Battery Storage FAQ


Emerging must-have technology

Battery backup systems like Sonnen and the Tesla Powerwall are emerging as the latest must-have technology. We’ve compiled some of the top questions we get asked about storage.

Want to learn more about battery storage? Check out our main storage page and a read a first-hand account from one of our customers on why he chose a battery storage system from A&R Solar.

What does it cost?

Some companies have led people to believe that battery storage is a small unit mounted on the wall like a piece of art…and all for $3,000. But that’s marketing. The small units you’ve seen are just batteries. That leaves out important and necessary components: inverters, charge controllers, transfer switches, protected load panels, monitoring devices, software, labor, and miscellaneous electrical materials. A properly installed battery system paired with solar runs between $15,000 – $30,000 before the Federal Tax Credit (see below).

Do I have to have solar?

No – you could charge a storage system by other means, but power from the sun is certainly the cleanest and most reliable method. Solar plus storage also has the greatest tax advantages and is the only way to recharge during a power outage.

Can I be off-grid?

Do you want to have solar and storage provide you all of your power? You offset 100 percent of your energy usage and not completely cut the cord from your electrical utility. Having all of your electrical needs provided by solar energy means that you are net zero.

In other cases, people have cabins or RV setups that aren’t connected to an electrical utility. This is really what off-grid means. A&R Solar doesn’t work on off-grid systems.

Unless your home is in a remote area not served by an electrical utility, we highly recommend stay connected to the grid. As freeing it sounds to completely cut the cord, here’s why we would remain grid tied:

  • Homes and businesses that aren’t connected to the grid aren’t eligible for financial incentives, including net metering, which allows you to build up credits with your utility during the long days of summer and use them during the dark winters. You don’t need a separate battery storage system to be net zero.
  • If something goes wrong with your system or if you aren’t producing enough electricity with your solar panels to cover your energy needs, you will be in the dark until the sun rises. On dark, cold, stormy days, that could feel like a long time.
  • Even with a battery, you might not be able to produce enough electricity every single day to cover all of your needs. This is especially true during the winter months.
  • Having solar power feed back into the grid stabilizes it and helps the community.
Am I eligible for the Federal Income Tax Credit?

As with all tax credits, please consult a tax professional before making financial decisions. However it’s commonly known that battery systems charged primarily with solar are eligible for the 30 percent Federal Income Tax Credit.

How much of my house can it power and for how long?

That depends. What do you need to run? And how long do you need to run it? Battery storage can provide perpetual amounts of power when combined with solar. The grid might be down, but your solar panels are now feeding into your battery system instead of pushing all of that power back to your utility.

Here come the variables: the size of your solar PV system, the size of your battery storage system, and the biggest one of them all, how much energy your home might consume during an outage.

To illustrate further, picture your bathtub. The faucet is the power your solar modules are generating, while the drain represents how much electricity your home is consuming. The bathtub is the battery. It has to balance the amount of energy coming in with the amount going out.

That’s where we come in. We work with our customers to determine what essentials they’d like to have backed up during a power outage. It’s never a one-size-fits-all approach.

Why are batteries better than a generator?

Glad you asked.

  • When coupled with solar, battery storage systems recharge each day by the power of the sun. Do you have enough fuel stored away to run your generator for several days? Several weeks?
  • Batteries don’t emit poisonous carbon monoxide or pose increased fire hazards.
  • You don’t have to go outside in the middle of the night in bad weather to refuel.
  • Battery systems are silent and designed to be aesthetically pleasing.
  • Battery systems have significantly longer warranties than most generators and they increase the value of your home.
Will batteries work with my existing generator?

Yes, in many cases. Check with us on compatibility, as it varies across storage technologies.

What is AC coupling?

AC coupling is just a technical term for when you add battery storage to your existing grid-tied solar energy system. All grid-tied solar PV systems are required by code to shut down when the power goes out in order to protect utility line workers. However, with an AC coupled battery system, your solar system will be able to remain online during an outage and provide power when you most need it.

Is there a referral program?

Yes, we love to pay our referrers. The referral program pays you $50/kWh of storage capacity up to $500. The person signing up for the system gets a discount, too. In fact, if you refer a solar + battery prospect and they go with both, they can earn up to $1,000 off their new system.

I have microinverters, can I still do battery backup?

Yes. Microinverters work great with batteries and provide a lot of flexibility in designing the optimal storage system.

Will there be a return on my investment?

Yes, two kinds: First is the incalculable kind that keeps your lights and heat on during a power outage or disaster. It’s tough to put a price on that kind of peace of mind. The second involves Time of Use (TOU) charges that utilities are considering implementing in the Northwest. Because the storage systems can be programmed for both backup and daily use operations, you’ll be ready if your utility ever decides to charge more for electricity during peak times. This is because you can automatically move from paying a premium for grid electricity to utilizing stored solar electricity for free with the embedded software. It’s the primary reason batteries are becoming so popular in states like Hawaii and California where Time of Use billing systems are already in effect.

My inverter is installed outside, where should my battery be installed?

Although we can solve lots of problems with neat and clean conduit runs, the best location for the battery system is as close to your main service panel and inverter(s) as possible. The most common places are inside or adjacent to a garage by the electric panel.

Can the battery be installed in an attic or crawl space?

No. Most are floor or wall mounted and require adequate ventilation and clearances for efficient operation and service access.

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