Grid-Tie Or Battery Based Solar Power Systems – Which is For You?
While electricity is equally useful regardless of how you get it, there are major differences between different solar power systems for homes. The decision regarding whether or not to use batteries is a major fork in the decision process in setting up your solar-powered home.
The grid-tie system is a highly popular choice for home solar power users. This system entails the use of solar cells and the utility grid as complimentary parts: when you are producing more electricity than you are consuming, you sell the extra power to the grid (aka, your utility company). When you are consuming more electricity than your solar cells are producing, you buy back the difference from the grid. Many public utilities are required by law to accept power fed into the grid, but this law is not universally applicable. Always check with your electric utility before connecting a solar panel roof to the grid. You not only need their permission, but a technician will also have to stop by your house and review your whole solar powered setup.
While grid-tie systems use the electric utility grid to soak up excess power or provide extra power when the solar roof isn’t enough, battery based systems also carry a bank of batteries as a backup in the event that the power grid fails. This type of system is more complicated — and more expensive — than a grid-tie system due to the extra hardware required. A battery-based system requires a different type of DC to AC converter in order to manage simultaneous connections to the power grid and a bank of batteries, in addition to the batteries themselves.
Trade-Offs Between Grid Versus Battery Supported Systems
In choosing between using and not using batteries as a backup power supply, the trade-off between extra cost and the ability to retain power in the home when the grid has failed is the key point. Costs for a battery system will differ depending on the size of the grid to be powered by batteries and the length of time your batteries will be required to be able to run your house. These two factors determine how big a battery bank you’ll need. A bank of batteries can cost anywhere between several hundred dollars into the thousands of dollars, depending on their type and storage capacity. $20,000 is about average, but you must talk to a certified local installer before you rule batteries out.
While it is possible to run your entire home off battery power when needed, you can choose to save costs by only using the batteries to power basic needs like lights, the refrigerator, and other basic appliances. If you’re willing to compromise a little, you can save a lot. You may also want to do a comprehensive review of how your house currently uses power. Solar power is expensive, and solar powered setups are, too. Switching to compact fluorescent lights and choosing appliances that aren’t energy hogs suddenly starts to look much better when you’re paying to create your own electricity.
Types of Batteries
If you do decide to go with a battery-back system, you’ll need to decide between wet-cell and sealed batteries. Due to their reduced need for maintenance, sealed batteries may be the better choice for many homeowners. In contrast to wet-cell batteries which need watering every few months (yes, just like cactus plants), sealed batteries are designed to be ignored until they are needed.
While a premium battery system can last longer than a bargain system, no battery will last forever. A run-of-the-mill set may need replacing every five years, and more expensive batteries can last for up to twenty years.
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