How to Get Energy Storage at Home
Home Energy Storage Buyer's Guide
In today’s unpredictable world, we’ve learned to stockpile things (cough…toilet paper…cough), never knowing when there may be a shortage caused by some emergency. For many Americans, this includes home energy storage, which has really taken off in recent years.
What is Energy Storage?
Residential energy storage involves storing electricity in your home, so you have it in case of a power outage. This is different from a generator, which creates its own power during an outage.
To store energy at home, you need:
- A source of power
- An energy storage system
You need to collect the energy from somewhere. Solar power, which is energy from the sun, is a popular option. Alternatively, you can collect energy from your utility or a generator and store it for later use.
The basis for storing this collected energy is an energy storage system. Solar power storage systems work by collecting sunlight using panels made of photovoltaic cells. The captured light photons incite the movement of electrons and create direct (DC) current that is converted to AC power to charge a battery. If it’s a cloudy day, this method will be less effective, and it won’t work at all during the night.
If you don’t have solar power set up, you can still use an energy storage system powered by AC power from your utility or a generator. Obviously, this lasts only as long as you have utility power running or your generator has fuel.
Some people combine the two options. When it’s daytime and sunny, they use solar energy. If it’s dark or cloudy, they supplement their system with AC power, so it’s fully charged for a outage.
How to Pick a Home Energy Storage System
Like choosing a generator, choosing a residential energy storage system depends on how much you want or need to back up during an emergency. The more you want to power, the more battery storage potential you’ll need.
We’ll cover two types of energy storage designed for two different scenarios. The first is a portable power station, which is best for smaller needs and essential circuits. The second is a scalable electrical energy storage system that can power your entire home if necessary.
Portable Power Stations
Portable emergency power storage systems are perfect if you’re looking to back up a few items (fridge, lights, sump pump) during a power outage. Since they don’t release exhaust, they can safely be used indoors, making them great if you live in an apartment and can’t run an electric generator. Finally, they are handy in powering recreational applications like camping or an RV.
These power stations, sometimes also called “solar generators,” typically have one storage battery that is charged via foldable portable solar panels that can be placed on a patio, deck, or balcony. They can also be charged using AC power from a wall outlet.
Power outputs range from as low as 80 watts to as high as nearly 2,000 watts. The lower-watt systems will only power small electronics and appliances. For example, if you’re dealing with a short-term outage and need to keep your work laptop running, these small battery systems are a great solution.
The larger output systems, like the Goal Zero YETI 6000X, can connect to your home’s essential circuits via a manual transfer switch, so you can power the most necessary items during a temporary power outage.
Because these power stations max out at around 2,000 watts, you can’t use them to back up your entire home. They also shouldn’t be used for air conditioners, which require a high initial surge wattage. But for a few critical items or circuits, you can’t go wrong.
Whole-Home Energy Storage
If you’re looking at storing enough power for most, or even all, the circuits in your home, then you need a whole-home energy storage system. These systems are commonly paired with rooftop solar systems that charge multiple batteries storing dozens of kilowatts of power.
One major player in the home energy storage category is the Generac PWRcell system. The PWRcell consists of batteries that store energy, a cabinet that holds the batteries, and a solar power inverter that converts the DC power coming from your solar panels to AC power that is used by your home.
The PWRcell is very scalable. The base package comes with three batteries that can collectively store 9kW of power. However, each battery cabinet holds up to six batteries, and up to two cabinets can be combined in one system for a maximum output of 36kW. This flexibility allows homeowners to start small and scale up their system down the road.
Besides its high energy storage capacity, the PWRcell can be used with power management modules that balance competing power loads during an outage. For example, if your water heater, furnace, and electric stove are asking for power at the same time, the management modules will prioritize the appliance you have set as most important. The PWRcell can also be paired with a soft starter, which will reduce the high surge outputs needed to start an air conditioner.
Their output and efficient management of power make PWRcell battery energy storage systems great for whole-home backup during an emergency. Keep in mind that they do not come with the solar panels, which you will need to purchase and install separately. This can get pricey but, thankfully, the PWRcell can also be charged using utility power. This way, you can still store plenty of energy without investing in solar power storage.
Generator or Energy Storage System?
At this point you might be wondering whether it’s better to go with an electric generator or a battery energy storage system for backup power.
If you don’t already have a home solar system and aren’t interested in installing one, then a standby generator or portable power storage system is your best bet. You’ll power what you need without the high investment cost of solar.
If, however, you already have solar panels installed or are planning on it, the benefits of whole-home battery storage include free energy and potential independence from the grid, tax incentives, and peak-time payback opportunities where your utility will pay you money for the solar power you generate. Although the initial costs are high, you’ll hopefully recoup your investment over the long run.
If you have questions about home energy storage and other power backup solutions, please contact our product experts.