose from on the market, so do your research to find the best battery type for your system. For instance, Lithium-Ion solar batteries have a higher price tag, but also have a great lifespan and good DoD. Be sure to shop around before you make a purchase, do your research, and come prepared with lots of questions to make a smart investment.
Visit SaveOnEnergy’s solar battery guide for a more detailed look into the best battery options in 2021.
Jackie Whetzel is a reporter who has covered energy, government, business, economic development, and education. Her work has been featured in newspapers across the country. You can find her on Instagram.