08/16/2022

Residential Emergency Generators vs Electric Battery Storage for Your Home: Evaluating the Options

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5 Min. Read

It makes sense to consider backup power sources in geographies where the power grid is susceptible to outages that can complicate your life. The two most common options are emergency generators and electric battery storage. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

This article will dive into detail in comparing the pros and cons of each system and tell you more about how Qmerit can help.

Upfront and operating costs

First, electric battery storage systems are based on proven technology and are highly reliable. While batteries have been used for 200 years, technology has advanced tremendously in recent years. Lithium-ion batteries have changed the game completely.

Generators, such as internal combustion engines, have also been around for a long time.

However, they are both significant investments. A typical battery backup system will cost between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on the electrical load of your house and the duration of backup desired. Mainly, the cost to operate is based on your cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity and the time and frequency of charging.

On the other hand, a backup generator will run between $7,000 and $15,000, depending on the electrical loads covered and the amount of electricity to be generated. If you run it on diesel fuel, that will cost you $5.72 per gallon at current prices, with the total cost depending on running time. Most emergency generators run on natural gas or propane.

In addition, generators require an outdoor slab to rest on and must be secured to prevent theft. Batteries can mount on floors or walls inside.

Pairing your electric battery storage with solar panels can allow you to enjoy cost savings by running your home off the batteries during peak utility cost hours and charging at non-peak rates with your solar panels. Most utilities charge higher rates during the daytime. Using your batteries then allows homeowners to avoid these charges. With a time-of-use utility plan, you can enjoy substantial savings.

Supporting that point is that average utility rates in the U.S. are expected to rise from a range based on regional price hubs of $41–$50 per megawatt-hour (a million watts per hour) to $66–$153 per megawatt-hour. Thus, savings from the use of your batteries to power your home can be an eye-opener.

Maintenance, noise, and risks

Battery storage systems require almost no maintenance. As for useful life, that is a trickier question. The life of such systems is specified by what percentage of their energy they will retain over a certain period of years. One major manufacturer warrants that its system will retain 70% of its initial energy capacity for 10 years from installation; another does the same but at 60% of capacity.

Batteries themselves last 10–15 years.

By comparison, generators need regular crankcase oil and filter changes, with the first one due only 25 running hours from startup. Generators can run on natural gas, propane or diesel fuel.

In addition, you should test your generator regularly to ensure that it will work when you need it. Since generators are noisy, you may find that your HOA members will object to regular high doses of noise. There are noise canceling enclosures for these situtaions.

With a longer useful life of around 20 years, generators will likely outlast electric battery storage systems.

From a risk perspective, generators’ use of carbon fuels poses flammability and carbon monoxide risks; this is not the case with batteries.

Protection duration

This criterion is perhaps the biggest differentiator between these two options. It all comes down to how much protection you need in elapsed time. In turn, the stability of power in your area determines the duration required.

Indeed, recently, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned of a coming power reliability crisis in two-thirds of the United States and parts of Canada this summer.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the market covering 15 Midwest and Southern states and Manitoba, is cited as at high risk for blackouts. Others at elevated risk of outages at peak load times are:

  • ERCOT – Electric Reliability Council of Texas, covering much of that state
  • SPP – Southwest Power Pool, covering additional Midwest and Southwest areas
  • California ISO – California Independent Service Operator
  • Other Western US states and Saskatchewan

So, at face value, if you are a homeowner in one of the MISO states facing a high risk of blackouts, which is generally considered a rolling series of power outages across a wide area, generators are likely the better choice now. Constrained only by fuel supply, they can run for as long as three weeks continuously.

As a cautionary note, MISO reliability may improve in the future.

In comparison, electric battery storage systems made by the top manufacturers may be able to power select loads in the home from 4 to 24 hours of protection. This is determined by the size and quanity of the batteries as well as if the battery system is coupled with solar panels.

Summary

In summary, each solution works. Both battery electric storage systems and generators protect your home. They have different costs, degrees of complexity, and risk factors. Generators cost less upfront but have the added cost of carbon-based fuels, such as diesel fuel, propane, or natural gas.

In addition, electric battery storage systems are cleaner, quieter, and require less maintenance than generators.

While generators with fuel can run almost indefinitely, electric battery storage systems are limited by the duration of their charge, usually measured in hours.

But the key selection criterion comes down to the reliability of utility power in your geography. At present, generators make sense in areas with a high risk of blackouts, with longer protection durations required. For areas with a lower likelihood of blackouts, battery electric power storage makes sense.

Crucially, both options require professional installation. Choosing a company for reliable installation is critical to success.

Qmerit has the skills, resources, and experience to provide that help.

Qmerit is that company

We are at the forefront of the electrification movement—the shift away from fossil fuels toward a more sustainable, resilient, electric-powered future.

Qmerit will help you select the right backup power option for your specific needs. Then, our Certified Installer Network will ensure quality installation and superb operation of your new system.

Seize the moment. Contact us today for more information.

Author: Greg Sowder Greg Sowder President, Qmerit Network