Kaitlin LindrosAugust 13, 20194080
Energy bills skyrocketing?
If you live in California or Arizona, where a time-of-use (TOU) billing structure is used by your utility company, you may find that power is the most expensive when you need it the most. And if you’re not in a time-of-use area, you may soon find yourself there, as more companies adopt this structure in the future.
Rather than throwing in the towel (or not, since you can't do laundry during peak energy hours) and letting energy companies win, why not go solar and add battery storage? You'll get lower costs and energy independence from big electric companies, plus all the benefits of clean, renewable solar energy.
Let’s paint the scene:
The typical family gets home around 4 or 5pm from school and work. The kids get on their electronics. You’re running the AC and appliances at full blast while you prepare dinner. Your significant other is watching TV. Maybe you throw in a load of emergency laundry before going to bed around 8 or 9pm.
Then you get your electric bill, and find that your rates have skyrocketed. What gives?
Time-of-Use (TOU) billing allows electric companies to charge you more during peak periods of electricity consumption, usually between 4-9pm, when most people are home and using energy. In summer months, using energy during on-peak times may cost you up to twice as much as usage during off-peak times.
This means that unless you do your laundry at 3am, or suffer through the summer afternoon heat the old-fashioned way, you’re probably going to see those high energy bills becoming the new normal.
The goal of TOU is to try and get you to change your energy habits and run appliances and devices during a lower demand period. However, changing one’s routine isn’t always a viable option for a busy family. Between school, work, soccer practice, and sleep, 4-9pm may be the only time you have to catch up on chores.
So what can you do to save on energy costs?
One solution is to go solar and add a battery to your system. Solar + storage can help you offset Time-of-Use energy costs and free you from rising energy rates.
Most people know that installing rooftop solar panels can reduce your electric bill. You generate solar energy from sunlight, and this energy is converted into electricity for your home, which means you’ll use less energy from the grid.
However, solar power does have one major drawback: you can’t generate energy when the sun isn’t shining. This means at night, you may still be needing the energy from grid, especially if you’re running the AC on high.
Enter battery storage.
Solar batteries allow you to store the solar energy produced during the day for use later. This means you’ll have backup power at night, or for emergencies, such as during a power outage.
A Solar-Plus-Storage system is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a solar system hooked up to battery storage, so you can charge your battery and have that backup power at the ready in your home.
Here are some of the ways that solar batteries can be used:
Offset time-of-use billing
Solar-Plus-Storage can allow you to store enough energy during the day that you won’t need to pull from the grid during expensive peak times after the sun sets, saving you from astronomical prices, without sacrificing your precious time or comfort.
In the event of a blackout, having stored backup power can keep your lights and other necessary equipment on. Have a relative that needs an oxygen machine? Or someone who is vulnerable to hot or cold temperatures? Have an at-home business you can’t afford to have offline? Solar + Storage can be your lifeline.
Utilize as much solar energy as possible
Sometimes your solar system generates more electricity than you use during the day, and you just want to make sure you’re getting all the use you can out of your energy. Storage allows you to use excess energy at night. Or, if there’s leftover energy, take advantage of net metering and sell it to the utility.
While this may require a bigger, more expensive battery, adding storage to your solar system can be a way to completely cut yourself free from utilities altogether by going off-grid.
Get energy independence and never worry about an electric bill again. You’ll protect yourself from rate hikes, time-of-use billing, changes to net metering policies, and all the other ways that the big utility companies may try to drain your wallet.
As you can see, solar storage can help improve your solar system in many ways. But the biggest use currently is to offset time-of-use peak charges. So if you are considering solar, and you live in a time-of-use area, a solar + storage system may be the best option for you.
There are two main categories of batteries used for home solar + storage to offset time-of-use billing: lithium-ion and lead acid.
Lithium-ion batteries, like those found in your laptop or phone, are the best option for efficiency, but they are also the most expensive for the time being, at about 50% more than lead acid batteries with the same amount of storage. Some popular brands of Li-ion batteries are the Tesla Powerwall, LG Chem, and the Panasonic Harbor portfolio of batteries.
Li-ion batteries are small and light, last the longest (4,00-6,000 cycles at 80-90% discharge, about 13-18 year lifespan), require no maintenance, and don’t need to be ventilated. This is the best option if you want to try going completely off-grid, or just get the most from your extra energy on a regular basis.
A 2018 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report on the U.S. storage market found that lithium-ion batteries represented more than 80% of the installed power and energy capacity of large-scale energy storage applications.
Lead acid batteries are the veterans of solar batteries. They are heavy and bulky, but tried and tested. These used to be the only true option for batteries, but are now being replaced by newer, more efficient technologies, like lithium-ion. However, they can still be a good, more affordable option for your grid-connected home, if you will mainly be using them as a backup power source.
You’ll want to make sure you have space for them, and keep them relatively cool. A battery shed is the best way to keep these. Lead-acid batteries have only 60% discharge, and a lower cycle life, so you’ll need to replace them after 2-8 years, depending on usage.
While batteries may not be the most affordable option currently, prices are falling and advances in technology are making this option more attractive for homeowners.
As utility rates rise and more electric companies adopt time-of-use billing, the need to become independent from the grid will make solar storage much more desireable.
With more utilities implementing TOU rates, more homeowners will want to look at solar battery storage as a more cost-effective solution for powering their home. While the cost of solar + storage may not have made financial sense for many homeowners in the past, the adoption of time-of-use billing (especially where the peak times are after sunset, once your solar system is no longer producing) has pushed solar + storage solutions to the point where they can be more economical than a regular solar PV system. And we predict that these solutions will only grow more affordable as time goes by.
Do you have time-of-use billing at home? Want to free yourself from the tyranny of the electric companies?
See how much you can save on rising energy costs with solar - use the HahaSmart Price Checker to get quotes today.
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High Energy Bills Got You Down? Make the Switch to Solar Today!