Solar battery storage is a reliable, emerging, and exciting technology which has been gaining greater popularity year on year here in Britain.
Why? As energy prices go up year after year, more and more UK homeowners are looking for ways to significantly reduce their electricity and energy costs permanently.
It’s no wonder. It’s never been more expensive to heat and light our homes.
For some, the answer to saving money comes by changing suppliers. In 2017 according to Energy UK, a record five-and-a-half million UK households switched to different utilities providers, saving an average of £250 a year.
The problem with that is that you’re still having to buy every watt of electricity you use from your utilities supplier. You’re still in the hands of the electricity company.
And many people think the utilities companies are running an unfair racket, including the Competitions and Markets Authority. They issued a warning in 2006 in which they said that these companies were making £1.4bn more a year in profit than they should be.
Solar power has been growing in popularity for the last ten years. It’s the leading way that you can start to break free from the utilities providers and their never-ending price hikes.
But is it worth buying a solar battery storage system for your home? Will it pay you back quickly? Solar battery storage systems cost between £1,500 and £6,000 with an additional £500 to £1,500 to install it on top.
In this article, we look at what solar power is, what solar panels do, and the increasing use of solar battery storage systems.
What is solar power?
93 million miles away from Earth, the Sun is constantly releasing a colossal amount of free energy. The amount of energy is so enormous that it could power at 2,880,000,000,000,000 light bulbs at the same time.
Temperatures on the surface of the Sun reach as high as 14 million degrees Celsius. Our Sun is actually a massive ongoing thermonuclear reaction on a scale that is hard to comprehend.
It’s that ongoing thermonuclear reaction that provides all the heat that’s needed to support and sustain most forms of life on our planet. But there’s more – we can turn the heat and light from that reaction into power here on Earth.
Solar panels and batteries
Back in the 1860s, scientists first started to become concerned that the Earth was close to running out of coal. In New York, the first ever solar panels were placed on rooftops in a daring and ultimately successful experiment to try to harness the power of the sun.
The technology developed slowly thereafter, again gaining impetus after the oil embargos and the energy crises of the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s saw the world wake up to the very real and imminent dangers caused by the burning of fossil fuels – global warming.
The race was on to develop the technology even as the first mass commercial solar power plants were built and plugged into national grids.
As the cost of solar panels plummeted in the following years, governments around the world decided to pay homeowners, business owners, and farmers money to incentivise them to install their own solar facilities. Concurrently, the science behind the solar panels developed at a real pace and the panels became better and better at converting sunlight into electricity.
How do solar panels work? They convert the light of the sun into an electric current using something called photovoltaics.
So, if you have solar panels installed at your home and it’s a clear day outside, your home will benefit from free electricity created by heat and light from the sun. In fact, if your solar panels are producing more electricity than you need, they pump that spare energy onto the National Grid and you get paid for it (that’s something called the feed-in tariff).
But what if it’s not sunny outside? And what if you want to keep back some or all of your excess electricity so you can use it for yourself, for example if there’s a power cut?
Until now, that’s been a problem.
We’ve all seen children play with their remote-control cars for hours powered by rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries allow you to power up the same battery unit again and again by using a special adaptor and a mains plug.
That’s great for remote-control cars but, unfortunately, you can’t power your home using a couple of small rechargeable double A batteries. You need something all together bigger.
Solar battery storage
Solar batteries are advanced enough to store a large amount of the spare energy that your solar panels create when it’s daylight. You can then use that spare energy to power your home when it’s night time or if it’s not a sunny day.
Experts consider solar battery storage units as the ultimate, state-of-the-art form in rechargeable batteries. Even TESLA, the company behind the electric cars, have launched their own solar battery storage system.
Solar battery storage system size, weight, and placement in your home
Solar battery storage systems are large additions to your home and you’ll need to create space for one. The systems can be as big as a dishwasher – that’s why most people have them installed in their kitchen.
The systems contain dozens of solar batteries contained inside them and these batteris store your excess energy once the panels on your roof have generated the electricity.
They can either be floor-standing or wall-mounted. Solar battery storage systems are designed to be kept indoors.
If you choose a unit which is floor-standing, it will generally be installed in your kitchen, occupying space that might otherwise be taken up by a washing machine or a tumble dryer.
For homeowners choosing a wall-mounted unit, they tend to look like the boiler control units you will already have installed on your wall.
Ultimately, where you place your solar battery unit is up to you. Although the kitchen is the most frequently used room, many other homeowners will choose a utility room, a garage (if connected to a house), a cupboard under the stairs, and so on.
Solar battery units generally weight from 50kg (equivalent to a bale of hay) to 200kg (equivalent to a gorilla!). Of course, how much the solar battery charging system you end up choosing weighs depends on the unit you choose to best fit your needs, the available space in your home, and the requirements you have of the equipment.
Solar battery storage installation and selection
Unless you’re an experienced and qualified electrician, do not try to fit the solar battery storage system yourself.
It’s better to bring an independent installer in from the start who can talk to you about what you want from your solar battery storage system.
From your discussion, your installer will help you choose a solar battery storage system with the correct voltage needed to connect it to your existing or future solar panels.
You then have a couple of choices about the solar battery storage system you choose. If you choose the more common DC battery system, it’s best to get them installed at the same time as your solar panels although an experienced electrician will be able to retrofit your solar battery storage system to any existing panels you have in most cases.
Alternatively, you can choose the AC solar battery storage system. These don’t connect direct to your panels, instead they connect via your electricity meter. If you choose this option, your installer will also need to fit a second inverter. The AC option is what installers generally recommend if you want to retrofit your solar battery storage system to your existing solar panels.
When you look for a solar battery storage system installer, make sure you choose one registered with the Renewable Energy Consumer Code.
Things to consider
Not every solar battery storage system is the same. Consult closely with a professional electrician to help select the right one for you and your circumstances.
Your installer is likely to run through the following options with you so that you make the right choice.
The first thing you’ll need to look at is capacity – as you might guess, this is how much energy your solar battery storage system can hold. Capacities range from 1.2kWh to 16kWH.
Second, consider the number of cycles under warranty. A solar battery storage system cycle is just like the battery cycle on your mobile phone. For solar battery storage systems, a cycle is a complete discharge of the batteries followed by a complete charge. If your battery discharges by 50% and then you recharge it again, this counts as half a cycle.
Some manufacturers provide an unlimited cycle guarantee. Most put a number of it though and the number ranges between 1,800 and 10,000 cycles.
Third is the kWH delivered under warranty. This is where your manufacturer guarantees the amount of electricity your solar battery storage system will produce over time. Figures range from 7,200 kWh to 80,000 kWh.
Fourth is the power output. This is how much electricity can be discharged from your solar battery storage system when you need to use it to power your home. With the current market-leading products, this can range from 1.2 kWh to 13.5 kWh. A good rule of thumb when selecting, other than the advice you get from your installer, is that the more electrical items you have in constant or near-constant use, the higher the power output number on your solar battery storage system should be.
Fifth, what warranty is given with your solar battery storage system? This can vary from five to ten years.
Sixth, the chemistry of the battery – either lithium or lead acid. Lead is cheaper but it doesn’t last as long as lithium. You may also be offered a saltwater solar battery storage system – however please be aware that, although this is promising technology, it is relatively untested in the home.
Solar battery storage system cost
When you’re selecting which solar battery storage system is right for your home, price will be an important consideration. Purchasing a system is an investment which is designed to pay you back over a number of years.
The units themselves can vary in price between £1,500 and £6,000. On top of that, you will have to factor in the cost of installation. Hiring your electrician to fit your new solar battery storage system may add between £500 and £1,500 to the total, depending on the complexity of the installation.
In terms of your time, your solar battery storage system will need maintenance (albeit quite low level) so that it continues to work as you want it to. There may be no monetary charge to this self-maintenance but there will be a small cost in time to you.
In this article, by way of illustration, let’s look at the costs associated with a Powervault solar battery.
Powervault is a British supplier of solar battery storage systems with an extensive network of installers.
Their G200 unit range retails from between £2,550 to £4,550. With a 10-year guarantee, it guarantees to produce 4,000 cycles as well as 16,000 kWH of electricity
What are the benefits of solar battery storage systems?
In the event of a power cut, your solar battery storage system will keep things running while the lights in the rest of the street remain off, waiting for an engineer to call.
Solar panels are a proven saver for 100,000s of British households, cutting billions of electricity bills every year. The addition of a solar battery storage system will increase the level of savings you’ll make, eventually having the chance to pay for itself.
When you sell electricity that you’ve produced to the National Grid, you do get paid on it but at a far lower rate than you purchase energy from your supplier. By preventing that energy from being distributed, you will enjoy the electricity for yourself at no cost.
Get in touch with a trusted installer
Household Quotes recommends both solar panels and solar battery storage systems because they save you money. It’s better for your money to be in your pocket and not the pockets of the Big 6 energy companies.