Exploring the best Tesla Powerwall alternatives in 2020
Net metering policies have led many solar system owners to believe that a solar battery backup is an unnecessary expense. In fact, home battery backup technologies were historically only reserved for off-grid applications. However, these things are beginning to change, as more companies are investing in the power of battery backups.
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A solar battery allows consumers to control their power consumption and where their energy goes. It also provides you with backup power in the event of an outage. Smart features associated with backup battery packs enable you, the consumer, to understand where your power is going and what steps you can take to lower your grid consumption.
With that being said, not all batteries are created equal. The battery that will work best for your family’s lifestyle and solar power setup will depend on a variety of factors, including the installation cost, the kilowatt-hours the battery can store, battery life, and your overall power consumption profile.
We’ve collected the leaders in solar energy batteries and analyzed how they stack up against each other. In this blog, we will review the sonnen Eco, LG Chem, and BYD B-Box solar battery systems - and how they compare to the Tesla Powerwall.
The Tesla Powerwall
Since the release of the first Powerwall in 2015, Elon Musk’s company Tesla has aimed to produce larger capacity, more reliable, and more cost-effective energy storage solutions. The current Powerwall 2.0 comes with a 13.5 kWh capacity and is the most widely-installed battery backup for home use.
The Tesla Powerwall 2 costs $7,600 for the battery and supporting hardware, plus an additional $2,000 - $3,000 in installation costs. This means the final price of a Tesla powerwall is $9,600 - $10,600.
For more information about the Tesla Powerwall, check out this blog.
In addition to the Tesla Powerwall, there are other top-performing home solar battery backup and storage solutions on the market.
German energy company sonnen has long-focused its efforts on the production of solar batteries. Since 2017, sonnen has marketed its batteries in the United States through a network of installers.
sonnen’s newest battery storage system, the sonnen Eco, is offered in a variety of sizes, from 5-kilowatt hours to 20-kilowatt hours. While the 5 kWh model is the most economical and most popular size in the series, it’s significantly smaller than its competitors in the space.
Pros of the sonnen Eco solar battery
sonnen's Eco battery melds together solar energy with features befitting even the most technologically-advanced smart home.
Because of the company’s commitment to advancing technologies, the battery has many useful features that should be considered when looking at battery backup systems.
Some features of the sonnen Eco solar battery include:
- sonnen's smart system allows owners to manage where energy is being sent.
- While 5 kWh is enough to power a home for a few hours per evening, the system can allow for add-on banks up to 20 kWh.
- The data collected is also used to create an energy profile that the battery backup system will use to learn about your power needs and solar capacity over time.
- sonnen offers a 10-year warranty that ensures the battery will maintain up to 70% of its storage capacity over a 10-year lifespan.
Cons of the sonnen Eco solar battery
- At around $9,000 before installation, the smallest system on the market is more expensive than its competitors.
- The system is too small to store enough energy for a heavy-power consumption user. It’s likely owners will still have to pay for utility usage during part of the evening.
What type of home is the sonnen Eco solar battery best for?
sonnen's Eco battery is best for small homes or those who are low consumers of power. The small size and the cost of adding additional systems may be prohibitive for heavy power consumers.
The battery’s smart technology and energy management application is ideal for individuals who are interested in tracking and manually controlling where their power is going each night.
The LG Chem battery system
The LG Chem RESU battery is a lithium-ion battery that captures solar energy and stores it for later use in residential settings.
Like many of the batteries currently on the market, the pack aims to store excess energy that is collected during a home’s lowest energy consumption period (during the day while the family is out at work, school, or running errands) and disperse it during peak energy consumption periods (at night when the family comes home and runs electronics, appliances, and more).
The LG Chem is a day-to-day battery pack, meaning it expects to charge and discharge over a traditional 24-hour period. LG Chem has less storage than a Powerwall and is built without an inverter.
Pros of the LG Chem
- 12.4 kWh is a larger-size home battery setup and should be adequate for most homes.
- With futuristic styling it is a relatively unobtrusive addition, aesthetically-speaking.
Cons of the LG Chem solar battery system
- The average cost of the LG Chem system, including supporting equipment and installation, ranges from $11,000 to $13,000 - depending on location and installation charges.
- The LG Chem comes with a warranty that ensures the battery will work to 60% capacity over a 10-year period, which is less than the warranties offered by most competitors.
What type of home is the LG Chem solar battery system best for?
The LG Chem RESU, like it's competitors, is not intended for those looking to go “off the grid". Instead, these batteries are best for energy-conscious homes that require energy coverage during peak consumption periods. The 9.5 kWh system is enough to cover a home for several hours of energy use, not several days.
The BYD B-Box solar battery system
BYD is a large Chinese company headquartered in Shenzhen. Despite the company’s massive size in the Asian market, they’re a relatively unknown brand outside of China and surrounding countries. While they are working on their international brand recognition, they are not likely to outpace their competitors anytime soon.
Their B-Box solar batteries, however, do the job just fine in most residential setups. The company provides the supporting hardware which can hold up to four 2.5kW battery packs. This means the BYD is available in four different sizes: 2.56kWh, 5.12kWh, 7.68kwh and 10.24kWh. The supporting hardware costs $675.28 and each battery costs $1,548.91, not including installation costs.
Pros of the BYD B-Box
BYD, as a lesser known company, has big shoes to fill if it wishes to break into the solar markets in the United States and other countries. However, the B-Box has some great features that may make it the best option for your solar power setup:
- BYD uses lithium iron phosphate batteries which are safer than traditional lithium-ion batteries found in phones and laptops.
- Large power capacities allow for optimal usage of stored energy.
Cons of the BYD B-Box
- A large footprint makes the battery system obtrusive.
- The smallest unit - at just 2.3 kWh of usable storage - has the smallest capacity in its class.
- The optimal temperature range makes the B-box a less-than-ideal option for extreme climates.
What type of home is the BYD B-Box best for?
The BYD B-Box might be small in terms of storage capacity, but it is mighty in power output. The large size of the device (roughly the size of a small refrigerator) makes it obtrusive, so the battery pack is best-suited for homes that have an easy way to hide the device. Its limited storage capacity and limited optimal temperature range means that it only makes sense for small homes that are in temperate climates.
Is there a clear-cut winner among solar batteries?
Tesla’s Powerwall remains one of the most popular solar batteries produced, but that doesn’t make it a clear-cut winner in all categories. Each of the battery packs covered above has viable applications.
What battery will work best for your home will largely depend on your budget, your location, your personal energy consumption profile and what additional features you’d like to see in your system.
Whether you’re shopping around for solar panels or a battery backup, it is best to speak with a qualified installer to better understand your options. We also suggest you check out the solar panel cost estimator to better understand how solar energy can work for your specific home.
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.