Is home battery storage a case of first in, worst dressed?

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As a new and emerging market, evaluating the most cost effective home battery option is difficult. With a plethora of different battery types and sizes available and all with varying performance capabilities, it can be difficult to even know where to begin. 

While purchasing a home battery is a costly investment, they are designed for long term performance, – with a general performance warranty of up to ten years. To ensure you get the best financial return for your home battery, it is imperative that a home battery system is perfectly sized for your needs. 

So where should you begin?

Know the facts

On top of sizing, there are a number of different criteria and “watch outs” that must be considered when choosing a home battery. 

Firstly, it’s imperative to be wary of potentially dishonest tactics from the battery providers themselves. Taking advantage of consumers lack of understanding, some service providers capitalise and profit from this knowledge gap. In layman’s terms, if it sounds too good to be true in the solar battery world –  it most likely is. 

Consumers need to be cautious not only of the battery type, but also the terms and conditions of use attached to the battery. For example, some battery suppliers lock in expensive energy retail plans on the back of the battery itself. Battery storage, unlike solar panels, is still a very immature market which has not yet undergone the merging of technology types towards an agreed “best of breed” platform.

Unfortunately, some energy retailers and even some battery providers, will sell a previous generation “discounted” home battery in exchange for the consumer allowing them to have a level of control over the battery, so the retailer can remotely control the battery for their own financial gain.

As retailers and providers sell that home battery load back into the energy market, consumers are then ‘rewarded’ with mere cents in the dollar, while the retailers cream off significant additional profit.

As a default, home battery resellers will generally try to sell consumers the biggest home battery possible. Afterall, a bigger battery generates them more profit. Therefore it is imperative for the consumer to correctly identify the right sized battery for their needs. An incorrectly sized home battery will be significantly more costly upfront and may never generate a financial gain. 

You can’t recommend a home battery without household power data

The only way to accurately size a home battery to a house is to monitor and assess how and when the home uses and generates energy. Battery resellers simply don’t have access to this household power data – most homeowners don’t even have access to this energy data either as its not available from your energy bills.

A detailed assessment of a home’s energy data would reveal how and when a home generates its solar power, along with the frequency and amount of grid power it imports. The assessment then uses this unique energy profile to recommend the exact size of the home battery for the home.

Without data, homeowners are at the mercy of profit driven sales people. Any battery sales person not collecting this data ahead of providing a battery recommendation should be avoided.

Make the most out of your battery storage

When it comes to household batteries – size really does matter. The best way to extract the most out of your home battery is to fully charge and discharge it daily. If your current solar system does not generate enough excess solar generation to fully charge your battery and your grid usage is not sufficient to discharge your battery overnight, then you have likely over-invested in a battery that is too big for your needs. 

An oversized battery will end up costing you more money over the life of the battery than if you had simply not purchased a battery at all. 

Important “watch outs” to note 

Firstly, be wary of home battery resellers that offer battery packages that cannot monitor your home, solar generation and grid usage. The common sales tactic, “pump and dump” is used by those looking to make a quick buck, by offering an unqualified basket of goods in return. 

Secondly, be aware of “low ball” package offers. Much like a ‘phone and contract’ combo, they may discount the home battery upfront, but will either take control of the battery load for their own profit, reducing the value of the battery to the householder, or lock you into expensive energy plans to claw back any “discount” offered. Essentially, giving with one hand and taking away even more with the other. 

Last, but not least, refute offers from battery management service providers promising “grid credits” where you get a fixed dollar value per kWh used from your battery. Today these providers will pay as low as 8 percent of the value they generate from your battery, the other 92 percent is taken by them.

What about other options?

At a residential level, there are no alternatives for solar batteries. Currently, Australia has so much solar that it is actually driving up energy prices due to excessive midday solar power, which is then followed by no solar and increased energy demand when householder return home from work.

Batteries are still required in order to not only store this solar energy, but also support more solar deployment across the country. Therefore, the only way to capture the highest level of renewable energy without increasing power prices is to adopt battery storage. 

While the popularity of home batteries continues to rise, it is imperative that consumers remain vigilant and independently assess the best home battery for their needs.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.