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Choosing the Best Solar Battery Backup System

There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to a home battery back-up solutions. You can even incorporate them into your existing solar system!

It can be overwhelming if you’re searching for home battery back-up solar options for the first time. Here’s a brief introduction to today’s solar with battery market. We will be comparing a few popular options below.

Battery options have been available for decades now, however, the popularity has soared in recent years with price drops in Lithium-Ion technology.

I remember the excitement when the LG Chem RESU was first introduced for sale by our local vendors. It wasn’t the first commercially available home battery compatible with solar. There were others on the market. What made this option first was the reasonable price and that it was readily available. Finally, a home back-up battery option was available and affordable for our everyday solar customers.

This LG Chem was in direct competition with Tesla. With very similar specifications and features, the one huge advantage of the LG Chem was that it was readily available. Even today, many hopeful Tesla customers are waiting for their Tesla home batteries. At Sbrega Electric, we are not Tesla partners. However, we don’t have anything against Tesla home batteries in particular. For the sake of this example, the LG Chem is very similar to the Tesla PowerWall.

These two have shared the market for the last few years. They’re both similar in price, warranty, power, and storage. We have many clients with LG Chem battery back-up solar systems. We pair them with Solar Edge inverters, which use tried and true, dependable technology with good tech support. It was a while before a second LG Chem battery expansion pack was available. Today, you can pair (2) together for more storage.

New arrivals on the scene are also high quality with great warranties and reputations. However, there are some advantages with these new arrivals. For one, module battery components are making installation easier, and future expansion simpler.

The much anticipated Enphase Ensemble is finally available. These are module units, which make expanding power and storage very easy. They offer 3 kWh (1.3kW) and 10 kWh (3.8kW) modules. We can compare the prices in detail, but to keep it simple: every system mention here costs around the same price… with the exception of the Enphase Ensemble. These do cost a little more than their competitors, with a margin significant enough to mention. But the quality and features are quite impressive!

Enphase uses premium Lithium-Ferro-Phosphate (LFP or “Lithium-Iron”) technology in their batteries. These are by far the safest batteries in production, and the most efficient. That said, many other companies are switching to this technology.

They also “AC Couple” well with the solar array’s Enphase micro-inverters, offering direct power from the sun during the day. As long as you have Enphase model (generation) IQ-6, IQ-7 or IQ-8, you can add this storage solution to your existing Enphase system rather easily. Enphase is one of the most popular solar option, so this is great news for existing Enphase homeowners.

The next two also use module components, making storage expansion easy. These inverters are nearly twice as powerful, and have large “surge” capabilities. This means starting a well pump, large AC or other heavy appliance is no longer a problem.

The dominant and most reputable generator manufacturer (Generac) decided to move into the battery back-up solar industry in a very major way. For those of us keeping up with the latest technology, such as us here at Sbrega Electric, we were delighted to hear of an exciting acquisition in 2019. Generac acquired a favored inverter company named Pika from Maine, USA. Pika was tried and tested around the world with battery-back-up and off-grid systems. Its reputation since its inception in 2010 has been second to none in its industry category.

Generac paired Pika’s inverter with a proprietary battery cabinet, powered by Panasonic Lithium-Ion batteries, similar to Tesla. With impressive power and storage capabilities, LG and Tesla were instantly outmatched. Generac’s legendary load management allows more than one large device to operate “off-grid” (during a power outage). This makes it unique, forcing their competitors to play catch-up. The new outdoor cabinet option has also opened up design possibilities. Using high-voltage technology, the battery cabinet can be stored far away from the inverter without a problem.

Our final consideration is a seven-year-old emerging company in Texas, USA called Sol-Ark. This inverter uses 48V technology, which opens up versatile battery options. You can literally configure car batteries together if you had to (qualified electricians only!). Because of the lower voltage, you do have to install the batteries close to the inverter.

The Sol-Ark pairs well with Simpliphi, which are Lithium-Ferro-Phosphate (LFP or “Lithium-Iron”) batteries. As mentioned, these are by far the safest batteries in production, and the most efficient. Although pricey, as LFP technology tends to be, these batteries are of the highest quality, warranty, and reputation. They also offer a built-in advanced Battery Management System (BMS) in their latest AmpliPHI model, specifically designed to pair with the Sol-Ark inverter.

Simpliphi recently came out with a cabinet line that fits the inverter and the batteries nicely into one clean, heavy-duty outdoor unit. The Sol-Ark is also the only option here that can be EMP hardened. It also delivers the most power, highest power surge capability, integrated generator hook-up, AC coupling (i.e. incorporate another solar inverter), among other features that make it unique in its category. From our research, it’s overall the most efficient and versatile system on the market today.

Any of these systems are incredibly capable of providing clean energy to offset your PGE bill, and offer reliable automatic transfer to battery power in the event of a power outage. We sell Solar Edge w/ LG Chem, Enphase Ensemble, Generac PWRcell, and Sol-Ark w/ Simpliphi custom-designed systems for solar battery back-up. We are certified specialist design & installation partners with each of these companies.

Certain home-owners fit better with one system or the other, depending on their needs and expectations. Call us today if you’d like a free design and proposal that will fit your specific situation. We’d be happy to go over all of these options in detail!

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