LG Chem’s new RESU batteries offer an alternative to the Tesla Powerwall.
Back in late 2016, Sunrun announced they’d partnered with LG Chem to offer, along with their solar installations, the manufacturer’s new lithium-ion RESU batteries to residential customers. Until they started installing the LG Chem battery, which Sunrun calls their ‘Brightbox’ offering, they’d actually been installing rival Tesla’s Powerwall.
Is the RESU battery a good option for your energy storage and how does it compare to the Tesla Powerwall – the most well-known storage option on the residential market? We’ll answer all those questions, plus a few more!
Who is LG Chem, anyway?
You might already be familiar with the brand LG — “Life’s Good”. They make appliances and other electronics like phones and televisions. Their LG Chem branch is one of the biggest battery manufacturers in the world, selling their lithium-ion batteries to more auto manufacturers than any other company. It’s no surprise, then, they’ve entered the burgeoning energy storage market as well.
By mid-2017, LG Chem had officially entered the US with a few different options for energy storage, including batteries up to 9.8 kilowatt-hours in capacity.
What is the LG Chem Battery?
- Sizes: 3.3 kWh, 6.5 kWh, 7 kWh, and 9.8 kWh
- Cost: Around 6,000 to 7,000
- Inverter included? No
- Best For: Utility bill savings via energy use shifting, emergency back-up with the largest option
The RESU battery is simply that: a box of batteries and nothing else. There’s no inverter (you’ll have to add one) and no way to create electricity (that’s what your solar panels are for). The batteries are designed for residential energy storage and are available in five different sizes: 3.3 kWh, 6.5 kWh, and 9.8 kWh in low voltage (48 volts) and 7 kWh and 9.8 kWh in high voltage (350-450 volts).
With the average US home using about 30 kWh of electricity each day, a 10-kWh backup system is large enough to use for emergency power, but the smaller options are really only enough for utility bill savings, not backup storage in the event of an outage. That’s not a design flaw at all – smaller batteries have their place and other companies (like Enphase) are also putting out small energy storage options for the same reason.
Like many solar batteries today (including the Powerwall), LG Chem uses lithium-ion technology in their RESU batteries. The manufacturer doesn’t publicize the batteries’ recommended Depth of Discharge or Cycle Life (basically, the details on how much of the battery’s storage can be used daily, and how long the battery will last).
Instead, they simply state that they guarantee the batteries will provide 60% of their nameplate capacity at Year 10. So, for example, LG guarantees that the 3.3 kWh battery will still hold 2.6 kWh of electricity by Year 7, and 1.98 kWh by Year 10. This is a pretty standard warranty, though a bit less than the Tesla Powerwall’s 70% guarantee by Year 10.
Using info from other, similar lithium-ion batteries, we can probably assume the RESU has a Depth of Discharge around 80% with a Cycle Life around 3,650 (based on a daily cycle for 10 years). These data points probably just seem like unimportant numbers right now, but we’re going to bring them back up when we calculate the battery’s cost-effectiveness below.
Unlike the Tesla Powerwall, LG Chem RESU batteries do not have an inverter integrated into the system, so you’ll have the additional expense of adding a compatible inverter separately (SMA and SolarEdge are currently the only inverters approved for use with RESU batteries). However, if you get the Brightbox system through Sunrun, they will handle this for you.
How the LG Chem Battery helps homeowners
Like any energy storage system for grid-connected homes, the RESU batteries are designed to help homeowners save money on their utility bills.
How can a battery do that? In many areas of the country, homeowners can choose to enter into something called Time of Use rates with their utility company. Under TOU rates, throughout the day. During peak times when electricity is in highest demand (usually in the late afternoon and morning), are high. Around midday and at night, when everyone is sleeping or running around town, demand is less and are lower.
With an energy storage system like the LG Chem RESU batteries, you can save cheap electricity (either during those low-priced times or from your solar installation) to use during peak times when utility rates are highest.
With batteries still a costly endeavor, you need to live in an area where utility rates are high enough for energy storage to make financial sense. Homeowners in California, Hawaii, and New York are already adding storage to their solar installations and more installers are tacking energy storage onto their list of available options. Sunrun currently installs the Brightbox in 6 states: California, Hawaii, New York, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Florida.
Could the LG Chem batteries make sense for your own home? Most homeowners across the US still enjoy low electricity prices, making it impossible to save enough money to justify installing battery storage. But if you’re on a TOU or similar utility rate and your are high, depending on installation costs and exactly how much your utility charges, energy storage just might make sense. Let’s take a look into the finances now.
How much does the LG Chem battery cost?
LG Chem has yet to release any pricing data publicly, but (as of September 2018) we found a few of their batteries for sale online, including the 6.5 kWh model for 3,698 and the high-voltage 9.8 kWh model for 6,999. You can only get Brightbox as part of a system installed through Sunrun, financed via cash or lease, but as of publishing Sunrun had not yet responded to our requests for pricing details.
Taking into account our assumed Depth of Discharge and Cycle Life from above, we can calculate out that over the RESU batteries’ entire lifespan, you’ll pay about 0.24 per lifetime kWh for the high-voltage 9.8 kWh model and 0.19 per kWh for the low-voltage 6.5 kWh version.
High Voltage 9.8: 6,999 / (9.8kWh 80% 3650 cycles) = 0.24 per kWh
Low Voltage 6.5: 3,698 / (6.5kWh 80% 3650 cycles) = 0.19 per kWh
Tack on one of LG Chem’s recommended inverters, the SolarEdge StorEdge for example (at around 2,500), and – for the larger option above – you’re looking at around 9,300 for your inverter and energy storage, with a per lifetime kWh cost of 0.32/kWh.
Is that a good deal when compared to other energy storage offerings and/or the utility? Let’s see!
How does it compare to the Tesla Powerwall?
Tesla offers their 13.2 kWh Powerwall 2, which already includes an inverter, for 5,900. In short, compared to the LG Chem batteries, you’re getting a lot more power, for a lot less money. In all honesty, it’s shocking that Tesla can even offer their batteries at that price, but there you go – they’re doing it.
Tesla offers a similar 10-year warranty on the Powerwall, with no limit on the number of cycles. Assuming an 80% DoD and daily cycling (like we assumed above for the RESU), the Powerwall’s lifetime cost breaks down to 0.15 per lifetime kWh, less than half of LG Chem’s batteryinverter combo above:
Tack on the cost of a solar installation (which, very roughly, usually works out to around 0.09 per lifetime kWh), we’re looking at 0.41 per kWh for the LG Chem RESU batteriessolar, and about 0.24 per kWh for the Tesla batteriessolar. Of course, neither of these figures include battery installation, so your total cost will be higher in real life. Still, you can quickly see which one makes more financial sense.
How about compared to utility rates?
The RESU battery’s 0.41 per kWh is a hard sell, even in markets like California where residents are plagued by high electricity prices. Northern California utility PGE, for example, charges TOU customers 0.36 per kWh during peak times in the summer – a good deal cheaper than our LG Chem battery estimates.
Of course, the calculations above are based on battery costs from online retailers. In real life, LG Chem assuredly offers wholesale to large installers like Sunrun. But without knowing exactly what LG Chem and Sunrun charge, we can only make educated guesses. Sunrun customers are obviously seeing (or at least, expecting) savings from installing LG Chem batteries – the installer wouldn’t continue to offer the product otherwise.
The easiest way to see if the LG Chem battery makes sense for you? Contact Sunrun or another installer for cost and savings estimates. As we’ve noted above, install cost, utility rates, and solar production all play a hand in the cost-effectiveness of your energy storage, so pulling a professional to get their opinion is usually a good decision.
Due to their high cost, solar batteries for grid-connected homes are still a niche product at the moment. As battery decrease and utility rates inevitably increase, state by state, there will certainly be that tipping point where energy storage makes sense financially, just like solar continues to do. It’s just a matter of time until the battery industry gets to that point.
Interested in reaching out to a few solar installers to see what you can do on your own roof? You can get the ball rolling now!
Lunar Energy enters solarbattery field with 300 M investment
Sunrun, SK Group and others back the startup’s plan to break into a crowded market with integrated home battery systems and broader energy controls.
The residential market for solar systems paired with batteries is complicated, with lots of companies competing with one another and sharing customers at the same time. All have different offerings, each with its pros and cons and available in various configurations.
As the former head of Tesla’s residential energy business, Kunal Girotra understands just how complicated that market is. As CEO and founder of newly unstealthed startup Lunar Energy, he sees room for an “ end-to-end home battery system” to break through the clutter — and for a broader set of technologies down the road to “ transform homes to 100 percent clean energy.”
Wednesday’s unveiling reveals significant backing for this concept. Since its quiet founding in 2020. the Mountain View, California–based startup has raised two investment rounds adding up to 300 million, led by U.S. residential solar leader Sunrun and South Korean battery giant SK Group.
Other investors include Japanese trading conglomerate Itochu and automaker Honda, which have both taken a minority stake in the company. That stake comes as part of Lunar Energy’s acquisition of Moixa, a U.K.-based software provider that’s managing a fleet of 35. 000 residential battery systems in Japan and more in the U.K.
Lunar Energy has hired about 250 employees and built a 35. 000.square-foot manufacturing facility in Mountain View, Girotra said in a Wednesday interview. Its first product, expected to be available in the next few months, will be “ a combination of battery modules, power electronics and software, all designed from the ground up,” rather than the cobbled-together systems common today that combine “ this component from this company, that component from that company.”
“ There are competitors in this space,” Girotra acknowledged. Some of the myriad companies pairing batteries with solar include battery vendors Tesla, LG Energy Solution, sonnen, Generac, Panasonic and Electriq; solar installers Sunrun, Sunnova and SunPower; and solar inverter providers Enphase and SolarEdge. “ But the home battery system market is still an expensive proposition for homeowners,” with costs compounded by the market’s complexity. “ There are a lot of boxes on the wall, they’re not integrated — they come from different manufacturers.”
This mix-and-match ecosystem can confuse homeowners and installers, he said. It’s not always clear which combination of systems is best suited to provide backup power during grid outages, or how much juice batteries need to store up to keep different combinations of home loads running over extended periods of time, for example.
Nor is it always clear which of the vendors involved is in charge of managing the interplay of solar-generated power, battery storage capacity and household loads. Handling those tasks effectively is important to save the most money possible for customers signed up for time-varying utility rates — or for customers to earn money by signing up to bid their battery capacity into utility or energy market grid-services programs.
Lunar Energy hopes to win over customers and partners by “ designing architecture that will be super easy to install, looks compact and elegant in your home, and does grid interaction and microgrid formation in a very seamless manner,” Girotra said.
Girotra declined to offer details on how much Lunar Energy’s first battery system would cost, how much electricity it would store, or other specifications. Nor did he expand on what kind of products to “ control loads and appliances in the home” the company might be planning to unveil next.
Getting the software right
Lunar Energy is far from the first company with the idea of “ owning the home” through new and elegant energy-management technology, Dan Finn-Foley, energy transition and storage expert for PA Consulting, said in a Thursday interview. So far, those attempts haven’t succeeded — but the market is still in its early stages, he noted.
“ You could make a compelling argument that the majority of residential storage on the grid today has no economic reason for existence,” he said. “ A large proportion of these storage systems bought by early adopters have been more emotional decisions. They’ve been driven by the ‘ cool factor,’ or spending money on nonmonetary factors, like using your own solar power or having clean backup power.”
But according to Finn-Foley, this situation is now “ changing pretty dramatically.” First, the costs of solar and batteries have continued to fall precipitously, although supply-chain constraints have disrupted this downward trajectory. Second, a set of virtual power plants — collections of homes with a combination of rooftop solar, batteries, Smart thermostats and remote-controllable electric vehicle chargers and appliances — have begun to prove that they can deliver value to utilities and to customers.
“ To truly be a Smart-home provider, not just Smart whole-home controls but at the grid level, the key barrier is software,” Finn-Foley said.
Girotra said that Lunar Energy has developed its own software to “ do things like keep the battery safe, control on and off-grid ramifications, or communicate from the solar to the battery.” For much of the remainder of the software functionality involved, Lunar Energy will be making use of Moixa’s GridShare software, he added.
Get Caught Up
Battery firms set to thrive under new California rooftop solar regime
“ Once the battery sends the data up to the Cloud, that data is represented in a consumer’s mobile app and in the installers’ installation app, and also…aggregated with thousands of other batteries in the Cloud platform,” he said. “ And it should make Smart decisions for the home” using a set of machine-learning algorithms that Moixa founder Simon Daniel, now Lunar Energy’s senior vice president of special projects, has described as a key competitive advantage compared to other companies offering similar capabilities.
Moixa’s experience managing batteries, appliances and EV chargers in the U.K. and Japan include the aforementioned 35. 000.home, 3. 330.megawatt-hour aggregation, one of the largest of its kind, in partnership with Itochu and utility Tokyo Electric Power Co., Girotra noted.
“ The platform is scalable and transferable from one geography to the other,” he said. In fact, Moixa is operating in the U.S. today, he added, although he declined to name the customers it’s working with.
Sizing up the competitive landscape for home solar-plus-battery systems
Lunar Energy faces a lot of competition on all of these fronts. Pretty much every company offering home batteries in combination with solar systems also offers software, services and support designed to make those systems more responsive to customers’ needs, better at providing emergency backup power and grid services, and more capable of integrating EV chargers and Smart appliances.
Some of these providers have taken an in-house path to accomplish this. For example, Generac, the leading U.S. manufacturer of backup generators, has acquired companies to supply its own batteries, its home energy management and grid aggregation software, and most recently, its Smart thermostats. Microinverter maker Enphase has engineered its battery systems and grid-services offerings around its core microinverter products.
But even while some notable companies have adopted an in-house model for product development, partnerships have also driven a lot of the home solar-battery market’s evolution to date. Tesla is running its own virtual power plants to ease summer grid strains in California but also partnering with utilities using other software vendors for VPP implementations in Vermont and Australia, for example. Span, the Smart electrical panel startup founded by another Tesla alum, has inked partnerships with LG Energy Solution, Tesla, SolarEdge and Sunrun and is integrating EV chargers into its system.
It’s not clear yet which of these paths Lunar plans to follow, although Girotra emphasized the importance of its investors in helping the startup break into the increasingly crowded market it’s targeting. “ The SK Group and Sunrun are investors and…strategic partners,” he said. “ SK plays partnership and supply, Sunrun plays partnership and demand.”
Just how those partnerships may translate into active business relationships remains to be seen. A statement issued by Lunar Energy on Wednesday included supportive Комментарии и мнения владельцев from both Sunrun and SK.
“ I’m excited to see Sunrun, and the industry at large, begin offering Lunar Energy solutions to millions of homes across the nation,” said Lynn Jurich, the co-founder and co-executive chair of Sunrun who’s also chair of Lunar Energy’s board of directors. Sunrun doesn’t make its own battery systems but is partnering with a variety of technology providers as it seeks to expand beyond rooftop solar to more comprehensive home energy and grid services.
“ We believe that Lunar has the potential to revolutionize how homes across the U.S. and the world use renewable power,” said Ian Huh, executive vice president of SK E S, SK Group’s energy arm. SK has pledged to invest billions of dollars in EV battery production and clean energy in the U.S. and has acquired several U.S.-based EV charging and grid-scale battery development companies in the past 12 months.
A key challenge for Lunar Energy and other home battery contenders is cost, according to PA Consulting’s Finn-Foley. “ A lot of that comes down to scale, but a big part of that will be customer acquisition,” he said. “ How are they going to be building a pipeline of customers to make this work? And what are customers going to be expecting in the form of returns?”
Girotra acknowledged the challenges Lunar Energy will face in scaling up manufacturing and hitting competitive price points. “ We don’t think the product will be successful if you don’t deploy at scale,” he said. But he also highlighted the potential for more presale product integration to “ take costs out of the product stack by combining things, eliminating things, not duplicating things.”
And he emphasized the potentially immense scale of the market Lunar Energy is entering. Of the roughly 75 million single-family homes in the U.S., only about 2. 7 million have rooftop solar, and far fewer of those have batteries, he said. Growing that share of residential solar will help reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.
As that share of solar grows, batteries will play an important role in storing their output at midday and discharging it when it’s in short supply — something that solar-rich states like Hawaii and California are already trying to encourage through rate structures and incentives. EVs and electric home heating, both vital decarbonization tools, will either strain the grid or become energy-shifting resources in their own right.
“ If every home will have an electric car and solar panels and home batteries,” Girota said, “ and the home goes electric, the opportunity is massive.”
Jeff St. John is director of news and special projects at Canary Media.
Solar Batteries Power Your Home During Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS)
Recent wildfires across the western United States have exposed the frailties of our electric grid in providing reliable and safe energy to consumers. High-power electric transmission lines passing through high-fire threat areas are an especially big concern. The 2018 California wildfires, for example, were started by active Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) high power lines, 1 and affected millions of Californians―including killing 86 people in Paradise, California. 2
To avoid these catastrophes, many utility companies have begun taking precautionary steps to reduce the risk of increasingly devastating wildfires. One of these steps is to preemptively shut off power to portions of the grid to avoid the possibility that live lines spark new fires. These types of rolling blackouts are known as a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) and they can impact millions of homeowners. Each event is unique, but many of them have stretched beyond just a few hours to leave communities without power for days at a time. 3
During wildfire season, more and more households are looking for alternatives to the old way of doing things. And the best alternative is the most obvious: the sun. The sun is our most reliable and resilient renewable energy source and it’s powering more homes than ever.
Sunrun solar systems with a rechargeable battery are an effortless way to keep your home running through blackouts. Our battery storage options can provide energy for the essentials or for your whole home and they recharge with each new sunrise as your panels collect clean energy from the sun. This is the future of home energy: clean, abundant power you can rely on. 4
What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS)?
Utility companies are granted general authority by the commission in their state to maintain and manage the grid. This includes periodically de-energizing the grid as a preventative measure to protect public safety and maintain the grid’s viability. To do this, utilities can implement Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events (commonly referred to as rolling blackouts) to protect against electric service disruption and possible harmful events caused by utility equipment to communities.
Here are four important aspects of a PSPS outage:
- Both distribution lines (those typically found in your local community) and transmission lines (long-distance lines usually outside of densely populated areas) may be shut off.
- While those living in high-fire-threat areas are most likely to be affected, anyone connected to the public utility grid could experience a power outage if their community relies on a line in a high fire-threat area. The communities and total number of people impacted depend on weather forecasts and specific utility circuits needed for shut off.
- In most cases, power is restored within 24 to 48 hours.But PSPS outages could last up to five days and have the potential to impact hundreds-of-thousands homes and businesses per event. Utility crews visually inspect power lines (and make repairs as necessary) to ensure they’re damage free and safe to re-energize before restoring power after the wildfire or extreme weather has passed.
- PSPS outages could occur several times per year. Wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity, which means the potential for your community to be impacted by an outage multiple times annually is getting more likely.
Protect Against Outages with Sunrun
Wildfire season has now expanded to a point that severe fires are occurring year-round. Utilities actively monitor wildfire conditions and, when possible, notify customers of blackouts in advance. However, these events usually come with minimal warning and, as mentioned, may last for days.
To protect your home and family, be prepared with a safe, reliable backup plan. Sunrun’s rechargeable solar battery systems offer a proven solution that lets you take control of your energy. Sunrun solar batteries give you greater freedom over your energy during PSPS and other outages by allowing important appliances in your home (e.g. home security systems, water pumps, refrigerators) to continue running when the grid goes down. It’s no surprise that home battery installations in the United States have increased more than 200% annually during the past four years.
Advantages to a home solar system and backup battery include:
Control of your home energy use. Sunrun’s solar batteries store electricity produced by your solar panels so you can use it when you need it most—during power outages and extreme weather.
Lower electric bills. You may experience lower utility bills as you draw less electricity from the grid. 5 Battery storage can also be financially beneficial because it allows you to use the clean power generated on your rooftop even after sundown and during peak-rate hours.
Reduced strain on energy infrastructure. Use of solar energy lowers the amount of electricity pulled from the grid. This reduced power load maintains safer circuit tolerances for a longer time, giving grid operators, line workers, and emergency responders more time to handle outages and the impact of wildfires. The result is a lowered risk of future wide-spread outages.
Reduced wildfire risk. Less consumer dependence on the grid can lower the chance of electric sparks from overhead lines potentially resulting in wildfires. According to California utility PGE, for example, the estimated cost on their system to mitigate the risk of future events like the Camp Fire could exceed 30 billion.
A cleaner environment. Going solar gives you the freedom to create your own clean energy and protect the planet for future generations. Sunrun has prevented 3.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to eliminating 9 billion passenger vehicle miles or recycling 1.3 million tons of waste. Solar technology provides a way to decarbonize our electricity system.
Get Resilient, Affordable Home Solar and Battery Storage for 0 Down
At Sunrun, we’re here to help you power through outages with clean and affordable solar energy. Our Solar Advisors will help you design a solar system that goes the extra mile to maximize affordability, power production, and peace of mind.
Sunrun Solar Panels Review: Does Biggest Mean Best?
In 2021, Sunrun performed 13% of all residential solar panel installations in America. Should they put in your rooftop solar panels?
Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a FOCUS on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make Smart energy decisions. He’s a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
- Lesser warranties for purchase
- Not upfront with pricing
- No price match guarantee
When it comes to residential solar panel installations, one company has put in more renewable energy than anyone else. In 2021, Sunrun captured about 13% of the residential solar market, according to a Wood Mackenzie analysis, about double the share of its two closest competitors, Titan Solar Power and Freedom Forever, combined. Sunrun’s place atop these market share rankings is thanks in large part to its 2020 acquisition of what was the second largest solar installer, Vivint. With the acquisition, the company has a footprint in 21 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
Most of Sunrun’s business is in solar leases. That means you can rent panels from it for a monthly fee, though it’ll sell you solar panels too. While there are dozens of solar panel providers and installers around the country (experts recommend getting multiple quotes), it’s worth looking at the major players. Sunrun provides strong offerings among the national players.
Sunrun’s warranties are top of the line if you’re going the route of power purchase agreement or lease. While it hasn’t named a new preferred panel after LG left the market, it’s looking to fill that space with tier one panels. They also offer strong battery options with Tesla’s Powerwall and LG’s RESU batteries.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
Sunrun, like most other solar providers, doesn’t give much pricing info up front. It also offers shorter warranties for customers who purchase panels rather than lease or enter a power purchase agreement. These points, and the fact that it doesn’t offer a price match, keep Sunrun’s score lower.
Below I’ll give you the essential information about Sunrun and, when it’s possible, let you know how it compares to the competition.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
What do I get from Sunrun?
Sunrun is different from the average solar company in the way it conducts business. Its bread and butter is solar-as-service. This means the vast majority of its customers (80 to 90%, according to a 2021 presentation to investors) lease panels for a monthly fee.
If you’re going to buy panels from Sunrun, you’re likely to get quality equipment. A Sunrun spokesperson confirmed the company uses multiple suppliers for solar equipment. Its preferred panel manufacturer, LG, stopped making solar panels in early 2022, so Sunrun is now working with their other module manufacturing partners to supply tier one panels, a spokesperson said. Tier one panels typically come from established companies with a long track record of quality. You should receive panels with high efficiency ratings and strong warranties. Likewise, Sunrun should be able to accommodate a preference for a specific panel.
Before you buy, make sure you read your purchase agreement and warranty. That’s especially important, because while Sunrun offers bumper-to-bumper coverage, maintenance and monitoring for its solar-as-service customers, those who purchase solar arrays from them are left to rely on manufacturers’ warranties. While 25 years is becoming more common, it’s still not ubiquitous. Sunrun also offers a 10-year workmanship warranty against damage to your roof or installation problems.
Sunrun offers Tesla Powerwall for whole-home backup and an LG Chem battery, which the company says can back up just the essentials, or four circuits (a circuit is everything connected to a breaker in your breaker box or electrical panel). Sunrun also offers battery storage to its solar-as-service customers through its program called Brightbox. Neither of the battery options are exclusive to Sunrun, so it shouldn’t be your deciding factor. Both battery options come with a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Powerwall batteries can be installed indoors or outdoors. They’re about 6 inches deep, 2.5 feet wide and almost 4 feet tall, so they’ll fit most places. LG Chem batteries are a bit smaller, though they’re also deeper.
Powerwall holds 12.2 kilowatt hours of usable energy, while the LG Chem batteries offer 9.2 to 16kWh of usable energy, depending on the model. (LG Energy Solutions has recalled some of its batteries for a possible fire risk.)
It’s not clear which inverters Sunrun will use now that their preferred option, LG again, is no longer available. (Again, be sure to read your agreement and make sure you’re happy with the proposed equipment.)
Sunrun also has an app through which you can monitor your system’s production. Since I’m not a Sunrun customer, I wasn’t able to test it out. Some reviewers in Apple’s App Store and Google Play (the mySunrun app gets 2.5 stars and 2.2 stars, respectively) say the app is difficult to use and has limited features. Multiple users noted difficulty logging in, poor customer support and no live monitoring of their solar panels’ production, as is available elsewhere.
Are Sunrun solar panels a good deal?
Sunrun provides a lot less public information about pricing compared to Tesla, so it’s a bit harder to nail down an answer here. Given that change with location and industry experts suggest getting multiple quotes when you’re shopping for solar panels, including from non-national players, that’s probably OK. Still, we can start to get at that question without a quote in hand.
In November of 2021, Sunrun reported an installation cost of 3.93 per watt. The median cost in 2022, according to Wood Mackenzie was 2.99 per watt for an eight kilowatt system.
This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, Wyatt Semanek, a Sunrun spokesperson, said via email. Sunrun’s price per watt includes the cost of batteries with some systems, while many other available averages do not. One Tesla Powerwall can add 10,000 to the cost of a system, a significant addition. Semanek also noted that geography has a significant influence on price.
Although it’s a different beast than purchasing panels, there are a few things to know about the solar-as-service options that comprise the majority of Sunrun’s business. CNET has looked into power purchase agreements before, and Sunrun’s lease options are a different flavor within the category of third-party ownership.
According to a November 2021 Sunrun document, while about 70% of residential solar panels nationwide are customer-owned, between 80% and 90% or Sunrun’s business is solar-as-service. That means homeowners don’t own the panels, but agree to rent Sunrun-owned equipment installed on their roofs. Homeowners can get solar panels on their roof for little to no money up front and then pay a monthly fee to use them. When this fee is less than what the local utility charges for electricity, homeowners save money.
Because the cost of energy changes over time, leases include what’s known as an escalator, a year-to-year increase in the lease fee. Escalators in Sunrun leases vary from customer to customer, but a Sunrun investor presentation in May set the average escalator at 2% with a range of 0% to 2.9%. As long as your local energy price goes up by more than that each year, you’ll continue to save money.
While electricity vary by region and utility, the average American has seen go up by less than 2% per year, though recent years have seen much higher increases. Some years, utilities have requested much larger rate increases. If your lease increases by 2.9% and your utility rate only goes up by 2%, your lease could be more expensive, or at least less profitable, by the end of your 25-year term. A solar lease is usually cheaper than paying your utility for all your electricity and provides stability in a budget, Semanek said.
As always, make sure you understand the details of your agreement and how the math will work out for your specific situation, if it does at all.
Sunrun also offers the option to pay in full for a lease upfront. That financial math is harder to make work. If you can afford to pay the lease in full, it might make more sense to instead purchase a system outright and take out a small loan for anything above and beyond that.
Does Sunrun operate in my state? How do I order?
Sunrun operates in 21 states and Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
Once you’ve confirmed Sunrun operates in your state, enter some basic information online (name, zip code, address) and wait for a call. While I didn’t go through the process of getting a quote, I did take this first step. I received a call less than two minutes after submitting my information.
Sunrun asks for a year’s worth of electricity bills to understand your needs and check your roof’s solar panel capacity using satellite images. The company sends someone out to your house to check the quality of your roof and electrical panel. Then you’ll hammer out any design details, get your questions answered and confirm the final design. The company handles permitting, and installation typically takes a day. Sunrun uses in-house installation teams and subcontractors.
Is Sunrun the best choice?
As with any major choice, it’s best to follow the expert advice to shop around. Get multiple quotes for systems and financing (if you need to finance), including quotes from local, non-national installers.
Third-party ownership generally saves you less money over the long haul than buying panels outright, which is usually the best option if you can afford the up-front cost or secure a favorable loan.
Leases can offer some savings over paying your utility and if buying solar is financially out of reach for you, a lease might be a fine option. This, again, depends on your local energy prices, the terms or the lease, including escalators and your energy usage. In this case, a lease from Sunrun might be your best choice, though you should still compare it with other lease options. Third-party ownership isn’t allowed in every state.
If you’re looking to purchase, you’ll likely get quality equipment from Sunrun. Likewise, Sunrun’s workmanship warranty matches Tesla’s at 10 years.
Sunrun’s solar offering gives you a range of options under strong warranties. It also offers choice on batteries. Like most solar providers, unfortunately, it’s hard to get an idea of costs before reaching out for a quote. This makes sense, given the variety of roofs and energy needs, but it would be nice if the industry was more transparent up front. If you enter a lease or power purchase agreement with Sunrun, you should receive quality care. Sunrun’s warranties aren’t as strong for purchases as they are for leases or power purchase agreements. If you decide to buy, you can find stronger warranties elsewhere.
It’s important to note that, while I researched this as deeply as was practical, I haven’t been through this process as a buyer and I haven’t tested Sunrun’s offerings in any empirical way. Solar services are difficult to review in the traditional sense, so be sure to get multiple estimates from different installers before you make a decision.