If you live in an area that experiences frequent power outages, you already understand the importance of backup generators. They provide a layer of security and comfort for your family and ensure you are always prepared for a disaster. Home battery backup systems can provide a lot of the same benefits, but can have different drawbacks.
There are a range of backup generators on the market that rely on different power sources. Traditional backup generators are fuel-based and reliable. An increasing number of people, however, are looking into home battery backup systems such as the Tesla PowerWall as an alternative. For stronger protection, some people opt for a combination of solar and electric power, or even solar, electric, and fuel-based power.
What type of generator you buy depends on your individual circumstances. If you experience short but frequent outages, a home battery backup system could be the best option. If you experience longer outages, you may need a traditional standby generator. Some homes are entirely off the grid and may require a generator that relies on fuel, battery power, and solar energy. Consider your household’s energy consumption patterns and your biggest needs during a power outage when making a decision.
Fuel-powered standby generators
Traditional standby generators are powered by natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel. When power from the electrical grid shuts off, the generator automatically taps into a fuel source and starts up, bringing power back to your home. This is the most common type of backup generator out there. If you live in an area that experiences extended power outages lasting more than a few hours, traditional fuel-powered generators may be the safest bet.
Fuel-powered generators offer several advantages over home battery backup power. They are reliable and able to provide power in all weather conditions. Though they may cost a few hundred dollars a year to maintain, fuel-powered generators have the lowest upfront cost. For a medium-sized home, costs range from $7,000 to $15,000.
This type of generator carries a few disadvantages. In addition to the money you will need to put into maintaining the generator, you will also need to exercise the generator once a week. Fuel-powered engines can be noisy and less environmentally-friendly than other options. Additionally, if you own an electric vehicle, you would not be able to charge it during a power outage.
Though reliable under most circumstances, fuel-powered generators may be prone to breakdowns under extensive usage. Additionally, in extreme weather, the source of fuel may be vulnerable. Fuel-powered generators require truck delivery of propane or diesel or natural gas supply lines, both of which may be hindered in a disaster. Therefore, if you live in an area prone to natural disasters, you might consider options that don’t rely on fuel.
Home battery backup systems
Home batteries like the Tesla PowerWall connect to the electrical grid rather than fuel sources, providing clean and easily-accessible power. Quiet, smooth, and effective, batteries are an excellent option for homeowners who experience frequent outages of a short duration, typically anywhere from a few hours to one day. Investing in a home battery backup system is a lot like investing in an electric car: the initial investment is higher, but they are easy to maintain and inexpensive to operate. Rather than paying for fuel to power the engine, batteries store energy from the electrical grid, which is much less expensive.
Additionally, if prices for your utilities tend to cost less at certain times of the day or week, you could use backup batteries to save money. Simply charge the home battery backup system when the utility prices are low. When prices are high, use the battery system instead of the main grid and watch your utility bill go down. Relying on the electrical grid also means less fuel is released into the atmosphere, making home battery backup systems even more attractive to environmentally-conscious homeowners. The lack of fuel also means the air around you remains free of pollutants, benefiting the health of your family.
Though home batteries have a lot of advantages, there are also some drawbacks. In addition to the higher upfront cost of about $10,000 to $20,000 for a medium-sized home, most batteries can only run for a short period of time. Unless a large battery system is installed, they can support critical loads for only about a day. To last more than a few hours, home energy consumption may need to be reduced. For instance, air condition or heating may have to be sacrificed in order to avoid draining the battery too quickly.
Electric and solar home battery backup systems
Some home battery backup systems rely not just on power stored from the electrical grid, but also from solar power. This type of backup system combines some of the advantages of fuel-powered and battery-powered backup generators. They are ideal for homeowners who want to protect their home against extended power outages in an economically- and environmentally-friendly fashion.
Partially solar-powered batteries have a wide range of advantages. They are just as smooth, quiet, and easy to maintain as home battery backup systems. If you use them to avoid high variable costs of utilities, you will notice a significant reduction in your utility energy bill throughout the year.
Unlike batteries that rely entirely on the electrical grid, though, solar power allows the batteries to last over an extended period of time. They are also even more environmentally-friendly than traditional battery power. If you own an electric car, solar and electric powered batteries can economically provide some energy for charging an electric vehicle during a power outage.
There are some disadvantages associated with a home battery backup combined with residential solar array. Solar-powered batteries also have a higher upfront cost of $20,000 to $40,000 for medium-sized homes. They may require homeowners to limit power consumption during an extended outage. Sometimes, they may also not provide enough energy to meet all of the household demand. Overcast days reduce solar energy production because they block the sun’s rays from hitting the solar panels. You may have to reduce air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems to meet demand.
The ultimate protection against power outages
Some power outages may last days, weeks, or even months. In certain cases, homes may be entirely off-grid. For the ultimate protection against extended power outages, the best system combines all three power sources: solar, battery, and fuel-based. We’re talking about a home battery backup system combined with a residential solar array and a standby generator powered by natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel. The combined energy of these power sources offers the best protection against power outages available on the market.
Solar, electric, and fuel-powered battery backup systems provide continuous power in all weather conditions. They are quiet and inexpensive to operate. Unlike traditional systems, they can economically provide energy for charging an electric vehicle during a power outage. They can also reduce your utility energy bill throughout the year by allowing you to store energy when utility prices are low. In comparison with traditional, fuel-powered backup generators, they have a positive environmental impact. Additionally, they function indefinitely, even off the power grid, and very rarely malfunction or breakdown.
All of these advantages entail a higher upfront cost of $30,000 to $50,000 for a medium-sized home. Though some of the cost may be recouped over time through the money saved, it is still a significant investment. Additionally, this type of backup generator must be exercised weekly in order to be properly maintained. For some homeowners, however, the security and comfort that comes with consistent, year-round protection from outages is worth the money and effort.
Evaluating your home backup needs
When trying to decide which home battery backup system is best for your house, carefully consider how you are most likely to use it. Does your area experience frequent outages of a short duration or longer but less frequent outages? Are you able to afford a high upfront cost, or is a lower initial price tag important to you? Is choosing an option that has a positive impact on the environment a priority for you, or are you more concerned with the economic value of the product?
If you want a less expensive, high-performing backup generator that will last during extended outages, the traditional, fuel-based backup generator may be your best bet. Electric-powered backup batteries are a good option for homeowners who experience frequent outages that last only a few hours. If you want the advantages of battery-powered backup generators but experience outages of a longer duration, you may want to consider partially solar-powered or solar- and fuel-powered options. Ultimately, you are the best judge of which backup power system is best for your home.
Before you make your decision, first evaluate how your household uses power. Check your electric bill to see how much energy your family uses in a day at different times of the year. Then consider whether you would be willing and able to cut back on energy consumption if necessary during an outage – for instance, would you be willing to turn off the AC or the heater? If so, how much energy would you need per day? Understanding how you consume power will help you make the right call when finding a backup generator system that meets your energy consumption needs during an outage.
Use AlltimePower’s backup generator pricing tool to learn how much you’ll need to spend on a standby generator and have dealers compete to give you the best price!