A power backup system is a key feature in modern houses or any building. It provides instant uninterrupted power in case you lose your main power source.
The aim is to make sure critical equipment in the house, like telecommunication devices are kept on.
Battery backup systems are used to provide power for extended periods in the houses. Such a system suits a place that experiences frequent power outages or needs electricity when off the grid.
They may contain wet or dry batteries. The typical dry batteries are commonly used in solar battery backup systems.
Some dry cells tend not to work in very hot or cold conditions. Wet cell batteries can provide power for long periods and efficiently. They are less affected by room temperatures.
Table of Contents:
- How Do Home Batteries Work?
- How Long Can a House Run On a Home Battery?
- How Much Does a Home Battery Backup Cost?
- 3 Different Sources of Energy for Whole House Battery Backup
- Finding the Right Match for Your Home
- Types of Home Batteries
- Key Terms Associated with Home Batteries
- How to Store and Extend the Life of Your Home Batteries
How Do Home Batteries Work?
Home batteries are used as bridges between your home and the power grid. They optimize daily energy use by getting involved in your current electrical system.
They also provide power during grid failure, thus good backups. In short, a home battery takes power from the grid or solar panels, then distributes it to your house.
New generation home batteries have arrived on the market. They are made of lithium-ion and are smart.
They are different from the old ones, which were expensive, inconvenient, bulky, and quite limited functionally.
The technology of smart home batteries is the same as those in electric car cells. They are compact, cloud-connected, and automated. Little or no maintenance is required and can last over 10 years.
We will take a look at the different power components of the power distribution system to your home to get a better understanding of how home batteries work. These components include;
- The Grid
This is considered one of the largest machines on earth. It interconnects many power plants and distribution lines that get the power to users like you and me.
- The Main Distribution Panel
There are sets of wires that deliver power into your home. This distribution panel breaks down the power from the grid and then sends it along with circuits in your house.
A home battery will only allow a few large loads to remain connected to the distribution panel. So, anything connected to the main panel without a battery is susceptible to power loss.
- The Home Battery System
Our focus now acts as the buffer between the grid and your house. Solar panels or the grid charges it as it stores the power.
In case of a power outage, it disconnects from the grid and creates a self-sustaining grid.
This includes the important appliances in the house and the solar panels. At night, the home battery powers your home with the stored energy.
- The Solar Panels
The photovoltaic cells in the panels convert the sunlight into electricity. You will need an inverter to convert the Direct Current into Alternating Current, which you can use in your home.
Sometimes there is a critical load panel that functions as the main distribution panel. It receives power from the home battery and sends it to the important rooms and appliances in your house.
How Long Can a House Run On a Home Battery?
It depends on how long you need the power for. Smaller home batteries will suffice if you need the power for a whole day. A typical home battery should serve you for a day or two, depending on how fast you consume the power.
Connecting with the solar system, you can create a system for producing, powering, and storing power for your home.
If you live in areas that experience frequent power outages, you should stick with fuel-powered generators. Look at your home’s energy needs, the battery capacity, and the time length required before installing a home battery.
And of course, if you reduce the energy usage during a power outage, you will extend the battery life.
Something to note is that you cannot use 100% of the energy stored. The reason is that the chemical composition of home batteries requires a minimum charge to be present (5-10%).
Determining Your Home’s Electrical Needs
This is the next step after knowing how much energy your home battery can store. You have to figure out how much energy the appliances and devices in your house use.
Such include devices like the lights, refrigerator, laptop and phone charging, water heater, etc. The more appliances you have, the less time a home battery will last you.
Different amounts of energy are required to run different appliances and also start them up. A refrigerator is important to avoid your food going to waste.
The modern one will consume 1-2 kWh of power a day. It takes 2800 W to start it up. So, consider the starting up power for appliances when choosing a home battery.
You can minimize its power usage by opening doors less and raising temperatures slightly.
A water heater will consume around 18% of the total energy saved per month. That is, if it runs for 2-3 hours a day, consuming 162kWh per month. So, be prepared to lose 5kWh of power daily if you heat water frequently.
Lights and phone charging do not consume a lot of power. They are really important appliances, and it will be hard to forego them to save energy.
Air Conditioners can be switched on depending on the time of the year. Such uses tremendous amounts of power to cool or heat your house.
All the appliances in the house serve their important functions. However, you can sacrifice some of the appliances to save on power.
You can bathe with cold water occasionally or open windows to cool your house. Unless it is a desperate situation, use the power sparingly.
Note: If you have appliances that are not listed in the table, or desire a more exact figure based on your household’s actual energy consumption, use the formula below to estimate the amount of energy each appliance consumes:
Wattage*Hours Used Per Day/1000= Daily Kilowatt-Hour (kWh) Consumption (1 kilowatt = 1,000 Watts)
How Much Does a Home Battery Backup Cost?
Acquiring a home battery backup is quite expensive compared to a fuel-powered generator. Medium-sized home batteries will cost you between $10,000 and $20,000.
The price depends on the capacity required, installation location, type of battery, type of inverter used, and backup power requirements. For the generators, you will need a maximum of $15,000.
The initial cost may be high for a home battery backup system, but it covers other future costs.
For example, there is little maintenance after you install a home battery compared to the fuel-powered generators. Imagine spending $170 to $490 every year maintaining a generator.
The above tells us how difficult it is to estimate the cost of installing a home battery system. You may want to know so that you may compare it with a backup generator.
In the long run, a home battery system will come on top in terms of cost.
It is worth noting that according to Bloomberg’s forecast the solar batteries are dropping in price quickly. This is thanks to the increasingly new technology in the battery industry.
Also, the introduction of Tesla batteries has made it possible for the lithium-ion batteries to cost a lot less too.
3 Different Sources of Energy for Whole House Battery Backup
Solution 1: Wind Energy and Home Batteries.
Wind Energy is one of the options to consider when looking for clean power for your home. To get wind energy, you need to invest in wind turbines.
These are the vital machines that will help you produce enough power on a mass scale on a windy day.
It is important to note that these turbines will only produce the best power for your home on windy days.
So, it is vital to learn more about the wind conditions in your area first and the direction before investing in such a power source.
In case you had questions if wind energy can manage powering your home, just know it is possible. However, it will depend on a few factors.
First, it is the size of your home. If you have many electrical appliances that you need to power, then you might need more wind turbines to do the job.
We cannot forget to also consider the average annual wind speed in your area. This will determine how much power you would generate from your wind turbine setup.
Once you have the size of your wind turbine calculated, you should go for the batteries now. It is best to work with a professional to help you choose the right batteries for the job.
Use batteries that will last you for years before even thinking about replacing them.
Solution 2: Solar Power and Home Batteries
Pairing your home battery with a solar panel system is another way to reduce the utility bill. When the weather is right, the solar panels can charge the home battery system every day for you to use it.
This will also allow your battery to store power longer than it would have if it was charged by only the grid. In addition to that is that they are environmentally friendly than fuel-powered generators.
Some people may wonder why you need a home battery system if you have a solar panel. The solar panel system is not always reliable.
Even on sunny days, the power generated is not enough to sustain all the house appliances.
A natural disaster can cause power outages and an overcast sky which does not suit the solar panels. The home battery system comes in handy in such situations.
How much can solar power can save?
Going solar will save you money in the long run. The average annual electricity use in U.S. household is 10,972 kilowatt-hours (kWh).
According the annual U.S. electricity price map frome Global Energy Institute, the electricity rate in United States as of April 2020 is 10.66 cents/kWh.
That means the average U.S. family is spending $1,802 a year on electricity. Your total 20-Year solar savings will be $22.174.
Why not go solar?
Solution 3: Fuel Power and Home Batteries
A fuel-powered generator is another option for you to charge your home battery. It can be added to the already existing power sources like solar panels and the grid.
Generators will provide power for longer periods and do not depend on the weather as the solar panels do. You will be guaranteed weeks or months of power. You can go off-grid for months if you want to.
What Size Generator Do You Need?
All these advantages come at a cost. You will need not less than $35,000 for a medium-sized house. Do not forget the installation, maintenance, and repair costs.
Source: Popular Mechanics
However, some homeowners would prefer such energy security. They would like to go separately from the grid and sustain themselves.
Either way, there are some of the costs that are cut off, for example, the utility bills. They could just separate themselves from the grid when utility prices go skyrocketing.
Finding the Right Match for Your Home
Deciding on a backup system, either a home battery, wind power, solar panel or a fuel-powered generator is a task that will affect generations to come.
You should choose something that will sustain your family for decades during power outages. Take a look at all the options available and understand if they meet your energy consumption levels.
First, determine the amount of energy you will need for your house daily. You do not want to be left with half-finished tasks.
Be aware of the energy you consume daily and then choose a home battery to reach those levels.
How long do you need the power to last? Some people live in areas that experience frequent power outages.
It may take some time for the power to come back while it takes shorter periods in other places. Are there any natural disasters in the area you live in? Such may lead to frequent power outages.
The cost of a home battery system is also an important factor. You cannot buy a cheap home battery and expect the best of service.
For high quality, you will have to invest more cash. They will last longer and more efficiently.
There is also personal preference when looking for a home battery for your house. What do you like? Some prefer a certain color or just a certain brand. Go for what makes you comfortable, provided you consider it in terms of efficiency first.
Following are two of the Best Battery Backup System Options for your Whole Home
Tesla Powerwall 3 REVEAL and SPECS: Expectations VS Reality
Generac PWRcell: Savings Powered by the Sun
Tesla Powerwall vs Generac PWRcell: Which’s the Best Solution?
Types of Home Batteries
There are a couple of options in the battery market for you to choose from. Each has its pros and cons.
1. Lead Acid Batteries
They include three categories; absorbent glass mat (AGM), wet, or gel. Wet batteries require a lot of maintenance, while the other two require little or no maintenance. Also, the wet batteries are the cheapest of the three.
Lead batteries are good options if you are starting. This is because they require a lesser upfront cost to install. All you have to know is what they can do. Moreover, they are readily available in the market.
The major downfall of lead batteries is that they are not good for deep cycling and discharging fast.
This means you cannot draw out large amounts of electricity in a short amount of time. You will also be required to be gentle on them to avoid compromising their lifespan and efficiency.
Lead batteries’ production is harmful to the environment. However, nowadays, there are several recycling options available. This happens at the end of their lifespan, like 5-15 years.
- Costs less
- Reliable and efficient
- Others require no maintenance
- Some need maintenance
- Not ideal for deep cycling
2. Lithium ion Batteries
They have emerged as the closest competitors to lead batteries, and there are good reasons for that. The upfront cost is higher, but the advantages are also more. They are suited for those who would like to invest seriously in batteries and go off-grid.
Lithium batteries are maintenance-free, compact, and can be used in deep cycling. You can keep them in more discrete locations as compared to the lead batteries.
The only problem is that the inner components are combustible when mixed. You have to make sure when handling them that the inner side is not distorted.
- Tolerant to deep cycles
- Reliable and efficient
- Suitable for a wide range of ambient temperatures
- Innate combustibility
3. Flow Battery
This is another promising alternative. It uses a pumped electrolyte like vanadium ions or zinc bromide and chemical reactions to store charge and release it later again. An example is a ZCell battery in Australia.
- They do not lose capacity over time
- Operate in different ambient temperatures
- Easy to recycle
- They do not lose charge easily over time
- It lasts for over 10 years
- Relatively expensive
- Require frequent maintenance
Key Terms Associated with Home Batteries
Storage capacity and depth of discharge
The storage capacity is the amount of power the battery can store. Be mindful that there is total capacity and ‘usable’ capacity.
You cannot fully discharge a home battery as there is a limit. There is a crucial charge needed for the running of the battery thus cannot be discharged.
It refers to the rate of electricity a home battery can provide. Having higher values means that you will get more electricity at a given time.
Continuous output is the rate of electricity provided, while peak output is the rate a battery can reach in a short time due to high demand.
This explains why you will not get the same amount of electricity out that you put in. It is not perfect and therefore efficient to certain levels.
For example, a 15kWh battery with 85% efficiency will only allow you to draw 12.75kWh.
Cycle life and Warrantied energy throughput
Your home batteries will need to be replaced after a certain number of times being charged or discharged. If you charge with solar panels, you cannot go more than one cycle per day. So a cycle life of 3650 can last up to 10 years in such a scenario.
However, a battery can lose efficiency over time, and thus the lifetime may reduce to less than what was expected.
You should therefore use warrantied energy throughput to determine how long your home battery will last. It shows what amount of electricity will pass through a battery throughout its lifetime.
How to Store and Extend the Life of Your Home Batteries
Now that you have your home battery backup system, you may have already started asking the question of durability. It will get to a point you simply have to buy new batteries.
When it gets to this part, it is best if you would have maximized the use of the battery and extended its lifespan as much as possible. Here are ideas on how to extend the battery lifespan.
Make sure they are connected correctly
This should be self-explanatory, but at times you might find that some people do not take it seriously. It is vital to always hire electricians to do the connectivity. At least you can power on the home backup system with confidence that it is wired correctly.
In case the battery connections are loose, you might also end up with a bit of danger too. If the voltage is too high, it can start to heat at the loose terminals. It is now easy to see why you should always keep the connections tight.
Keep the temperatures low
The temperatures in a room where the batteries are stored should be set at the room temperature or lower. A bit of warmth will not significantly affect the battery health, but it is vital to keep the temperatures lower.
When the temperature is too high, you risk self discharging the battery even further. There is also the chance of the capacity dropping a lot faster too. This will make the battery not work as great as it did before.
Lower temperatures generally do not have a negative effect on the battery lifespan. That is why most manufacturers recommend keeping the temperatures lower.
Do not overdischarge
Over discharging the batteries is not recommended also. You should always use the batteries as recommended.
If you continue to over-discharge, you might end up reducing their capacities. That is how you end up with batteries that easily get damaged before their time has come.
Also, you risk generating a lot of heat when you over discharge the batteries. As you can remember, heat is not good for your batteries.
It all goes back to the idea that you can reduce the overall battery capacity when you do this.
Control the room humidity
High humidity in the room containing the batteries leads to corrosion, condensation, and leaks. No one wants to deal with such issues in most cases. It is why you have to try as much as possible to keep the humidity within the right range.
Always follow the recommended manufacturer room humidity to ensure that you can keep the batteries from experiencing condensation or other side effects.
Do not mix old and new batteries
Each time you mix the old and new batteries, you risk causing a voltage imbalance. That is not good for any system since it makes it hard for the two to work together.
It is why when you decide to replace the batteries, you have to replace all of them.
Also, combining the two might be a recipe for leaks. No one wants to deal with leaks generally.
These leaks can also be quite dangerous as you risk ending up with fires. In this case, take care of the leaks as soon as they happen to keep the whole setup safe.
A home battery provides the energy security you need. You will always dream of having electricity at the time you need it the most. So, it is essential to have a reliable backup system.
Go for what suits your power consumption levels, reliability, efficiency, and what makes you comfortable.
You can pair it with solar panels to increase the chances of power provision. More so, you will be becoming independent of the energy companies.