Solar offers a host of benefits beyond helping you reduce your carbon footprint, such as reducing the amount you pay for utilities. Installing panels on your roof puts you one step closer to being in control of the electricity that powers your home.
One of the biggest decisions homeowners have to make is whether they want a standard grid-tied system, a battery backup solar system, or one that combines both (known as a hybrid solar system). Here are some things to consider when comparing hybrid solar panels with typical grid-connection or off-grid options.
What is a Hybrid Solar System?
A hybrid solar system combines traditional, grid-connected panels with backup home batteries to store excess power. The sun’s energy is absorbed by the panels and is then converted into usable electricity through an inverter. From there, electricity goes in one of three directions: it either powers your home or business, gets stored in a battery, or is sent back to the grid.
One benefit of a hybrid solar system is that you’ll have power at all times. A backup battery stores the excess energy that your panels produce, so you can use it later. You can then use that stored energy to power your home or appliances when the sun isn’t shining, like at night or during blackouts. With a hybrid solar system, you can use up all the power in your battery and then draw more energy from the electrical grid if needed.
A hybrid solar system sends energy from your panels to an inverter, which then distributes power to your home. Your home battery stores any extra energy your system generates but doesn’t use. This battery can store power for use when your panels aren’t producing enough energy. After all of those steps, if there is still extra energy available it will be stored to full capacity before being sent back to the grid. In California specifically, the ability to store and use your energy when your system isn’t producing, is becoming more and more important as the CPUC and our local utilities are proposing drastic reductions in export rates. The ability to generate and use your own energy is the way of the future.
Why Would You Choose a Grid-Tied Solar System?
A growing number of companies are manufacturing home solar batteries as off-grid solar technology becomes increasingly advanced every year. If you install battery storage along with your photovoltaic (PV) solar system, you can store excess electricity when it is produced and use it on cloudy days, during power outages, etc.
In theory, this means you could completely disconnect from your utility for electricity. However, in most cases grid-tied systems are generally more practical, especially if you live in an area with a large difference between seasons or extremes of weather.
Most energy storage batteries designed for home use, like the SunPower SunVault, are meant to store the energy generated during daylight hours so that it can be used at night or a later time. This can reduce your electricity bill and your reliance on utility electricity by storing any excess solar power at home instead of feeding it back into the grid.
To avoid losing power for an extended period during a winter snowstorm or multiple cloudy days, you would need to install a very large system, have plenty of storage capacity and a significant financial investment to install it. Although going off the grid with batteries is technically doable, it’s rarely cost-effective when compared to the benefits of having a grid-tied system.
Can You Go Off-Grid With Your Solar Panels?
When you’re completely off-grid, your only source of energy will be a battery or backup generator compared to hybrid solar systems that can draw power from the battery and the grid as well. An off-grid system may seem like a good idea if you want total control of your power generation, but you’ll have to manage energy usage and power consumption carefully to avoid running out of backup battery power.
If you overuse the stored energy from your hybrid solar system or there is inclement weather for a few days and your panels don’t produce enough energy, then you can use the power supplied from the grid connection until you’re able to generate more yourself. If you do not have this backup option, you could be left without electricity in the event of a storm or extended power outage.
How Much Does a Hybrid Solar System Cost?
In the United States, most homes can be powered by a 6kW solar system and it costs an average of $12,600 after applying the federal tax credit. Solar panel system costs will vary based on where you live, who installs the panels (solar contractor), and how much power your home uses.
For hybrid solar systems, the backup battery is what raises the cost. A new one typically costs around $8,000 and needs to be replaced every 10 years or so. However, if you have a backup battery, your home will always be powered—so ultimately, it’s up to you whether having peace of mind is worth the cost.
What Is A Battery Ready System?
A ‘battery ready’ system replaces the typical string solar inverter with a more robust hybrid one. The majority of modern hybrid inverters come equipped with a battery charger and connection built-in, which makes it easy to add a home battery down the road if necessary.
However, it’s worth noting that hybrid inverter systems are more expensive and if you don’t add batteries during the installation process, finding compatible equipment may become difficult as technology advances.
When Do Hybrid Solar Systems Make Sense?
For most solar homeowners in the United States, it makes sense to maintain a connection to your local utility company. However, even if you don’t choose to go fully off-grid, installing a battery backup with your PV system and using hybrid solar is still an option.
Here are some situations where hybrid solar systems make the most sense for home and business owners:
You’re Not Eligible for Net Metering
If your utility doesn’t have a good policy to compensate customers whose systems generate excess solar electricity that goes back to the grid, solar + battery storage systems can be very beneficial. For example, some utility companies don’t offer retail rate net metering for solar, which means you won’t receive a full bill credit for the electricity your system sends back to the grid.
For homeowners in California, the current net metering 2.0 means that they will be enrolled in time-of-use rates with their utility company. The value of the credits you receive for your electricity will vary depending on when it’s sent back to the grid—power sent back to the grid during peak hours usually results in higher credits. In both cases, you can store excess solar energy at home and draw on it when necessary, even if you’re still connected to the grid. As mentioned previously, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and our local utilities are proposing drastic changes to net metering and export rates, that could result in more than a 75% reduction in savings for solar customers. These changes could take effect as early as April 2023, so it is important for California home and business owners to lock in NEM-2 rates before these changes take place.
You Have Peak Electricity Rates
Even if your utility company allows net metering, installing a hybrid solar system can still make sense in an effort to maximize off-peak electricity prices. As a result, when your solar panels overproduce energy, you can store it in the grid or in your home batteries depending on whether peak pricing applies. You can then pull electricity from the grid only when prices are below market average (at off-peak times).
For example, during the summer when solar panel production is high but so is home energy use, you can choose to store all excess electricity in your home batteries. This can make your home less reliant on grid-based electricity at peak times when prices surge.
You Want Protection From Power Outages
In addition to making it easier for you to manage your solar electricity generation and use at home, a storage battery can provide backup power in the event of a power outage. If you’re already installing a photovoltaic (PV) solar system, including a battery to power your home or business during outages and blackouts can be more cost-effective than installing a backup generator.
Investing in a Home Solar + Energy Storage System
While most homeowners can’t go completely off the grid, going solar remains a strong investment as storage technologies become cheaper every year.
To determine if a SunPower SunVault or Tesla Powerwall home battery is right for your home energy needs, our certified Solar Technologies representatives can answer all your questions. If you’re ready to change the way you power your home and start saving more with solar, contact us today for a free customized quote.