Battery Backup Basics: Your top six questions about home battery storage

Battery Backup Basics: Your top six questions about home battery storage

This week, we volunteered at a local day camp with a Harry Potter theme. Dressed as Professor Tonks, complete with purple hair and combat boots, I showed 140 kids how a solar panel collects the sun’s energy and stores it in a battery. Then we used the stored power to make snow cones! 

It was super fun until, suddenly, thunder and lightning moved in...

We moved inside to safety, but then the power went out. Chaos reigned in the darkened church hall for a moment, until the kids heard the snow cone machine continue to whir—like magic!

Because I had renewable solar energy stored in my portable solar battery, my snow cone maker kept on going, I continued to hand them out until every camper was served--and the unplanned excitement made the kids feel like it was even more of an adventure. It was a wonderful example of how nice battery backup is when the grid goes down. 

Of course, power outages are happening more often due to more intense storms caused by climate change, and the problems caused can obviously be much more dire than whether or not you can make snow cones. Already this spring and summer we’ve experienced many outages in our region, and we have heard from you that you're wondering how battery storage can help. So let’s dig in to how this magical battery storage works, and how it might help you weather the next storm. 

Battery Backup Basics

What does a home battery system do? A home battery is similar to a gas-fired generator in that it provides backup power when your home is experiencing a power outage—either due to a storm or a problem with the power company. Your battery is charged by your solar panels, so all of the electricity stored in your battery is clean and renewable. If the power goes out, your battery will switch on seamlessly so you won’t even notice the power is down until your neighbors come knocking, looking for freezer space. 

An important note-- many people don't realize that if you have solar but don't have a battery, and the power goes out, your system immediately shuts off. This is for several reasons, including complying with building codes, for the safety of electrical crews. So the only way to keep producing solar energy in an outage is to add battery storage. Read more about this here

When can I use my battery? You can of course use your stored electricity at any time and for any reason. But because we have net metering in our area, it doesn’t necessarily save you money to use stored energy, so we advise people to think of their battery more like a generator. 

net metering with battery backup


Your solar panels will first fill your battery with energy, and then send the excess back to the grid. Then at night or during rainy days, you can choose whether to use grid energy or stored energy at any time. 

Image courtesy of Energy Sage.

With net metering, when your solar isn’t producing at night or on rainy days you’ll pull electricity from the grid instead. Over time net metering gives you credit when you produce more energy than you use, so it should all balance out. What the battery does do, however, is allow you to use more of your solar energy instead of using dirty grid energy, which is a great feeling for many people.

What does a battery backup system look like and where does it go in my home? One battery is about the size of a small bookcase, and is usually mounted on a wall as close to your main service panel as possible. At Ipsun, we are certified installers for both Enphase IQ batteries and Tesla Powerwall

Here’s an example of what these battery systems look like once installed. You can choose to install just one unit, or several, depending on your needs. 

Ipsun battery systems

How does it work? Included with the battery is a control panel, which is like the brains of the system. When there is no power going through your meter, it immediately tells the control panel to switch the battery on. You probably won't even notice that the switch has been made. Unlike a noisy, smelly generator that burns fossil fuel, your battery will silently provide you with clean renewable energy until your power is restored. 

Is it complicated to install? Each home is unique, and some jobs are more complicated than others. Luckily, we are one of the only installers in the mid-Atlantic region certified for both Enphase and Tesla -- and with the most experience installing them. Our battery specialists, a dedicated team of battery-specific electricians, are the most up-to-date on current specifications and installation methods, and are in constant contact with Enphase and Tesla to ensure the most effective system for your needs. 

Ipsun battery team

How much power does a battery hold, and how long will it last? Each battery component holds anywhere from 3.6 to 13.5 kWh of electricity, but how that translates into available power for your home is dependent on your energy usage and other factors.

For a typical day's worth of electric use, the US average is 28.9kWh for the whole home. If the grid is down but it’s sunny out, your solar panels will continue to fill your battery with solar energy so it’s not as important to conserve. But if your solar panels are not producing due to clouds or night, it’s good to think about what your most important electrical loads are in your home and plan accordingly. Typically, our customers like to back up these five important loads:

  • Lights and outlets
  • Refrigerator
  • Wifi
  • Well pump and/or sump pump
  • Gas Furnace Blower

How to manage your critical electrical loads: It’s important to note that we can install the battery on one service panel only. If you have two main service panels, you may want to have an electrician move your chosen backup loads over to just one of those panels. Even better, you can choose your five most important loads and install a subpanel with just those breakers. We will then install the battery directly to that subpanel so that there is no concern about draining your battery too quickly during an outage. There are many options for managing your stored power, so talk to your solar consultant to get the best solution for your home.

Have more questions? Reach out to us any time!

We love talking about solar and storage (and solar snow cones!) with you. Give us a call any time at 866-484-7786 or click below to get in touch!

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