By Scott Laskey
When the power goes out in your area, what are your options? Unless you have backup power at your home, sitting in the dark is your only choice.
Fortunately, dozens of backup power options are available to choose from – including propane, diesel, natural gas-powered generators, and solar battery systems. When you find the right solution for your home, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your household will keep running, even if the grid goes down.
Here at Sandbar Solar & Electric, we’ve helped thousands of homeowners turn to solar and battery backup on the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast in California, so we know a thing or two about the value of a good backup system.
In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between solar battery backup systems and generators and help you understand which is right for you.
Let’s dive in!
Generators and solar battery systems both provide backup power in the event of an outage. The way they do it, though, is very different.
Generators are the type of backup power systems most people are familiar with. Today, most generators run on liquid propane, natural gas, or diesel.
Freestanding generators sit outside the home and either turn on manually or include sensors. Included sensors detect outages and turn the generator on automatically.
Compared to solar battery backup for power outages, generators are more affordable on the front end. Despite the low upfront cost, though, generators require regular maintenance and typically come with small recurring costs. They require weekly self-tests, for example, and need continual refueling to run during outages.
When a generator is maintained well, it will last for 10,000-30,000 hours or about 3.5 years of consecutive use.
Here are a few of the pros and cons of backup generator systems:
Solar battery backup systems run on electricity and are charged by a connection to the home’s rooftop solar panel system. The batteries store excess energy produced by solar panels and save it for later use.
Some of the most common types of battery backups available today include:
Solar battery storage systems are popular because they are reliable. In the event of a power outage, a grid-tied system will shut off entirely, and you won’t have power.
Alternatively, when the grid goes down, a solar-powered battery backup system will draw stored energy from the batteries to power your home with no interruptions or downtime.
In addition to providing unparalleled reliability, battery backup systems also benefit the environment. Learn more about how solar battery backup systems work in our recent post on the topic.
The exact amount you’ll pay for backup power depends on your home’s size and energy needs. According to HomeAdvisor, the typical price range for a generator system is $1,413-$7,594. Most of these generators are powerful enough to run a typical home during an outage.
By comparison, solar battery backup systems start at around $9,000, not including installation costs. If you’re budgeting for a battery backup system, you can expect to spend between $15,000 and $20,000, including batteries, installation, and other equipment. Fortunately, incentives and rebates can help you access a solar battery backup system at a net cost of about $0 for qualifying homeowners.
Don’t let the upfront price deter you, though. Financing programs are available for qualifying applicants, and battery backup power generates long-term savings that generators don’t. When you purchase a generator, you need to buy fuel, perform monthly and annual maintenance, and replace the generator at the end of its lifespan.
On the other hand, battery backup systems pair with solar energy systems to create a renewable power source. Over time, this can save you thousands of dollars on your electric bill.
Installing a battery backup system may also allow you to access federal and state tax incentives or participate in the SGIP Equity Resiliency program – which we’ll discuss more below.
Now that you have the background on each option, which is right for you? Here’s our recommendation:
A standby backup generator is an ideal solution if you only want a system that can provide emergency power and you have no intention of installing solar panels in the future. If your home has an existing natural gas line, installing a standby generator may be relatively simple.
Solar battery backup is an excellent option for customers who want a backup system that can work with an existing or future solar energy system. A battery system is right for those who prefer a quiet, low-maintenance, reliable, and environmentally-friendly solution.
Consider investing in a battery backup system if you want to keep the lights on and power essential home appliances during a grid outage and also reduce peak electricity charges.
Solar battery backup systems create energy resiliency, which is something the state of California is very invested in right now. As a result, certain households who install a solar battery backup system may be eligible for a limited-time rebate under the existing equity resilience Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) allocation.
This program benefits those living in a fire zone who are also on a Medical Baseline Rate Program. Funds are going fast, but the program funds 80-100% of total project costs if you qualify.
There are also rebates available for those in a fire zone who are not on Medical Baseline. Additionally, officials expect one last rebate bucket for battery customers not in a fire zone or on Medical Baseline. This rebate offer will cover about 10-15% of project costs.
Now is an excellent time to invest in a solar battery backup system for your home, and Sandbar Solar is here to help. Our team has over 15 years of experience designing battery systems and can install new battery systems or retrofit existing solar panel systems for a battery backup.
We service homes and businesses across the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast.
Contact us today to learn more about our services or take the first step toward your battery backup system.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar & Electric. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
The Ultimate Guide to Reduce Your Energy Bill at Home 
3 Cupertino Solar Panel Rebates You Should Know About
Sandbar Solar & Electric Founder Scott Laskey Speaks at Microgrid California
Your 10 Step Guide to Choosing a Solar Company in Salinas, CA
How to Go Solar in Morgan Hill, CA: A Step By Step Guide
What Los Gatos Homeowners Should Know About Going Solar