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Steps Revealed: How Do Solar Panels Work with Batteries?

May 30, 2019

Has the thought of batteries for solar panels crossed your mind recently?

Do you own a solar panel system and want to make sure you are maximizing your electrical intake from your solar panels during the day by installing batteries to your solar panels?

Just the sight of a high electrical bill is enough to invest in solar panels for your home, just to cut cost and save money in the short and long run. In a few years, you’ll pay off your solar panel system with the offset of saved money in monthly electrical expenses.

It’s pretty simple to understand the economic effects of this, but when you add batteries for solar panels in, things can get complicated. As the demand for solar energy increases, the price of production and installation start to decrease.

This has been the case over the past few decades due to gained popularity in solar panels and green energy.

When considering how much solar batteries cost, one should understand how solar panels use batteries and you’ll also finally get the answer to that burning question:

Do I need a battery for my solar panels and what are the best batteries for solar panels?

Before we get into that, let’s look at some logistics and get a better understanding of cost and how solar panels use batteries to store energy.

How Much Do Solar Batteries Cost?

Getting to the root question of how much batteries cost for solar panels, you need to look at it from a price-per-value perspective. Solar batteries cost between $5,000-$8,000+ on average, which can translate to about $400 per kilowatt per hour (kWh) to $800kWh.

One important thing to note is that these prices are for just the batteries and do not include installation or any additional equipment that may be needed.

One good way to get an idea of how battery pricing works for solar panels is to consider the similarities in solar panels. Depending on the material, size, and power, the price will vary largely in relation to these three factors.

What are the Best Batteries for Solar Panels?

You can find a ballpark price range by looking at the best batteries for solar panels. We’ve listed two of the top. One has something the other lacks, but are in the same price range:

The Tesla Powerwall 2.0 hits 13.5 kWh and the base price starts at $6,700 and has a built-in inverter, which saves on extra equipment costs and space.

On the other hand, LG produces a solar battery for solar panels and it does not include an inverter. Their Chem RESU battery has a 9.3 kWh capacity and sells between $6,000 to $7,000.

There are solar panels with battery backup and some solar panels without battery backup.

This all sounds like a big step, but do not turn and run for the hills. The initial investment is perhaps the largest disadvantage of installing batteries for solar panels.

They are not all that cheap, but then again, when compared to how much money and energy solar panels with batteries can save you, the investment, kind of makes senses.

But a few questions keep lingering. Are solar batteries worth it? Do you have to replace solar batteries?

Whether solar batteries are worth it or not is something that takes a better understanding of how solar panels work with batteries, Time-of-Use (TOU) rates, and net metering monitoring.

Types of Solar Batteries

Solar batteries, like most commodities, come in several variants. Let’s take a quick look at the differences:

Lead Acid: This is a tried-n-true battery that has been used for decades in energy systems that are off-grid. They do have one of the shortest lifespans and a much lower DoD than other types of batteries, they are the least expensive option. This is a solid option for those who want to go way off the grid and need to store a lot of energy on a budget.

Lithium-Ion: New homes and emerging ones are using some type of lithium-ion makeup in their battery composition. These are more expensive than their lead-based counterparts, however, they have stronger DoD rates and much longer lifespans. Lithium Ion batteries are more compact and have less weight than most other types of batteries for solar energy back up.

Saltwater: More recently, some developers are testing the use of saltwater batteries. They are easier to dispose of than lead and lithium batteries because they are easily recycled. Unfortunately, they are still being tested and no real supply has been established. The idea behind saltwater batteries is to take advantage of the electrolytes contained in the saltwater, rather than rely on the use of heavy metals as in other types of batteries for solar panels.

 Are Solar Batteries Worth It?

While the tech of solar batteries is still new, which means the costs are still relatively high, there are some cases where solar panel with battery backup may be overkill and not economically worth it.

A close look at your utility bill to see how much electricity you are using and what rates you’re paying. In the event that you have a consistent rate no matter what time of day or monthly use is, and also if your company offers net metering, then your only real benefit here is making sure you have backup electricity in case of blackouts and outages.

This does not mean solar batteries are worthless to those who have a solar panel system. Companies are evolving with the tech and are changing how they charge you the customer. This is where TOU, demand charges and net metering will come into play. So here are three ways to look at batteries for solar panels when thinking of total true value (TTV):

1. Demand Charges: This style of billing will cost you a fee that is based on your total use of electricity during peak hours or by your energy consumption in a given month. So if you happen to install batteries on your solar panels then you will reduce your overall consumption of grid electricity. This translates into a lower bill.

2. Time-of-Use (TOU): If subjected to TOU billing, you will notice changes in your rates and you will have higher rates for the energy you buy during peak hours. Some companies double their normal rate during peak hours. Obviously, having solar panels with batteries will be a huge advantage during those inflated peak hours, which means you use less grid energy and save money.

3. Reduced or Zero Net Metering: In the event your utility company doesn’t offer fuller net metering credits, a backup battery for solar panels becomes a luring option. Some companies will offer a reduced or wholesale rate for the excess energy you send to the grid. Solar batteries make it feasible to store your excess instead of sending it off somewhere you will buy it back from.

So if you’re tired of wasting unused energy and paying high utility bills then batteries for solar panels looks like a perfect option.

Are they for life or do you have to replace solar batteries?

As advancements are made, solar battery durability is based on a lot of factors like materials used to produce, quality of capacity, and solar battery lifespan.

This means that solar batteries can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years, so if you install batteries with your solar panel at the same time, you will need to replace them at least once before replacing your solar panel system.

This could seem like a disadvantage because of the price tag these batteries carry, but do the math and find out for yourself. Solar batteries are not for everyone.

But when the sun goes down and your solar panels go to sleep for the day, would you rather keep paying your monthly bill because you’re still using electricity during peak hours that is costing you a fortune? Or would you prefer to make a single investment and put it all behind you?

Batteries become an asset that actually pays for themselves and saves you a lot of money, especially during the night, because solar panels do not work at night.

Now that we understand the value of batteries for solar panels, let’s answer a few more questions that will help us understand solar batteries better.

Can I Connect a Solar Panel Directly to a Battery?

Connecting batteries directly to your solar panels is not advisable for several reasons, but it can still work. A typical 12-volt solar panel can be used to recharge a battery. In reality though, during peak daylight hours when the sun is at maximum strength, your panel could be pushing nearly 20 volts of power. This is much more than what is needed and can definitely overcharge a battery.

Can I Use Solar Panels Without a Battery?

Solar panels do not rely on batteries to operate, even though batteries for solar panels come with several benefits. The only thing about not using a battery for solar panels is when the sun goes down, you are at the mercy of your utility company and their peak hour rates. This is because you have to use electricity from the Power Grid, instead of from your backup battery for solar panels.

Can solar panel overcharge battery?

Yes. In fact, when you install batteries for solar panels, you must take note of the voltage and storing capacity. If your solar panels are pumping charge at a rate the battery is unable to handle, then you risk not only overcharging your battery but in some rare cases, having one explode. It is important to make sure your solar panels and selected battery are compatible.

Can a Solar Panel Charge a Deep Cycle Battery?

Commonly solar panels are used to charge batteries rather than a device directly. This feature is found in deep cycle batteries normally. When charging deep cycle batteries using solar panels, you will need to know the battery capacity, which is usually measured in Amp Hours (AH). You will have to turn this metric into Watt Hours through conversions using AH and voltage of the battery. It is important when choosing a deep cycle battery for solar panels to bear in mind the output of the panels and the capacity of the chosen solar battery.

Can You Use Regular Batteries in Solar Lights?

This may seem elementary, especially after everything you’ve learned here, reading this. However, solar lights can use regular batteries, short term. Rechargeable batteries are made to take a certain charge over and over, while regular batteries are meant to be used and properly disposed of. In addition to improper energy storage, using regular batteries in solar lights can also disrupt the performance of the device or solar lights. Always be sure to check charging and capacity metrics to ensure compatibility.

Batteries for solar panels can be quite advantageous and provide many benefits. They can save you money, are handy during power outages & emergencies, and bring you one step closer to pulling your environmental weight by going green.

For any additional information or if you just want to say, feel free to leave us a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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