Backup Power: Are batteries or generators best for you?

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It is not unusual to experience the occasional power outage. Most outages in New England are nothing more than inconveniences lasting just a few hours. Sometimes, however, outages after storms or more serious events can leave you without power for days. Keeping your food cold and water running is of concern during short outages, but even a short outage can be dangerous for those with special medical needs and others who rely on electricity to operate critical loads. 

This post will discuss the various back-up power options available to you. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each system and offer next steps for those interested in a back-up power system.  

First things first: How much energy do you use? 

Most homeowners use about 30 kWh of electricity per day, but that number can sometimes range from 15-40 kWh depending on your home size, utility rates, the average temperature where you live, and lifestyle habits. It’s always a good idea to minimize your electrical usage because it is better for the environment and saves you money. But understanding your electrical usage patterns can also help you when you start looking at back-up systems because both batteries and fossil fuel-based generators must be sized to fit your usage during an outage. You also want to keep in mind that batteries and generators come in various sizes and vary in price accordingly. A larger battery or generator will mean a higher price tag. Keeping your energy usage low will allow you to get by with a smaller, more affordable back-up system. 

Batteries and fossil-fuel based generators: 

The most popular back-up power sources today are batteries and fossil fuel generators. Both of these technologies will keep the lights on in the event of an outage, and each come with their own pros and cons. 

Batteries: 

We’ve all heard of the Tesla Powerwall. Backup batteries have found their way into the mainstream. But Tesla is just one brand of backup battery. LG, Panasonic and Sonnen all manufacture top-quality batteries that can be configured to meet your energy needs and coupled with solar Photovoltaics. These systems must be installed by licensed electricians and come with a variety of features.  

Pros: 

  • Clean energy source 
  • Pair with solar for true, off the grid power 
  • Can cycled on and off on a daily basis to avoid utility peak usage rates 
  • Quiet 
  • Reliable 
  • Can be charged from any electrical source (including solar)  

Cons: 

  • More expensive
  • Size dependent on expected energy usage and expected outage time 
  • Without solar, batteries must be charged by the grid 

Generators: 

Generators are more common than batteries but come with their own perks and limitations. Generators come in two options: stand-by and portable. Stand-by generators are installed outdoors, operate automatically, and can run off of your home fuel supply—usually propane or natural gas. Stand-by generators also tend to be quieter, last longer, and can handle bigger loads than their portable counterparts. 

Portable generators vary in size and energy production. They are great at keeping a few appliances up and running but will likely not be enough to power your entire home. Portable generators are manually operated, can be  noisy, and most models run on gasoline or even diesel in some cases.  

Pros: 

  • Lower price 
  • Will run as long as they have fuel supply 
  • Reliable 
  • Available 

Cons: 

  • Require fossil fuel source 
  • Safe fuel storage is a concern 
  • Loud 
  • Bad for the environment 
  • Fuel is expensive and prices fluctuate

It goes without saying that Northeast Solar is a big fan of solar paired with batteries, but we know that option is not right for everyone. That’s why we offer battery backup systems as well as fossil fuel generators that can be installed to run automatically in case of an outage. Our staff is always happy to talk over the various options available to you. 

Take the next step: 

The next step is to call and speak to one of our team members about the backup options available to you. We are consultative and take pride in being experts in the field of solar and home energy.