What is a hybrid solar system?

Updated

A blue home with solar panels on the roof

Some people who are interested in solar power gravitate towards the idea of being completely removed from the grid. However, remaining connected to the grid and investing in a battery backup system will provide more benefits. 

When you’re connected to the grid, you can count on it for backup power in the event that your solar battery runs out of power. You can also sell extra electricity back to your utility company through net metering.

In this blog, we will review what a hybrid solar PV system is, what solar batteries are best, and if hybrid systems are better than off-grid systems. Read through to determine if a hybrid system is the right form of renewable energy for your electricity needs. 

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    What is a hybrid solar system?

    After installing solar panels, the energy generated from them needs to be converted to power for your home. There are a few ways to do this - you can remain connected to the grid, go completely off-grid, or have a hybrid system. 

    A hybrid system is when your solar panels remain connected to the grid’s power lines and have a backup battery system to store excess power. The sun’s energy absorbed by the solar panels goes through an inverter to create usable electricity. From there, electricity either goes to your home, to your battery, or to the grid. 

    The benefit of a hybrid solar system is that you will always have power in any situation. With a backup battery, the excess energy that your solar panels create (but your home does not use), will be stored in this battery. Then, when the sun is not shining, this battery will provide your power during the night, system blackouts or inclement weather. 

    With a hybrid solar system, if you were to use up all the power in your battery, you have the ability to draw power from the electrical grid. 

    how a hybrid solar system works

    A hybrid solar system works by sending solar power to your inverter, which then sends energy to power your home. Extra energy that is not used to power your home goes to your home battery for storage. 

    This battery can provide power to your home when your solar panels are not producing energy. After all of those steps, if there is still leftover energy, that energy is sent to the grid.

    How much does a hybrid system cost?

    In the United States, most homes can be powered with a 6kW solar system and the average cost as of April 2021 is $12,654 after the federal tax credit is applied. Solar panel system costs will vary based on your home state, contractor costs, and the amount of power your home uses.

    For hybrid solar systems, the backup battery is what drives up the price. Batteries typically cost around $8,000 or more and will need to be replaced about every 10 years. 

    Having a backup battery ensures your home will always be powered, and ultimately it’s up to you to decide if your peace of mind is worth the cost.

    What batteries are best for hybrid solar systems?

    While solar lead acid batteries do carry a large price tag, their prices have dropped in recent years. 

    Panasonic and Sunpower solar batteries offer the most value and have high customer ratings and recommendations.  

    • Panasonic EverVolt - The AC-Coupled home battery storage option is able to store 11.4kWh to 17.1 kWhs of energy for off hours use. This should be able to provide electricity for up to a full day. Panasonic also offers a 10-year warranty on its battery.
    • Sunpower Equinox - The Sunpower Equinox battery can store 13kWh-26kWh of energy and also comes with a 10-year product warranty. 

    Learn more: Best solar batteries in 2021

    In addition to Panasonic and Sunpower’s batteries, there’s the ever-popular Tesla Powerwall. What sets the Tesla Powerwall apart from its competitors is its storage capacity of 14kW - which is about half of the average daily electricity consumption for U.S. homes. 

    Additionally, Powerwalls have the ability to use all of the energy stored in the battery without causing damage to the battery itself. Tesla Powerwalls are built to last and keep your lights on 24/7.

    Learn more: Tesla Powerwall: is it the best home battery?

    When working with a professional installer, they will be able to recommend the best battery option for your system. 

    Is installing a hybrid solar system better than going completely off-grid?

    When you’re completely off-grid, you will only have a backup battery to maintain your energy usage, as opposed to a hybrid solar system that can draw power from the battery or the grid.

    An off-grid solar system might be tempting if you want to be completely in charge of your power generation, but you will need to be very careful with energy management and your power consumption to make sure that your backup battery never runs out. 

    With a hybrid solar energy system, should you overuse your stored battery power or there is inclement weather for a few days and your solar panels do not get enough energy, the grid connection will help provide power until you can begin generating your own again. 

    Without this backup option, you could find yourself without power during a snowstorm or hurricane. 

    Is there a hybrid solar system DIY kit?

    While, yes, you do have the option of installing solar panels yourself, technically, there is no “DIY kit” for a hybrid solar system. 

    You would need to research and purchase parts for the solar installation yourself. Luckily, companies like Grape Solar make this easy. After installing your panels DIY-style, you will need to also install a solar battery in order to make the system hybrid.

    While you do stand to save some money when you install solar panels on your own, it makes the most sense to rely on professionals because they can handle permitting and inspections, as well as determining the right size system for your energy use.

    Ultimately, when it comes to installing your own solar system, the cons outweigh the pros, especially when you consider the potential of not qualifying for certain incentives and damaging your roof, among other things. 

    If you choose to install solar panels yourself, you will need: 

    • Solar panels: You’ll need about 14-36 panels, depending on your energy use and efficiency of the panels
    • Racking and mounting: There are different types to choose from and will vary based on your roof pitch and other factors
    • Solar grid-tied inverter: This converts the DC electricity to AC electricity to be both usable for the house and grid
    • Electrical wiring: This transfers power from the solar panels to the hybrid inverter and then to the home, battery storage, or net meter
    • Solar battery bank: Stores excess electricity for your home and is what makes a hybrid system different from simply grid-tied systems 
    Compare quotes from multiple installers to ensure you get the best price possible

    Benefits of a hybrid solar system - is it worth it?

    A hybrid system is a great way to be in control of your power supply. You have the ability to be your own energy provider with solar panels and a backup battery, with the added safety net of being connected to the electricity grid.

    Hybrid systems will save you money by reducing your electricity bills, which makes the higher upfront system costs worth it. Your solar battery will store most, if not all, of the excess power your system generates instead of selling it back to your utility. So, while you won’t see those net metering credits on your utility bill, you’re still getting the same value for your electricity. If your utility doesn’t offer full retail net metering, you might even be saving more with a hybrid system!

    What makes a hybrid system unique is the fact that you will be covered during inclement weather and nighttime use. You have your backup battery filled with energy and access to grid power if you need more than your battery can provide, and vice versa. 

    Hybrid solar systems are the best way to make sure you never run out of power. 

    Does a hybrid system make sense for you?

    If you can afford a backup battery in addition to installing solar panels, it is a great option to ensure that your home is consistently powered by solar electricity. 

    You will have more stability when connected to the grid and you can still save money by producing your own electricity. If the cost of a backup battery is out of reach, a grid-tied solar system can be a compromise. 

    But whatever you choose, installing solar panels is a great choice for saving money and ensuring your own energy independence. 

    Find out how much a hybrid solar system will cost you

    Key takeaways

    • Hybrid solar systems are connected to the grid and have a backup solar battery for excess energy storage.
    • A 6kW hybrid solar system typically costs about $12,654 after federal incentives but will require a battery, which costs about $8,000 on average.
    • Hybrid systems are better than off-grid systems, as they provide a battery backup and grid assistance to cover any potential power outages.
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Ana Almerini

    Web Content Specialist

    Ana is a web content specialist at SolarReviews. She has 5 years of marketing experience blended with 2 years of experience in climate communications and holds a master of arts degree in climate and society from Columbia University. Ana frequently volunteers for environmental causes ranging from oyster reef restoration in NJ to expanding bike sharing in Naples, Italy.

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