When living in areas with extreme weather, homeowners might potentially deal with routine or unforeseen power outages. As a result, fuel-powered standby generators dominate the backup power supply market.
However, in recent years, with reports of carbon monoxide poisoning from these generators, people are looking for alternatives. One solution is battery backups. Presented as a more eco-friendly and safer alternative, battery backups bring a variety of benefits unlike generators.
But as the battery backup products have expanded, consumers have realized there is a significant difference between these two power alternatives. They both serve the same function, but each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
This understanding is crucial to determine which of the two options is ideal for homeowners.
Understanding Battery Backups
Each branded battery entering the market will work to store energy which will then be used during any power outages. These batteries can be charged in two ways:
- Through a home solar system
- Or the electrical grid
One of the distinct advantages this power source has is it generates power from cleaner energy sources. Furthermore, homeowners can also save a lot of money, and can save even more when a time-of-use utility plan is enforced, ensuring battery backup systems are used outside of peak usage hours. This saves homeowners money on their energy bills.
Generators on the other hand connect to an electrical panel and will boot up any time the power goes out. These generators run on fuel – typically gas, liquid propane or diesel. Some generators have dual fuel features where they can run on gas and/or liquid propane.
One of the biggest draws to these generators is the flexibility of fuel sources. If a generator is run on gas or propane, some generators can be connected directly to a home’s gas line or propane tank. This removes the hassle of refilling the generator every time power is used. Diesel generators, however, don’t have this luxury.
How Do These Two Compare?
Price is everything and there is a significant difference between the two. Each power source has a range in price depending on how many batteries are needed and the model that is being used.
For an average-sized home battery backup system, homeowners can expect to pay $10,000 and $20,000 upfront for this system.
Generators on the other hand have smaller upfront costs, typically in the range of $7,000 to $15,000.
Battery power is cheaper despite the higher price due to long-term costs. There is little to no extra cost to charge these batteries beyond the upfront costs of installing a solar system. For generators, homeowners will need to pay for fuel on an ongoing basis, which drives the usage cost up.
And that expense will fluctuate depending on the size and the type of fuel that the generator uses.
Battery backups have a leg up in this area because batteries are mounted to the wall or floor. Generators require additional work, especially if the generator attaches to propane tanks or natural gas pipes.
Regardless of which one is chosen, a hired professional will need to be involved and this process can take an entire day of work.
Generators are more complicated and time consuming as they require pouring a concrete slab, connecting the generator to a dedicated fuel source, and installing a transfer switch.
Batteries really shine the most here. Not only are they quiet, run independently and don’t produce emissions, they also do not need ongoing or routine maintenance.
Generators are the exact opposite. They are noisy and disruptive. They also emit fumes and can produce carbon monoxide poisoning too.
Despite the noise and the fumes, generators do the job. As long as you have enough fuel to supply the generators, they can constantly run for up to three weeks at a time.
Batteries don’t offer the same performance due to their power output. They typically have enough power to keep the lights on for a few hours at a time.
Lifespan And Warranty
Battery backups will have longer warranties generally; however, warranties are measured in different ways.
Battery backups will lose their ability to hold a charge, no different than laptops or smartphones. These batteries will have an end-of-warranty capacity rating, which will measure how effective the battery can hold a charge by the end of the warranty period.
Other battery backup manufacturers will use “throughput” warranty. This is the amount of cycles, hours or energy output that the company guarantees on the batteries.
Generator lifespan is easier to measure. Good quality generators can run an average of 3,000 hours under regular maintenance. As a result, if a homeowner runs the generator for 150 hours per year, it will last for 20 years.
That said, you’ll be hard pressed to find a warranty on a generator to last for 20 years or more.
Which Is The Best Option?
Looking at all aspects, it’s definitive that battery backups are the better pick. They’re better for the environment, easier to install and will be cheaper to run after the initial upfront costs. They will also have longer warranties than traditional generators.
However, generators are more reliable in more extreme circumstances or when a power outage lasts for several hours or days.