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Solar battery or generator? How to get through the next outage

How Batteries and Generators Stack up

Blackouts are becoming more common across the country1. As people face an increased risk of power loss, it becomes important for consumers who want to take control of their own energy2 to include a home solar battery in a plan to go solar. A solar home battery system, such as Brightbox by Sunrun, avoids many of the pitfalls of traditional portable backup generators. 

Solar batteries offer long-lasting power. A battery typically provides approximately 8 to 12 hours of backup power, without additional fuel costs or pollution—putting the power of clean energy in the hands of the people whenever the grid goes down. Plus, with a home battery, you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll be able to get more fuel.

Solar batteries store energy, turn on and recharge automatically. When the lights go out, a Brightbox solar battery turns on and powers the circuits that are most important to you. Many people choose to use this energy to power their garage door, WiFi, kitchen appliances, and lighting when the grid is down. The battery automatically recharges from the solar energy system, so you can keep your system running without lifting a finger. 

Solar batteries are safe and quiet . Batteries run on clean, renewable power. This makes them safer than generators, which emit dangerous fumes like Carbon Monoxide, require homeowners to store cans of gasoline for refueling, and run extension cords to power appliances within the home. Batteries are also quiet, making about as much noise as a refrigerator. Compare that to generators, which are as loud as a vacuum cleaner. 

Solar batteries put you in control of your home and your energy. Brightbox from Sunrun is available for purchase or as part of a service agreement—both options put people in charge when it comes to controlling their power. Brightbox’s reliability means that in the event of a planned or unplanned outage, the food in the fridge stays fresh, cell phones stay charged, and important devices can still operate.

Pitfalls of Generators

Generators are easily available. They can be purchased online or at most home improvement stores, and run on gas or propane, both of which are widely available. However, there are a number of downsides.

Generators are expensive. Unlike solar and storage, generators do not replace or offset your day-to-day utility bill. Therefore, any generator cost will be incremental to your energy expenses today. The base price of small portable home generators runs between $400 and $1,0003 and up, while a large permanently installed diesel generator might cost as much as $10,000 It all depends on features, capacity and installation guidelines. Portable generators also require pricey, dirty fuel in order to run—and refueling is highly inconvenient (or impossible) during major weather events and blackouts.

Generators give off carbon monoxide. Portable generators have killed approximately 70 people per year since 20054, and standby units powered by diesel fuel also give off nitrous oxide5, which can cause dizziness, a loss of consciousness and even death6. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission7 cautions that portable generators for home use must be operated outside, at least 20 feet away from windows, doors, and vents to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and it recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors to monitor indoor air quality. 

Generators may pose a fire danger. Beyond the cost, where one lives can dictate whether a portable generator is a good choice for backup power. Due to electrical hazards and fire danger, operating standalone fuel-powered generators in wildfire-prone areas is not recommended by some localities during red flag warnings and other fire events8. As well, storing propane in an earthquake-prone area can be dangerous9. A Sunrun Brightbox battery poses no such fire danger and offers people peace of mind in a blackout.

Generators can be noisy. Then, there’s the noise. While some pricier inverter generators produce around 50 decibels, generators can reach decibels of 11010—similar to the noise level at a live concert11.

Generator systems are less reliable than home batteries, as measured by warranty duration, and require more upkeep. Portable and Standby generators often have 3-5 year warranties that exclude normal wear and tear. Battery systems warranties can be as long as 10 to 25 years, and can include full coverage for parts and labor. Additionally, customers must run most portable generators on a monthly basis to ensure that the motor will continue to work. Compare that to solar and battery systems, which are set it and forget it. 

A Brightbox home battery system is a cost-effective alternative to a portable generator for backup home electricity. It offers the freedom to create clean, affordable, reliable energy without reliance on the increasingly unreliable electrical grid.

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