Solar Battery Backup Security for the Unexpected

Are You Prepared for the Unexpected?

Battery Backup with- or without solar installation can make the difference in keeping your family safe during unexpected, unusual, unpredictable, severe or unseasonal weather.

Climate change events that threaten the Electric Power Grid are on the rise. Serious weather events will lead to power outages that, if sustained, will lead to loss of perishable foods, loss of income for home office or business, damage to your home plumbing system, data loss, etc. Traditionally home- and business owners would rely on gas- or diesel powered generators during outages. As these generators are not often in use, they can have start up problems right at the moment when you need them the most. Generators can therefore become unreliable, and costly to maintain.

Battery Backup power is security during storms.

Off-grid Solar? Or Hybrid Battery Backup?

Let’s face it, going off-grid means commitment to a different life-style and that is not for everyone. But maybe you already have reduced your power consumption and or you are somewhere on the road to it.

Wherever you are in your journey to a greener future, there will be a solution for everyone and more and more Americans are choosing the security of a solar battery backup system to keep their families safe.

In-home batteries work by storing electricity for when you need it and will save money with or without a solar system. Homeowners can charge the batteries during the off-peak hours when the cost of power is lower. Of course charging the batteries with clean solar power is the best solution from a financial and environmental point of view. Battery backup complements a solar system by saving up clean power for the quiet and dark hours of the day.

Hybrid systems are configurations where the battery backup system can be charged either with the grid or with solar. This has a big advantage over a Grid-tie only system as the power companies require the grid-tie system to shut down during a power outage to protect the line workers. A standard Grid-tie solar system will not power your house during a power outage. A hybrid system will not shut down during a power outage as it will immediately switch over to battery backup. Most likely you will not even know there was a power outage, as the switch time is nearly instantaneous.

However you choose to charge the battery, with a battery backup system you are prepared for weather related disasters and emergencies.

How a hybrid battery backup system works.

Animation courtesy of EnergySage

Solar Battery Backup Only Handles Critical Loads

Understanding what critical loads are is a very important concept for people before getting too excited about solar battery backup. Solar batteries cannot power an entire house living a 21st-century lifestyle during a power outage. A solar battery backup system will be definitely able to power the critical loads of a household during an unforeseen emergency, however, and as an example, you can not power a 4-ton electric heat pump which is standard installed in many houses.

Critical loads include things like your lights, phone chargers, internet router, refrigerator and freezer, well pump, TV, radio, and depending on the size of the battery a newer and high-efficiency mini-split heat pump.

Choosing a solar battery backup system means that you are giving up some aspects of the “normal” American lifestyle during a power outage. It means that you are ready to be intentional about how you conserve and consume energy if a storm arises.

At Belmont Solar, we specialize in designing custom solar panel and battery backup systems to meet the individual needs of our clients. If you are ready to consider switching to a solar battery backup system or just have questions, then we’re here to help you explore the possibilities. It’s a big decision, we’ll help you make it and understand it.

solar battery backup critical loads

Expectations for Solar Battery Backup Systems

A well-designed battery backup will run all critical loads in a house. In a power outage situation (depending on the size of the battery) your refrigerator, freezer, well pump, internet, cable, TV, radio, and maybe a mini-split heat pump will continue to run. (Mini-split heat pumps are ductless and heat or cool only the rooms being used, not the whole house.)

A common misconception is that a battery backup system can go far beyond supplying critical loads in an emergency. Many people expect it to run everything in the home like normal, including the heating and cooling systems. This is unrealistic. Battery backup is not designed as an off-grid design. Off-grid houses are usually smaller and better insulated, with owners who know how to deal with their power consumption. 

The message here is that our 21st century lifestyle simply cannot be maintained during a power outage, but you can do a lot to keep yourself safe during an emergency such as an ice storm or hurricane. You will be able to watch the news with the use of an antenna, cable, or internet. You can contact your family, letting them know you are safe, and they can contact you. Making the best of the situation is all about your attitude. What’s not to like about lighting some candles and cooking on the camping stove, creating a positive family memory? You will look back on any power outage with a smile, knowing you have the essentials right at your fingertips.

Battery backup systems coupled with solar are becoming more and more popular due to the archaic electric grid in many states. This is particularly true in Pennsylvania where storms are common. However, homeowners sometimes have unrealistic expectations. Let’s take a look at what a battery backup system can, and cannot, do.

For many homeowners, conventional gas or diesel generators are no longer a practical option, because of emissions, maintenance, and cost reasons. It is predicted that by 2023, demand for these systems will skyrocket and outstrip supply as well as the availability of qualified installation labor. 

A system using renewable energy (like solar) with battery backup, is the ideal answer to conventional propane or diesel generators.  Such a system can also reduce your utility bill by connecting critical loads—like refrigerator and freezer, communication, and entertainment—solely to the battery circuits during normal times when the grid is up and running.

Choose battery backup as your backup power supply.

A well-designed battery backup will run all critical loads in a house. In a power outage situation (depending on the size of the battery) your refrigerator, freezer, internet, cable, TV, radio, and maybe a mini-split heat pump will continue to run.

Digging Deeper into a Solar Battery Backup System

The practical approach, as described above, is to connect only the critical loads to the backup power supply. This means your large heat pump cannot be connected, as it will drain the battery in less than 30 minutes. However, a much more efficient mini-split, placed in a critical space in your house, will keep that specific space warm. Most of the house will have working lights. A battery backup system can even be designed so lights turn on automatically if a power outage occurs. That means no more tripping in the dark. 

With some strategically placed outlets, you will have power at your fingertips. Your television will work, so you can see the status of a storm and contact local officials if you need to do so. Cable and internet will be powered up by the battery,  although there is no guarantee that a certain utility service itself will be available.  In most cases, however, it will be available, as the grid and the communication are separate systems, and communication systems are much better maintained than grid systems.  

Find security during extreme weather with a battery backup system.

The Sun to the Rescue

Solar systems without a battery backup will not power your house during an outage, as inverters will power down the moment the grid goes away. This is done as a safety measure to protect the lineman from your power.

If the solar system is designed with a battery backup, the inverter will stay on, and the solar will remain to be connected and to charge your house and battery during an outage. It will automatically separate the grid from your house (to protect the lineman), but the solar energy will continue to flow, letting you survive any length of power outage. Basically, you are off-grid for as long as the power outage lasts.

The Costs of Adding a Solar Battery Backup System

The cost of adding a battery to a solar system is equivalent to adding a whole house generator. So, if the choice is between a high-maintenance, combustion gas/diesel generator or a lithium battery backup, I know what I would choose. 

Battery backup solar systems are a clean, safe, and smart way to add security for your family. It is a silent, dependable, and maintenance-free solution in a world with archaic electric power grids. And if you add solar in the mix, making the sun the fuel source, you are powered indefinitely.

The choice between conventional lead acid and lithium-based batteries has been made much easier for the homeowner. Safety first, lead acid batteries may release dangerous gases. And more facts, lead acid batteries can only be discharged 50 percent and will only last about 500 to 1000 full charging cycles, depending on the design, while high quality lithium batteries can last about 6000 full charging cycles.

Depending on your usage this translates to 7 years life of a lead acid battery and 20 years for a well-designed lithium battery.

Comparison table in general figures for 10 usable KWh:

Battery typeLead-acidPartial Charge CarbonLithium
Battery costs250050007500
System cost750075007500
Maintenance & Battery replacement2500 + 250000
Total Cost of owner ship over 10 Years15,00012,50015,000
Regular maintenanceYesNoNo
Full charge cycles120028006000
Discharge dept50%50%80%
Warranty3 Years5 Years10 Years
Battery bank weight1000 lbs1000 lbs400 lbs

In summary: Lead-acid batteries have a place in solar and are a tried-and-true technology that cost less but require maintenance and don’t last long.  Lithium batteries have a much longer life span and very high efficiency. Buy cheap, buy twice. Just making a financial comparison of the above numbers it is clear that choosing a lithium battery is the better choice.  Additionally, Lithium will give you more charge and discharge cycles, and 30% more energy from each charge.

Battery backup solar systems are a clean, safe, and smart way to add security for your family. It is a silent, dependable, and maintenance-free solution in a world with archaic electric power grids. And if you add solar in the mix, making the sun the fuel source, you are powered indefinitely.

A Better Solar Battery Backup Solution and Why We Use It

Innovation is key in the solar industry. The Fortress Power lithium ferrite phosphate (LFP) battery bank is the latest addition to the wide array of innovative solar energy equipment we offer.  When compared to lead-acid batteries, and gas-generators, the LFP battery bank doesn’t expose the environment, or your family, to harmful gases or chemicals.

Battery banks for off-grid and hybrid systems are not new, but the type of battery you choose impacts the overall efficiency of your system.

The Fortress Power LFP battery bank improves efficiency via storage capacity and power output, and is safer for off-grid and hybrid systems.

Here are a few reasons why we like this battery bank:

  • LFP batteries will not explode or catch fire because they use stable chemical compounds.
  • LFP batteries have been proven to be longer lasting and greener than lead-acid batteries without sacrificing power or reliability.
  • They grant a 100% depth of discharge, whereas lead-acid batteries only offer a 50% depth of discharge.
  • LFP batteries cost less per cycle.
  • LFP battery banks will give you more reliable power that is less wasteful and less harmful to the environment than lead-acid batteries.
A solar installation with a battery backup

When to Choose a Generator Over Solar Battery Backup

When you need a larger load covered like a whole house heat pump or base board heating (resistance heat), you can opt for a generator. Also, combined systems (Battery and Generator) have a place when you have critical/large loads for medical reasons like hospitals or financial firms that have crypto currency servers.

We Do Things Differently at Belmont Solar

If you’re reading this page, you’re probably exploring better ways to prepare for worsening weather and power outages related to climate change.

Our specialization in battery backup systems means that we not only want to inform our customers why our services and materials are different, but it is our responsibility to inform you of these differences – that’s why we share information like this on our website.

If you’re interested in speaking to us or if you have any questions, please call 717-768-7796 or contact us.