To help with your decision, we will break down common
terms used to describe battery storage for solar power.
1) Plug and Play
Plug and play solar kits are like a DIY solar power system - plug in and get solar energy! You order your solar kit, unpack it and then wire it to your fused electricity unit...pretty simple! However, the new generation of residential storage systems, while being promoted as “plug and play” may actually require the right equipment to plug into including the right solar inverter (see below).
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2) Solar Inverters and Battery Storage
The role of a solar inverter in a conventional solar power system is to turn power generated by solar panels into suitable energy for use in your home or for exporting to the mains grid. To allow a solar power storage system to be properly installed, your solar inverter needs to be able to route the electricity generated by the solar panels into the battery for charging or from the mains grid power. Most solar inverters installed in Australia are not able to perform this function, nor can they be upgraded. So when you’re looking to go solar, or upgrade your system look at for a package that includes a fully compatible solar inverter so you don’t need to buy a whole new system if you are looking to use storage batteries for power.
3) Battery Upgradeable
Your current power storage may be upgradeable, and you may also be able to continue using your panels, the solar panel mounting system and wiring. However, while many systems can be upgraded to run with batteries for solar power storage you may still be required to purchase a replacement/additional inverter or other equipment. It is very important to ask a solar company, exactly what is meant by “battery upgradeable” and whether you will need to pay for any equipment upgrades.
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4) Battery ‘ready’ Solar Panel Systems
As well as having a compatible inverter, a truly battery ‘ready’ solar power system will need to have a power meter already installed. A power meter is a bidirectional device that optimises self-consumption of solar generated electricity and records the household’s energy production and usage patterns. The power meter is not only important as part of a battery system, but also in the lead-up to it being installed as it will indicate the amount of storage capacity required and help confirm if a battery system will be a wise investment.
If you’re new to the solar world, ask your solar installer about installing a ‘battery ready’ solar power system. This allows you to still have a grid-connected system installed, but it will be set up so it’s easy to attach batteries if and when you want them.
The system with batteries would then be called a ‘hybrid’. A hybrid system is really the best of both worlds:
- You get the guaranteed electricity supply of the grid PLUS
- The ability to store your excess solar energy for use when the sun isn’t shining
- You can also switch over to your own battery reserves if the grid goes down.