Solar Battery vs. Generator: Which One is Best for My Home?
When the power goes out in your area, what are your options? Unless you have backup power at your home, it’s likely you’ll be sitting in the dark.
Fortunately, dozens of backup power options are available to choose from – including propane, diesel, natural gas-powered generators, and solar battery systems.
When you find the right solution for your home, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your household will keep running, even if the grid goes down.
Here at Sandbar Solar Electric, we’ve helped thousands of homeowners turn to solar and battery backup on the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast in California, so we know a thing or two about the value of a good backup system.
In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between solar battery backup systems and generators and help you understand which is right for you.
What is a Generator?
Generators and solar battery systems both provide backup power in the event of an outage. The way they do it, though, is very different.
Generators are the type of backup power systems most people are familiar with. Today, most generators run on liquid propane, natural gas, or diesel.
Freestanding generators sit outside the home and either turn on manually or include sensors that detect outages and turn the generator on automatically
Compared to solar battery backup for power outages, generators are more affordable on the front end.
Despite the low upfront cost, though, generators require regular maintenance and typically come with small recurring costs. Generators typically require weekly self-tests and need continual refueling to run during outages.
They produce sound when they are running as well as exhaust that is harmful to the environment.
When a generator is maintained regularly, it can last for 10 years.
Here are a few of the pros and cons of backup generator systems:
- Generators are more affordable upfront than solar batteries. However, solar batteries save a household money over time and there are many rebates and incentives available that can lower the upfront cost.
- Generators are easy to connect to existing natural gas lines.
- Generators provide round-the-clock power, as long as they have an ample fuel supply.
- Generators are available in a variety of sizes, from small, portable units to whole-home systems.
- Most generators are noisy to operate.
- Even high-end generators require annual and monthly maintenance.
- Generators require fuel to operate, which means they are not eco-friendly.
- Fuel left too long in a generator can go stale, causing problems with the equipment and additional repair costs.
- Generators create emissions during operation, creating an unpleasant smell and a high carbon footprint.
What is a Solar Battery Backup?
Solar battery backup systems run on electricity and are charged by a connection to the home’s solar energy system.
The batteries store excess energy produced by solar panels and save it for later use.
Some of the most common types of battery backups available today include:
Solar battery storage systems are popular because they are reliable.
When the grid goes down, a solar-powered battery backup system will draw stored energy from the batteries to power your home with no interruptions or downtime.
In addition to providing unparalleled reliability, battery backup systems are cleaner and quieter than generators and are also a more environmentally-friendly option.
- Battery backup systems operate almost silently.
- When combined with solar, battery backup systems run entirely on renewable energy, which means you don’t have to spend money on dirty, expensive fuels.
- Battery backup systems increase your home’s daily solar consumption.
- Installing a battery backup system can increase the value of your home.
- Some systems qualify for state and federal tax credits in California.
- Battery backup systems offer low maintenance requirements and a long lifespan.
- These systems operate seamlessly during grid outages.
Which is Most Cost-Effective?
The exact amount you’ll pay for backup power depends on your home’s size and energy needs. According to HomeAdvisor, the typical price range for a generator system is 1,413-7,594, and installation costs vary and may add upwards of 10,000 or more to the total cost. Most of these generators are powerful enough to run a typical home during an outage.
By comparison, solar battery backup systems start at around 9,000, not including installation costs.
If you’re budgeting for a battery backup system, you can expect to spend between 25,000 and 30,000 including batteries, installation, and other equipment.
Fortunately, incentives and rebates can help you access a solar battery backup system.
Don’t let the upfront price deter you, though. Financing programs are available for qualifying applicants, and battery backup systems offer long-term savings that generators don’t.
When you purchase a generator, you need to buy fuel, perform monthly and annual maintenance, and replace the generator at the end of its lifespan.
On the other hand, battery backup systems pair with solar energy systems to create a renewable power source. Over time, this can save you thousands of dollars on your electric bill.
Installing a battery backup system may also allow you to access federal and state tax incentives or participate in the SGIP Equity Resiliency program – which we’ll discuss more below.
Solar Battery Backup vs. Gas Generator: Which Option is Best for Me?
Now that you have the background on each option, which is right for you? Here’s our recommendation:
Buy a Standby Backup Generator if…
A standby backup generator is an ideal solution if you don’t mind the noise and maintenance required, you only want a system that can provide emergency power, and you have no intention of installing solar panels in the future.
If your home has an existing natural gas line, installing a standby generator may be relatively straightforward.
Buy Solar Battery Backup if…
Solar battery backup is an excellent option for customers who want a backup system that can work with an existing or future solar energy system.
A battery system is right for those who prefer a quiet, low-maintenance, reliable, and environmentally-friendly solution.
Consider investing in a battery backup system if you want to keep the lights on and power essential home appliances during a grid outage and also reduce peak electricity charges.
Limited-Time Rebates for Battery Backup
Solar battery backup systems create energy resiliency, which is something the state of California is very invested in right now.
As a result, certain households who install a solar battery backup system may be eligible for a limited-time rebate under the existing equity resilience Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) allocation.
This program benefits those living in a fire zone who are also on a Medical Baseline Rate Program. Funds are going fast, but the program funds 80-100% of total project costs if you qualify.
There are also rebates available for those in a fire zone who are not on Medical Baseline. Additionally, officials expect one last rebate bucket for battery customers not in a fire zone or on Medical Baseline.
This rebate offer will cover about 10-15% of project costs.
Thinking of Getting a Solar Battery Backup? We Can Help!
Now is an excellent time to invest in a solar battery backup system for your home, and Sandbar Solar is here to help.
Our team has over 15 years of experience designing battery systems and can install new battery systems or retrofit existing solar panel systems for a battery backup.
We service homes and businesses across the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast.
About the Author
Jeremy has worked in the solar industry since 2006. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies. Jeremy has spent most of his solar career in residential sales and Sales Management in both California and Hawaii. He was raised in Santa Cruz County and is passionate about helping local residents make the switch to clean and reliable renewable energy. Jeremy lives on the Westside with his wife and two boys and enjoys music, photography and hiking in his personal time.
Can a home with solar panels use a generator?
One of the biggest misconceptions about solar panels is that they’ll keep your house running when utility power goes out. However, contrary to popular belief, solar panels actually can’t send electricity to your house when the grid is out.
Why? Well, it’s a safety thing. Grid-tied solar panels send electricity to utility lines, and if they aren’t shut off during a power outage, they would continue to send electricity, posing a threat to utility workers fixing the lines. That means, in order to prevent any harm, your solar panels go out when the grid does.
So if you want your lights to stay on when the rest of your neighborhood goes dark, you need a backup plan. The good news is, homes with solar panels can be connected to gas-powered generators, but how it works can be a bit tricky.
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How do gas-powered generators work?
Before we get into how generators and solar work together, let’s go over some basics about whole-home backup generators. Often referred to as ‘standby generators’, these large generators are able to backup entire homes for extended periods of time. Some popular standby generator manufacturers include Generac, Kohler, and Cummins.
The generator’s automatic transfer switch, or ATS, is able to detect a power outage and then immediately switches your home’s power source from the grid to the generator. There are multiple types of whole-home generators that run on different types of fossil fuels, including natural gas, gasoline, diesel, and propane.
Do solar panels and generators work together?
Here’s the deal. even if you have a standby generator hooked up to your home, your solar panels aren’t going to turn on when the grid is down. Unfortunately, you cannot run your home with both solar power and generator power at the same time.
In other words, the generator and the solar panels cannot operate parallel to one another.
Like we said earlier, solar panels send feedback to the grid, creating a dangerous scenario for utility repair workers. Similarly, if the panels remained on, they would send feedback to the generator and thereby cause damage to the generator, the solar system, or both. Plus, the energy generators produce isn’t powerful enough to boot up most solar inverters anyway.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a standby generator if you have solar, or that you can’t get solar if you already have a standby generator installed. There are many homes that have both solar panels and generators, especially when it comes to off-grid systems.
The panels and generator just need to be wired properly so that the two won’t interfere with one another. Your solar installer or a certified electrician will be able to help you figure out the best (and safest) way to do this.
Is a standby generator or solar battery system better for you?
Instead of buying a generator, you can install a solar battery to provide backup power to your home in the event of an outage. Whether a generator or a solar battery is best for you really depends on the reasons why you want to install a backup system in the first place.
A standby generator is best if you live somewhere that regularly experiences multi-day power outages and you want to be able to power your entire home, as generators offer more power than a solar battery can. Generators also tend to be cheaper than a solar battery storage system.
If you’re looking to have access to emergency backup power for a day or two that can power your most important loads (like your fridge, lights, and wall outlets to charge electronic devices), and you also want to reduce your day-to-day reliance on the utility, then a solar battery is a better choice.
Another benefit to solar batteries is that you can use them daily to maximize the amount of solar energy your home uses. Plus, a battery can keep your solar panels running when the grid is down. something a generator cannot do.
You can maximize your home’s resilience against power outages by installing both a solar battery and a standby generator. Much like with solar panels, a generator and battery cannot power your home at the same time. When the power goes out, the solar battery will power your home first until it is depleted. Then the generator will kick in.
Below, solar expert William White discusses pairing solar generators and batteries with solar systems.
Do you really even need backup power with your solar panels?
For most homeowners, installing backup power with your solar panels probably isn’t necessary. It costs thousands of dollars and most places in the U.S. have a fairly stable utility grid.
It’s a different story for those who do live somewhere with unreliable access to grid power. If your area experiences regular blackouts due to extreme weather events, or if you live in a more rural area, then backup power isn’t such a bad idea. You can choose either a standby generator or a solar battery, but which one is better really depends on how you want to use your backup source.
Even though a battery or a generator doesn’t always make sense for a home, installing solar panels is a different story. In most parts of the country, installing solar panels has a substantial financial benefit for homeowners and lets you run your home on clean, renewable energy.
You can use our solar panel calculator to understand what kind of savings a solar system can provide you, and what installation solar companies are offering in your area.
Find out if installing battery storage is worth it where you live
- Solar panels do not work during power outages, so homeowners need a backup power supply if they want to run their home without the utility.
- Gas generators are the most popular form of backup power and can be installed at a home that has solar panels.
- Even if you have a standby generator, your solar panels will remain off during a power outage.
- If you want your solar panels to stay on during a power outage, you need to install a solar battery, which adds considerable costs to a solar installation.
- You can install both a solar battery and a solar generator with your solar panels if you want to maximize the amount of backup power available to you.
Written Content Manager
Catherine is the Written Content Manager at SolarReviews. She has been researching and writing about the residential solar industry for four years. Her work has appeared in Solar Today Magazine and Solar Builder Magazine, and has been cited by publications like Forbes and Bloomberg.
Everything You Need To Know About Generac PWRcell
The Generac Power Cell (PWRcell) is one of the leading energy storage products on the market today. When paired with a residential solar system, the PWRcell can be used to protect your home from outages, power your appliance at night, and store energy for use during hours of peak usage.
If you’re considering the Generac PWRcell for your home, this article will tell you everything you need to know.
What is the Generac PWRcell?
The Generac PWRCell is engineered to act as a backup battery system for your whole home. When paired with solar panels, it can provide enough power to last an entire night, provide a boost at peak usage times, or even sustain you through grid outages.
This system doesn’t solely rely on grid power to recharge after a period of use. You can use other sources to recharge the batteries and enjoy uninterrupted electricity throughout the night, depending on your calculated load. Every system comes with a few standard components;
- Lithium-ion battery modules
- Battery storage cabinet
- Optional solar panels
Based on your particular home, you can set up the inverter and battery cabinet inside your garage or on your home’s exterior. If you’re considering getting the solar option, then now’s the time to get it done. Federal tax incentives. at 30% as of 2023, give you a lower entry point for solar installations done within a tax year.
How does the system work?
The Generac PWRcell is a Smart backup solution connected to your home’s grid. Should power levels dip below demand, or in case of an outage, the onboard Smart Management Module with the Automatic Transfer Switch will immediately take over to provide your appliances and home with uninterrupted power. Continuous monitoring means you may never notice when the switch to battery power happens.
How long the system can power your home depends on the system you choose to install. The alternatives start from as little as three battery modules, giving 4.5 kW continuous output with 8.6 kWh of storage. This is enough power to run around 4 large appliances, such as well pumps and air conditioners.
You may also opt for more battery modules that can raise power to 11 kW of output with a storage of 36 kWh. When combined with solar charging capabilities, you can run your home off grid indefinitely. The excess power from the solar panels will be redirected to the batteries for storage, and the surplus can help offset your grid electricity costs.
Contact Solar Optimum To Learn
Generac PWRcell can be a fantastic addition to your residential solar system, giving you extra peace of mind while also increasing the value of your investment in solar energy.
if you’re interested in learning more about battery storage and the different products we have in stock, contact Solar Optimum today. Our Energy Experts are standing by and ready to answer any questions you have.
Generac introduces off-grid portable solar panel
The 100 W panel is made for pairing with the company’s portable battery power stations.
The GS100 panel and GB1000 battery bank.
Generac Power Systems unveiled the GS100, a 100 W solar panel designed to be paired with the company’s off-grid portable power stations.
Each 100 W panel is designed with a tri-fold configuration with built-in kickstands for easy set-up and portability. The units are waterproof, dust proof, and chemical resistant, said Generac. The 100 W panel is currently priced at 299.00 MSRP.
“Pairing our portable power station with the new GS100 Solar Panel provides an ideal energy solution for off-grid camping, adventuring, or any activity that requires true energy independence, as it fully recharges with only the sun,” said Kyle Raabe, president of consumer power, Generac.
- Peak Charging Watts (/- 5 W): 100 W
- Operating Voltage: 20.1 V
- Open Circuit Voltage: 24.2 V
- IP Rating: IP67
- Unit Dimensions (folded): 15.5 in x 24.5 in x 1.5 in
- Unit dimensions (unfolded): 24.5 in x 46.8 in x 0.5 in
- Unit Weight: 9.7 lbs
- Shipping Weight: 11.9 lbs
The panel is compatible with the GB1000 and GB2000 portable power stations and is packaged with a cable for connecting with Generac devices. Up to four panels can be connected in parallel, offering up to 400 W of solar charging power.
The GB1000 power bank can charge from 0% to 80% in 2.1 hours from a wall output and supports charging from solar, car outputs, and generators. It features AC and 12V DC outlets, USB ports and a 15W wireless charging pad for use with compatible devices.
Generac also introduced charge enhancers for its two portable battery power stations, including 200 W and 450 W options. The 200 W option can increase charge times by 25%, while the 450 W option, compatible with the GB2000, offers 50% faster charge times, said Generac. The charge enhancers are priced at 99.50 to 139.00 MSRP.
Solar business activity
Generac, known for its residential backup generator offerings, is increasingly entering the solar market with new products and services.
In January, it announced the introduction of a residential electric vehicle charger. The 48A / 11.5kW Generac EV charger is a Level 2 home charger, which Generac said is capable of charging a car battery in as little as four to six hours, depending on the car battery’s capacity and charge need. The unit’s J1772 connector is out-of-the-box compatible with nearly all EVs on the market today. The charger’s NEMA-4 enclosure makes the unit rated for both indoor and outdoor residential installation.
In August 2022, Generac announced its Grid Services division entered an agreement with Arizona Public Service (APS), to deliver additional grid capacity from residential battery storage systems. APS serves 1.3 million homes and businesses across the state. Demand management and response is particularly important in Arizona, where extreme heat leads to air conditioning usage, thereby leading to high peak demand. Distributed battery energy storage is hailed for its ability to more efficiently distribute power, leading to a reduced need for reserve generation and transmission resources.
Generac will dispatch its scalable PWRcell batteries, which range from 3 battery modules for up to 9 kWh of capacity and 4.5 kW output, to a 6-module configuration providing up to 18 kWh of capacity and 9 kW output. Under the partnership, Generac will aggregate residential energy from PWRcell batteries over a five-year term starting in January 2023. The aggregated energy will support both system-wide capacity via demand response events, as well as locational capacity on target system feeders. The network of batteries may also be able to provide additional services to the grid when otherwise available.
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Ryan joined pv magazine in 2021, bringing experience from a top residential solar installer, and a U. S.
New England Clean Energy Is An Authorized Distributor for Generac, including the Powercell Whole Home Battery System in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island
Solar power, using the Generac PWRcell Battery System captures and stores electricity from solar panels and keeps your whole home powered by the sun, even when the grid goes down!
PWRcell (pronounced Powercell) gives you backup during power outages and allows you to control your energy usage anytime to reduce utility costs. Here in New England, the number one reason to add a battery to your solar system is for backup power when the grid goes down. And stored power can also get you through anytime sunshine is not available, including nighttime or poor weather.
Generac Whole House Solar Battery
Generac is the only battery that can provide backup power for your entire home with just one battery. As the largest whole-home backup generator manufacturer in the world, Generac is bigger than the competition, delivers more amps, and manages your power consumption better. You’ll be able to run larger loads including your water well, furnace, air conditioner, or sump pump. Other battery systems simply cannot provide the full features of the Generac Powercell.
Other battery systems generally require you to choose the circuits you want to power from the battery during a blackout by putting them on a “sub-panel”. Unfortunately, that means during a power outage anything not on your sub-panel goes out too! With Generac’s PWRcell that is not the case.
We have in-depth knowledge of the Generac Whole Home System and can help you decide if it is right for you! Please contact us at our Massachusetts headquarters or at our offices in New Hampshire or Rhode Island to learn more!
Smarter recharging and monitoring
Generac PWRcell is an intelligent energy storage system.
Their smarter control system manages whether your power comes from the array or from storage. Other batteries may force you to run on 100% battery even when there’s bright sunshine outside in the days after an outage or weather event. So you won’t use battery storage when your array could keep the lights on all by itself.
PWRcell comes with the PWRview (pronounced Powerview) software system that lets you see your actual power usage in real time and change how your battery is functioning. Keep tabs on your energy consumption, monitor your battery usage, and track your savings!
You can avoid peak rates, lower energy bills and gain more independence from the grid. Set it for zero export in anticipation of a possible power outage. Or change to self-supply mode so you send less of your solar’s power back to the grid.