Six tips for buying a solar-powered battery

Thinking of getting a solar-powered battery for your home or business to protect you from the next power outage? Here’s six tips to help you figure it all out. For deeper dives:

Solar-powered batteries can let you keep — and use — all of your solar energy

Depending on its size, a battery storage system installed at your home or business stores all that extra solar energy you make during the day. When the sun goes down, you use the energy from the battery, not the utility.

Solar-powered batteries can keep your power on during the next power outage

A solar-powered battery lets you keep your most important appliances and lights running during a power outage.

Solar-powered batteries are getting cheaper and better

The price of batteries is falling, utilities are increasing evening rates, and some incentives are available.

But as always, do your homework before making the investment.

1. What is your reason for getting solar-powered battery?

Are you affected by increasing “Time of Use” evening rates?

Recently, the utilities began raising rates in the evening. If this is causing your electricity bill to increase a lot, you may be a good candidate for adding battery storage.

However, this also depends on how much electricity you use in the evening. If you don’t use much, then you may not be affected much by increasing evening rates. 

Are blackouts or Flex Alerts a big concern for you?

If these events cause serious problems for your household, then batteries might be a worthwhile investment.

2. Determine if you are eligible for the state and federal incentives

Federal tax credit

You may be eligible for a federal tax credit of 30% the cost of a battery system. If you do not have an income, you may not be eligible for this credit. Learn more about how to claim the Federal ITC

State rebate

California offers a rebate for a portion of the cost a battery storage system, if you are considered by the state to be either low-income or with special medical needs, and will use the battery for daily energy use, not as a backup. A good installer will be able to help you determine your eligibility, and will also handle the rebate paperwork. Details about the Self-Generation Incentive Program.

3. Which net metering program are you on?

Getting a battery can have a different value depending on if you are on the older versions of net metering (NEM1 or NEM2), or the new program (NEM3). While NEM3 overall made getting solar more expensive, it does increase the compensation you get for sharing the extra energy stored in your battery.

Getting a battery won’t change your net metering status. But knowing which NEM program you are on can make a difference in calculating your return on investment. A good solar installer should be able to explain this clearly to you.

4. Noodle around the internet to get a sense of what kind of battery products are out there

Check out the websites of some of the leading battery installation companies. EnergySage has a buyers’ guide that can help. Solar Rights Alliance does not provide product endorsements.

5. Get an estimate from the company that installed your solar system. 

If you already have solar, give your installer a ring and ask if they also install battery systems. If they do, have them come out and give you an estimate.

In many cases, only the company that installed your solar system can install the battery. That’s because putting in a battery requires some modifications to your solar system. Your solar company can only really honor the warranty on our solar system if they can be assured that they are the ones making modifications.

This isn’t always the case, so read your warranty to be sure and check with your solar company.

If your solar company is no longer in business (and was not taken over by another company), or you are dissatisfied with the work your original installer did, then you might consider reaching out to other solar companies. If you do, it’s good to keep this in mind:

  • Get three bids at minimum.
  • Make sure the company’s contractor license is in good standing, with no pending actions. Look up a contractor.
  • Make sure the installer has experience with battery storage, or has been doing solar installations for awhile.
  • Make sure the installer is a member of CALSSA, the state solar industry association.
  • Make sure the installer is certified by NABCEP.

6. Expect some delays and complexity

Barry Cinnamon, owner of Cinnamon Energy Systems and host of The Energy Show podcast says that installers should provide accurate estimates for the installation of a battery storage system and prepare customers for some possible uncertainties:

  • Delays: The utilities often slow-walk the process of interconnecting your new storage system to the grid. And the state is often slow in cutting your storage rebate check. 
  • Electrical wiring issues: Wiring the backup subpanel and connecting some of the parts to your electric panel can be tricky and expensive depending on the location of circuits in the house and the age of your electric system. Installers should provide an accurate estimate for this work.
  • Your payback period: Remember that your energy habits may change over time, and your installer’s estimate relies on your current habits. 

Got other tips and advice to share with your fellow solar people? Send us a tip to [email protected].

More reading

« Back to blog home