How to compare your solar storage options
As you consider your solar-plus-storage options, you’ll come across a lot of complicated product specifications. The most important ones to use during your evaluation are the battery’s capacity & power ratings, depth of discharge (DoD), round-trip efficiency, warranty, and manufacturer.
Capacity & power
Capacity is the total amount of electricity that a solar battery can store, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Most home solar batteries are designed to be “stackable,” which means that you can include multiple batteries with your solar-plus-storage system to get extra capacity.
While capacity tells you how big your battery is, it doesn’t tell you how much electricity a battery can provide at a given moment. To get the full picture, you also need to consider the battery’s power rating. In the context of solar batteries, a power rating is the amount of electricity that a battery can deliver at one time. It is measured in kilowatts (kW).
A battery with a high capacity and a low power rating would deliver a low amount of electricity (enough to run a few crucial appliances) for a long time. A battery with low capacity and a high power rating could run your entire home, but only for a few hours.
Depth of discharge (DoD)
Most solar batteries need to retain some charge at all times due to their chemical composition. If you use 100 percent of a battery’s charge, its useful life will be significantly shortened.
The depth of discharge (DoD) of a battery refers to the amount of a battery’s capacity that has been used. Most manufacturers will specify a maximum DoD for optimal performance. For example, if a 10 kWh battery has a DoD of 90 percent, you shouldn’t use more than 9 kWh of the battery before recharging it. Generally speaking, a higher DoD means you will be able to utilize more of your battery’s capacity.
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A battery’s round-trip efficiency represents the amount of energy that can be used as a percentage of the amount of energy that it took to store it. For example, if you feed five kWh of electricity into your battery and can only get four kWh of useful electricity back, the battery has 80 percent round-trip efficiency (4 kWh / 5 kWh = 80%). Generally speaking, a higher round-trip efficiency means you will get more economic value out of your battery.
Battery life & warranty
For most uses of home energy storage, your battery will “cycle” (charge and drain) daily. The battery’s ability to hold a charge will gradually decrease the more you use it. In this way, solar batteries are like the battery in your cell phone – you charge your phone each night to use it during the day, and as your phone gets older you’ll start to notice that the battery isn’t holding as much of a charge as it did when it was new.
Your solar battery will have a warranty that guarantees a certain number of cycles and/or years of useful life. Because battery performance naturally degrades over time, most manufacturers will also guarantee that the battery keeps a certain amount of its capacity over the course of the warranty.
Therefore, the simple answer to the question "how long will my solar battery last?" is that it depends on the brand of battery you buy and and how much capacity it will lose over time.
For example, a battery might be warrantied for 5,000 cycles or 10 years at 70 percent of its original capacity. This means that at the end of the warranty, the battery will have lost no more than 30 percent of its original ability to store energy.
Many different types of organizations are developing and manufacturing solar battery products, from automotive companies to tech startups. While a major automotive company entering the energy storage market likely has a longer history of product manufacturing, they may not offer the most revolutionary technology. By contrast, a tech startup might have a brand-new high-performing technology, but less of a track record to prove the battery’s long-term functionality.
Whether you choose a battery manufactured by a cutting-edge startup or a manufacturer with a long history depends on your priorities. Evaluating the warranties associated with each product can give you additional guidance as you make your decision.