Upgrading your solar Energy system to work with battery storage

As solar feed-in tariffs drop far below the rates paid for grid electricity, a growing number of homeowners are looking for ways to cut bills by making better use of their excess solar power generation.

With no one home during the day to use your solar power, you might end up selling your excess solar energy to your electricity retailer at a lot less than the price which they then sell back to you at night.
Battery storage systems are an increasingly affordable solution for homeowners who want to reduce their reliance on grid power, or remove themselves from the grid entirely. If you’re considering adding batteries to your existing solar system and want to know more about the process, we’ve got you covered.

Does my solar system work with a battery?
Almost any solar system can be connected to battery storage. This means that even if you aren’t quite ready for storage just yet, simply buying solar today is still a risk free investment for the future of your home.

Selecting the right battery storage solution to work with your existing solar panels depends on several factors, including what feed-in tariff you’re currently on, and what you want to achieve with battery storage.

Your battery storage provider should know the ins and outs of your existing solar energy system before making a recommendation, otherwise they might sell you a system that works best for their bottom line, instead of a system that is built to last and suits your unique situation. Some of the essential questions your solar provider should ask about your existing solar energy system include:

  • What feed-in tariff are you on for your existing solar energy system?
  • How much solar energy did you send back to the grid over the last 12 months?
  • Is your property single-phase or three-phase electricity?
  • What is the total size of your existing solar panel array, and the capacity of your existing solar inverter?
  • What are you looking to achieve?

Can I upgrade my solar?
Yes, you can absolutely upgrade your solar, and in many cases that’s exactly what people do when they add battery storage to an existing solar energy system. You might consider upgrading or adding to your existing solar to make sure you are “load-shifting” or generating enough power to not only cover your daytime needs, but also your night-time needs too.

It’s important to know that upgrading or adding to your existing solar doesn’t necessarily mean your provider will physically touch or rewire your existing solar energy system. If they do, they are often obligated under various regulations to bring all of your existing system up to the most current electricity wiring standards (even if it working properly) which can potentially add thousands of unnecessary dollars to a system installation.

How long does a solar and battery storage system take to ‘payback’?
A well designed battery storage system that is combined with new solar panels will typically take between 6 and 12 years to payback. If anyone tells you their system will pay itself back significantly quicker than this, be warned – when something seems too good to be true, it often is!

Keep in mind that if you don’t add new solar panels with your battery storage system, the payback period will be longer. However, just like any major investment, you should consider the full range of benefits that battery storage can offer (not just the payback period) including:

  • Use more of your own solar energy.
  • Reduce your grid costs and reliance on grid electricity.
  • Have backup power in a blackout.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint with cleaner, greener energy use.
  • Reduce the impact of future electricity price increases.
  • Take your home entirely off grid

Will I be ‘off the grid’?
Yes, you can certainly take your whole home off grid if that’s what you want!
However in many cases, we find that most people opt for “grid-connect” battery storage systems that can provide the benefits of being 70 – 95% grid independent, but still have the grid there as a backup to dip into at your convenience. Where a grid connection is available to a property, the supply charge cost of having the grid as a backup often works out to a small price to pay for that extra bit of electricity security.

If you do want to get off the grid, keep in mind that your solar and battery storage system needs to be bigger and beefier than a grid-connect system to make sure you have power at all times, including during periods of bad weather, or at times of high energy use.

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