June 11, 2024

Solar Learning Centre

7 Alternatives to a Solar Battery in Your Home

Image showing the title "7 Solar Battery Alternatives" with icons of a water heater, washing machine, refrigerator, electric car, and other electrical devices at the bottom. Penrith Solar Centre logo is also visible.

How are you spending the kilowatt hours (kWh) in your home? Of course, there are the usual ways to save those kWh; things like turning off lights when you leave a room.

Storing your energy for use later is the best way to save money on your energy bill. The long-term savings speak for themselves. But most folks are resistant to the upfront cost of a battery.

What else can you use in your home to store energy?

One of our favourite approaches to saving energy is by creatively thinking about what a battery can be until you can afford a battery.

At Penrith Solar Centre, we know there are many other types of “batteries” that can help store solar energy for your homes. From water heaters to electric vehicles, everyday items can act as energy savers.

Let’s dive into some common and surprising ways we can store energy to make our lives more efficient and sustainable.

In this article, you’ll reconsider the following:

  • Electric Water Heaters
  • Smart Thermostats with Thermal Storage
  • Electric Vehicles (EVs)
  • Refrigerators with Ice Makers
  • Solar Garden Lights
  • Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS), Rechargeable Household Batteries, and Portable Power Banks
  • Home Battery Systems
  • Electric Heat Pumps

By the end of this article, you’ll have a bunch of ideas on how to use alternative solar batteries in your own home!

Electric Water Heaters

An electric water heater stores thermal energy by heating water and maintaining it at a set temperature. It heats water using electricity (or – sadly – sometimes gas) and stores it in an insulated tank. This means hot water is ready for use anytime.

The electricity is stored as heat. Heat is energy. The hot water system holds energy, so it’s a battery.

By heating water during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper, you can save money. The stored hot water can be used throughout the day without additional energy costs​​.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about traditional solar batteries, you might want to check out the following article titled, Adding a Battery to a Solar System.

Learn more

Your Home (with a Smart Thermostat)

Your home is a battery if you’re smart about it. Water has a high thermal capacity (it can store a lot of heat very quickly) and concrete is about a third less efficient. But concrete can be heated to much higher temperatures (consider the brick pizza oven).

Smart thermostats can store thermal energy by pre-cooling or pre-heating homes during off-peak hours. This reduces energy consumption during peak periods. Your home has materials in it (like the concrete slab in the foundation) that will retain heat, especially if your home is well-insulated.

Smart thermostats can be easily programmed if they’re not smart enough learn your schedule and adjust temperatures accordingly (some are). By using less energy during peak times, you can save money and reduce strain on the grid​​.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about traditional solar batteries, you might want to check out the following article titled, Enphase IQ Battery 5P vs Tesla Powerwall 2: Which is Right for You?

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Electric Vehicles (EVs)

The EV industry is just getting started.

The battery in an electric car stores electrical energy, which powers the vehicle. Some systems, like vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, allow the energy stored in EV batteries to be fed back into the home or grid.

This means your car can act as a mobile energy storage solution. For example, the Nissan Leaf with V2G technology can provide power to your home during outages or high demand periods​​.

EV manufacturers are taking a cue from their customers by rolling out some helpful updates to their monitoring apps. Tesla has a truly wonderful feature in their app called “Charge from Solar.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: you can program your Tesla to charge its battery (the EV, not a Powerwall) only from the solar system. Getting away from the grid and fossil fuels is our future.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about Charge on Solar, you might want to check out the following article titled, Guide to Tesla Charge on Solar in Australia – 2024.

Talk to an expert

Refrigerators with Ice Makers

Open your mind and expand what your concept of a battery can be. What if a battery could save energy for you by expelling energy?

Some refrigerators use ice makers to create and store ice during off-peak hours. The ice can help keep the refrigerator cool during peak hours, reducing energy consumption.

This process, called thermal storage, shifts energy use to times when electricity is cheaper. It’s a simple way to save on energy costs and reduce peak load on the grid​.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about traditional solar batteries, you might want to check out the following article titled, Is the Tesla Powerwall 2 Worth It? Cost, Specs, Bill Savings & More.

Get more info

Solar Garden Lights

What do you still need a porch light for? Switch it off and save those kWhs!

These lights store solar energy in batteries during the day and use it to power LEDs at night. They consist of small solar panels, a small rechargeable battery, and LED lights.

During the day, the solar panel charges the battery. At night, the stored energy powers the lights, providing illumination without the need for external power sources​​.

It’s a small version of what you have on your roof. Same principle – miniaturised.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about traditional solar batteries, you might want to check out the following article titled, Enphase IQ Battery 5P Review.

Learn more

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS), Rechargeable Household Batteries, and Portable Power Banks

Okay, so these are kind of cheating, as they are all smaller, rechargeable batteries, so this is kind of low-hanging fruit. But using them judiciously can save you a lot of money on energy.

Uninterruptible power supplies are used for computers and home office setups. A UPS stores electrical energy and provides backup power during short outages. Usually, it’s a big square battery, a little smaller than the old-fashioned computer desktop towers.

They ensure the continuous operation of critical devices like computers, modems, and routers. A typical UPS has a battery that automatically kicks in when the main power fails, protecting your equipment from data loss and damage.

Rechargeable batteries, like AA or AAA, store electrical energy for use in household items such as remote controls, flashlights, and toys. They can be recharged hundreds of times, making them cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Using a charger, you can replenish their energy, reducing the need for disposable batteries​​.

And then there are portable power banks. These small, rechargeable batteries store electrical energy to charge smartphones, tablets, and other devices on the go. They are convenient for travel and emergencies when access to a power outlet is limited.

Power banks range in capacity, from small ones that charge a phone once to larger ones that can charge multiple devices several times​​.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about traditional solar batteries, you might want to check out the following article titled, 6 Best Solar Batteries on the Market.

Talk to an expert

Home Battery Systems

We know this is obvious and probably should have been the first entry on this list, but we wanted to get your attention quickly and easily by subverting your expectations with ranking the alternatives higher. Of course, your home solar battery solution is a battery.

Devices like the Enphase IQ Battery 5P and the Tesla Powerwall store energy from solar panels or the grid. This stored energy can power homes during outages or when electricity rates are high.

The Enphase IQ Battery 5P has a storage capacity of 5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and can be stacked to increase storage. The Tesla Powerwall 2 has a capacity of 13.5 kWh. The cost of two Enphase batteries is about the same as a Powerwall. These systems ensure you have power even when the grid is down and help you save money by using stored energy during peak hours​​.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about traditional solar batteries, you might want to check out the following article titled, AC-coupled Battery vs. DC-coupled Solar Batteries.

Find out more

Electric Heat Pumps

Okay, obviously not a battery. But when used in conjunction with the hot water tank (which we mentioned is a battery), it can save you some cash.

Heat pumps are a cleaner alternative because they use electricity to move heat rather than generating it by burning fuel. They work by transferring heat from the outside air or ground into your home in the winter and removing heat from your home in the summer.

When paired with a renewable energy source like solar, they can provide heating and cooling with minimal environmental impact​​.

They work so well with your hot water tank that the government has a wonderful incentive program for the installation of solar heat pumps.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the heat pump incentive the New South Wales government offers, you might want to check out the following article on their website titled, Upgrade your hot water system.

More about clean energy

Household Energy Storage: Have You Got a Battery Idea?

Now you understand how exciting a little creative thinking with your energy bill can create energy storage solutions around your home. Of course, we cheated a bit with our suggestions because some of them were actual batteries, but shifting your mindset in subtle ways can save you a lot of money that you won’t be spending on your energy bills.

At Penrith Solar Centre, we want you to save money while we work together to get Australia to Net Zero by 2050. Energy efficiency is going to be discussed in greater and greater detail as we troubleshoot solutions for our energy crisis. Finding creative energy solutions is part of the world we are entering.

A group of people posing in front of a building at Penrith Solar Centre.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about ways to shift your energy mindset, you might want to check out the following article titled, Power vs. Energy: kW vs. kWh.

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