March 29, 2023
Home battery backup is helping homeowners keep their lights on during power outages, save money on energy bills, and lower their carbon emissions. Depending on how much backup power you need, you could install anywhere from one to twelve (or even more!) batteries. So how do you determine how many are right for you? When you partner with Haven Energy, we’ll take the guesswork out of deciding what size battery system is right for your home and energy usage. We’ll assist with every step of the process so you get the best storage solution for your needs. In this post, we’ll give you a foundation to help you understand everything that goes into sizing your battery backup system.
First, let's talk about the ways in which battery size is calculated: storage capacity and load capacity.
Storage capacity: This indicates how much energy a battery can hold and is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kWh is a measure of how much energy you use. It's equal to the amount of power you'd use if you kept a 1,000-watt appliance running for an hour. So a 2,000-watt oven would use one kWh of energy in 30 minutes of operation. A typical battery system has about 13 kWh of storage capacity.
Load capacity : This measures how much power a battery can send out and depends on the conditions of the power grid. Capacity is measured in kilowatts, which is different from a kilowatt-hour! A kilowatt is a unit of power equal to 1,000 watts.
The size of the battery system you need depends on a number of factors.
To size your battery system appropriately, you need to understand how much energy you use. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), American households used 886 kWh a month on average in 2021. That can vary a lot depending on the size and location of your home, though. Homes on the Pacific coast used an average of 655 kWh per month, compared to 1,147 kWh for homes in the central Southeast.
Understanding your average energy usage will help you judge how much electricity you might need during a power outage, for instance.
If you pair battery storage with solar panels, you need to know how much electricity your panels produce. That will give you an idea of how much electricity you need to be able to store in your battery system. You can also install battery backup without solar panels. In this case, your battery will charge from the grid, so solar system output won't matter for you.
People install battery storage for different reasons. Your personal goals will help determine the size of the system you need. We'll talk more about this in the next section.
Haven will help you navigate the battery backup process from start to finish. Get a quote today.
From backup power to lowering your carbon footprint at home, batteries serve a variety of functions. And the size of your batteries will vary depending on the primary goal of your storage system.
If your main goal is keeping your lights on during a power outage, a single battery will likely be able to provide enough backup. If you're concerned about longer power outages (e.g., multi-day outages), you would likely choose more backup storage.
On the other hand, if your main objective is saving money on your electric bills, you'll need more storage capacity. To maximize savings, you should consider a solar-plus-storage system, which would allow you to generate power on sunny days and then tap into your stored energy in the evening, when rates are high, and at night, when no solar generation is possible. During these latter periods, you'll need enough storage capacity to cover all of your energy needs.
In order to go totally off the grid, you'll need to cover all of your energy needs through solar panels and battery storage. That said, even with a robust number of batteries, complete energy independence usually requires having backup power for backup power, like generators.
As we've already discussed, the amount of required battery storage will vary depending on your needs and goals. But there are two factors to consider that can help you estimate how many batteries to install.
This is the electrical load mentioned earlier – it's the power required to run the appliances in your home. You'll see this on your monthly utility bill as the energy you consumed during a billing period.
Whatever your goal for battery storage, you need to know the electrical load that you must meet with battery storage:
To estimate your electrical load, you need to determine the demand of the appliances you want to power. In other words, you need their wattage.
The US Department of Energy has an energy use calculator that can help you estimate your total electricity demand. You can select an appliance from the dropdown menu to get the average wattage for that appliance, then add it to the wattage for your other appliances.
In reality, you're not going to turn on all of your appliances at once. Your washing machine, for instance, doesn't run constantly like your refrigerator does. But you can calculate your personal peak demand including those sometimes-used appliances to know the upper limit of the electrical load you need to cover.
The amount of time you need to power your electrical load will depend on your primary battery storage goal:
To estimate how much storage capacity you'll need,** multiply your electric load by the number of hours you need to power that load.** This will give you a ballpark figure.
Let's calculate an example using the Department of Energy's calculator. The average refrigerator has a wattage of 225. It runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but let's say that you have solar panels to cover 8 of those hours every day. So you'd need battery storage to cover 225 watts of power for 16 hours a day, every day of the year. That means you'd need to cover 410.6 kWh of electricity for your refrigerator every year, or 1.1 kWh a day.
Yes. You can power your house with a single battery, but not for an extended period of time. You could keep your lights on during a power outage, for example, but you couldn't go completely off the grid on a single battery.
How long your battery backup protection will last during a power outage relies on several factors. If you charge your battery from the grid, for instance, you have a finite amount of back-up power. If you have a solar-plus-storage system, you essentially have an “energy island.” Your solar panels continue to generate electricity, which recharges your battery and lets you keep drawing power.
The number of appliances you use will also affect how long your backup power lasts. If you try to run everything just as usual, you'll deplete your stored power in a few hours. If you run only the most critical appliances, you can make your backup power last a lot longer.
To learn more about sizing your battery system or to better understand the benefits of home batteries, get a quote here or give us a call to speak with a Haven consultant. We'll help you figure out the best option for your exact situation and be there to support you every step of the way.
Your storage needs could depend on the type of electricity rate you have:
On a flat rate (i.e., you pay the same for electricity no matter the time of day), you should aim to use as little energy from the grid as possible – that means covering more of your energy needs with solar and storage.
Time-of-use (TOU) rates
On a variable, or time-of-use (TOU) rate, you'll want to make sure you have enough storage to get through peak pricing times. You may also want to check whether your utility offers arbitrage, which means that you can sell extra stored energy back to the grid during peak times at a higher price than usual. If so, it could be worth installing a little extra storage. Just note that there will probably be an arbitrage cap that limits how much stored energy you can sell back to the grid.