There’s a lot of buzz about solar batteries these days that makes some people wonder if solar batteries are essential solar equipment. And people usually ask me if they actually need a battery for their solar panels. I’ll be answering this question extensively in this article.
You’ll need a battery for your solar panel if you are not connected to a utility grid. This is because you’ll need somewhere to store energy and consequently provide you with power when the sun goes down.
The thing is that you can even use solar panels in your home without a battery. However, there are certain situations where having a battery will prove beneficial. One of such situations is when there are shortages in the grid; your battery will cushion you in times of shortages as long as you are connected to the grid.
Do you need a battery for your solar panel?
Energy production by your solar panel is at the lowest early in the morning (the time before sunrise or when the sun is just rising) and during the evening (at sunset). But you see, it is at this period that we consume power the most.
You’ll need power in the morning to get ready for the day or make breakfast. In the evening, you’ll need solar power while you make dinner, do some reading, or help the kids with homework.
People that are connected to the utility grid will draw power from the grid in the morning and evening when solar power production is at its lowest.
What is the utility grid?
The utility grid basically functions as a giant energy backup system. But when the sun is up and shining, power will no longer be drawn from the grid. Instead, it will use freshly generated solar power. This setup is referred to as a grid-tied system and is a way of storing energy without using a battery.
During the day, you will most likely produce more energy than you need when the sun is fully up. You can send any excess power back to the grid and earn credit if you stay in an area that has net energy metering.
By doing so, you are storing energy on the grid for later use. At night when you need power, your system pulls power from the grid. You can draw power from the grid — even if you are unable to produce extra electricity — if you are connected to it.
When you need a battery
You won’t have to depend on the grid if you have a solar panel battery installed. You get to store your own energy and you pull from it whenever you need electricity. A battery will be really beneficial for the following set of people:
- People that live in regions where the power grid is unreliable.
- If your area usually experiences several natural disasters that may interrupt the electricity supply.
- You may just fancy being independent of the grid or using clean energy. Solar power is 100% clean energy, unlike the power from the grid that usually has many sources, including fossil fuel.
People utilize hybrid systems, which are made up of a battery and the utility grid working together. You’ll draw power from the grid if your solar and battery can’t generate enough electricity.
People living in a remote or isolated area that lacks a central utility grid will need to buy a battery to store solar power generated during the day for later use especially at night or early in the morning.
How much is a battery for a solar panel?
Home solar batteries are new technology and are a bit pricey at the moment. Battery costs will decrease as the technology becomes more popular.
Materials they are made of and how much power they can store determines the price of solar batteries.
It’ll also cost you more to install a battery that operates completely off the grid than one that operates connected to the grid.
You can get small solar batteries anywhere between $200 to $2,000. Quality residential batteries range from $5,000 to $7,000. In terms of a kilowatt-hour (kWh), it is 400kWh to 750kWh. I must mention that these prices are only the costs of the battery and not inclusive of the installation cost or any additional necessary equipment.
You will need to install a specialized inverter with your battery if it does not come with a built-in inverter. It is the inverter that oversees the flow of power to and from the battery.
Is it worth getting a battery with solar panels?
Solar batteries help you generate backup power in an energy-efficient manner. If the power grid in your area is reliable and you just want to go off the grid, then buying a solar battery might not be ideal for you.
You may consider solar batteries though if you simply want to use renewable energy. But if you stay in a state where the utilities are unreliable, then solar batteries start to make sense.
You’ll also need to understand how you are being charged for electricity by your utility if you want to determine if the economics of a solar battery makes sense or not.
If your utility charges you the same amount per kWh regardless of the time of the day or monthly use while also offering standard net metering, then the only benefit of getting a solar battery is having a backup system in case of power outages. And this may not be worth it for most people if the power grid is very reliable.
Scenarios to consider for solar batteries
But installing a solar battery will start to look attractive as the ways utilities charge customers for electricity are changing. As more solar is installed, utilities have to deal with managing the energy production across the grid.
The best was for utilities to effectively manage supply and demand on the grid is through unique pricing strategies. Let’s consider some of these pricing scenarios below.
Time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates
A utility that has TOU rates will require you to pay more per kWh for the power you consume during peak hours of electricity demand. The rate that you pay during these peak hours could be as high as double or triple the rate you pay during off-peak hours.
For example, a utility could determine that the peak hour “time-of-use” period is between 2pm and 6pm every day.
You may normally pay 5 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity you use. But during the hours of 2-6pm, you may have to pay a premium of 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is how the utility incentivizes customers not to use a lot of electricity during the “peak hours”.
Having a battery for solar panels can help you reduce the amount of electricity you consume during peak hours as you use the power stored in the battery. Peak hours are usually in the evening and afternoon when demand for electricity is at the highest.
A utility that bills you using ‘demand charges’ will require you to pay an amount that is dependent on the total electricity you consume. It could be based on the amount of power you use in a month or the electricity you buy during peak hours.
Let’s use renting a car as an example. We can pretend that you are typically charged by how many miles you drive. This is similar to be charged for how much electricity you use in a month. The demand charge would be equivalent to you being charged for your max speed while you were driving the rental.
If you lower your overall speed while driving the car, you get charged less overall. You will still be charged for the total miles, but will be charged less for the top speed – or your energy demand.
Installing a battery for solar panels will help keep your demand charges low.
Can you connect a battery directly to a solar panel?
Yes, you can connect a battery directly to a solar panel, but this is not advisable. Unless you only want to trickle charge a large lead-acid battery with a small solar panel, you shouldn’t connect a battery directly to a solar panel.
At the brightest time of the day, a standard 12V solar panel may be supplying almost 20V, which is a lot more than what the battery needs. This will lead to overcharging and consequently, a reduction in the life span of the battery since the quality of charge is very important.
As a result, you’ll need to connect your battery to a battery charge regulator which is also called a battery voltage regulator. A charge regulator will generate the ideal charging voltage and current for your given battery voltage and type.
Best Battery For Home Solar Panels
If you are looking for a battery for solar panels with good functionality, then the Universal UB21000-4597 has you covered. I am pleasantly surprised by this battery’s reliability and ability to provide consistent power all day. It’s common to see people getting more than one of these batteries in order to have more energy stored for later use.
Being an AGM battery, you can install and operate this battery from any position without fear of any spillage. Don’t install the battery upside down. I also like that this battery is maintenance-free as there is no need to add water.
You can learn more about the Universal UB121000-4597 8 12v 100AH Deep Cycle AGM Battery on Amazon.