Welcome to the Era of the Smart Home Battery

by Andrew Meyer
November 27, 2015
Home Battery

Battery models being released today are more exciting than ever, with innovative improvements in nearly every aspect.

New home battery models have gotten a lot of press lately, but energy storage has been around for decades. Homes venturing off the grid 20 years ago turned to lead acid or sometimes nickel based batteries to store their renewable energy. With growing interest in home batteries, the technology has skyrocketed. Battery models being released today are more exciting than ever, with innovative improvements in nearly every aspect.

New Home Battery Technology

Though lithium-ion battery technology was introduced in the 1970’s, it took twenty years for it to really gain popularity. Lithium, the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential. This means that lithium provides the highest energy density per weight, far lighter and more efficient than the popular lead acid battery. Lead acid batteries can weigh up to ??? pounds, making them far more difficult to transport. Their weight also makes usability much less convenient for residential customers.

The growth of lithium-ion technology has brought along with it many advantages. In comparison to batteries that have been popularly used in the past, lithium-ion batteries are cleaner, live longer, recycle better, and require much less maintenance. But the advantages don’t stop there. Keep reading to find out how lithium-ion batteries make our homes not only cleaner, but smarter, too.

Not Just a Fair-Weather Battery

One major downfall of the lead acid battery is that its power capacity drops significantly in colder temperatures. In 0 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, a lead acid battery’s capacity is only 40-60% of its overall potential. This means that cold weather greatly decreases the amount of energy a lead acid battery can store, and with it, limits the amount of energy your household has avaialable on a cold day. Unfortunately, cold days are often when households need energy the most, to provide the heat to keep your home warm.

The same low temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit will only take a lithium-ion battery down ten percent or so. This means that even when your home battery gets cold, it can still store and provide your household with almost as much energy as it would on a normal day. If your home depends on your home battery for energy, reliability is key. Lithium-ion battery capacity is there for you, whatever the weather.

Cleaner Clean Energy

As far as environmental impact goes, lead acid doesn’t impress. Lead acid batteries require many times more raw materials than a lithium-ion battery to achieve the same level of energy storage. More raw materials means more mining, and a bigger environmental impact. The lead acid battery industry is also very energy intensive, requiring a lot of energy to even produce the battery itself. This leads to large quantities of pollution being dumped into the air, and into the environment.

Though the lithium in the lithium-ion battery does require mining, each battery requires less material, minimizing the impact on the earth. Lithium-ion battery manufacturing plants are also looking to use renewable energy sources for power, which may result in an impressively small carbon footprint. Imagine manufacturing a home battery used to store renewable energy in a factory that runs on renewables and energy storage itself. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Longer Life

Lithium-ion has a significantly higher cycle life than lead acid in deep discharge applications. This means that lithium-ion batteries can support a higher number of complete charge/discharge cycles before their capacity falls under 80%. Recent data shows that a lead acid battery would have to be 2.5 times larger in capacity than a lithium-ion battery to get comparable cycle life.

The difference in cycle life is even greater in extreme climates. In warm climates where the temperature hovers around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the difference in cycle life between lithium-ion batteries and lead acid models is huge. In these extreme temperatures, it takes less than 1000 charge/discharge cycles for lead acid batteries to drop below 80% in retention, while lithium-ion batteries wouldn’t see that much of a drop until at least 2000 cycles. This huge jump in battery lifetime is an exciting development for consumers who don’t want to worry about their battery capacity dropping when they need power the most.

This also means that lithium-ion home batteries won’t require replacement nearly as quickly as lead acid home batteries. After charging and discharging a lithium-ion battery thousands of times, it remains highly functional. Lead acid batteries decline much more quickly, leaving home battery owners with thoughts of replacement looming in the near future. More frequent replacement means less return on the initial investment made in each energy storage system.

Low Maintenance

Another inconvenience of lead acid batteries comes in the amount of maintenance each unit requires to prolong its battery life. Lead acid home battery users need to keep track of battery voltage, water levels, overcharge functions, and routine electrolyte maintenance. All this information is necessary to make sure lead acid home batteries are being maintained and serviced on a regular basis. Failure to track this data could result in even more, costly repairs, or even early replacement of the home battery itself.

Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are virtually maintenance-free, allowing owners to enjoy using the battery without worrying about permanent damage due deep discharge. There are many other things in life that demand and captivate our attention. Your home battery no longer has to be one of them. Your energy storage system can now be here to support you and your household, instead of the other way around.

Recycling

Currently lead acid batteries are recycled much more frequently than lithium-ion batteries, helping their case for environmental friendliness. Lithium-ion batteries, however, have a very high ability for recovery and recyclability, even though their recycling rate is lower than lead acid batteries. The reason for the lower recycling rate of lithium-ion batteries is simply because the technology is still emerging, and the machinery needed to recycle them is still costly, as it is still being developed. As the industry grows, lithium-ion battery recycling is expected to quickly rival lead acid batteries, and perhaps even surpass it due to the lower cost of using recycled lithium instead of mining more.

Easy Installation

The cost of transporting and installing lead acid batteries has been historically discouraging to consumers. The sheer weight of lead acid batteries makes them difficult to transport, and harder to install. Because of the weight of lead acid battery materials, there is no easy way to cut this cost. Instead, lithium-ion batteries offer a lighter alternative.

Lithium-ion batteries weigh much less, lowering shipping costs by 80%. Installation costs are similarly cut by over $16 per kilowatt hour. This makes the price of lithium-ion home batteries considerably lower to ship and to install, making them much more appealing to consumers. With the demand for home batteries across the country (and world), lower transportation and installation costs will become more and more important.

Smarter Than Your Average Battery

New home battery models have revolutionized residential energy storage by being connected and controlled by the cloud. “Smart” technology is infiltrating all devices (think phones and televisions) and home batteries are no exception.

Smart batteries will give renewable energy users, like those with solar panels, huge advantages. Smart home batteries have the ability to learn weather and energy trends, so they can focus on storing energy to make sure its available when the sun’s rays are not as strong. This practice can help maximize power usage, and also minimize the waste of energy when its abundant. Smart home batteries also facilitate communication with home battery owners, and are able to accept wireless commands, giving owners even more control over their energy.

Three Smart Lithium-Ion Batteries to Check Out:

Tesla Powerwall- The newly-announced Powerwall from Tesla has gotten a lot of attention for sleek design, but the real headliner is its price. The 7 kWh daily cycle battery is available to installers for a mere $3K ($3.5K for the 10 kWh back-up model). The 220 lb, indoor/outdoor battery comes with a 10-year-warranty, with deliveries promised later this year.

LG-Eguana’s AC Battery- LG Chem teamed up with Eguana to create a fully functional and durable home battery, perfect for residential use. The battery boasts frequency regulation, demand response, and feeder voltage support. External communication is also featured through HMI display, and the battery’s smart technology does the grid monitoring for you.

Sonnenbatterie- The energy storage system from Germany-based Sonnenbatterie is “more than just a battery.” It’s a smart storage system that automatically capitalizes your home’s energy consumption. A particularly interesting feature uses a learning algorithm along with weather forecasts to predict how much solar will be generated, and how much will be needed or stored by the household each day. On sunny days, it can delay charging until the afternoon, when photovoltaics will have the highest output. This home battery also lets you view power generation and usage in real time.

More to Come

There’s never been a better time to take advantage of home battery technology, and as the market grows, new energy storage developments will hit households around the world.

To see how you can enter into the era of smart home batteries, chat with a Swell representative and get all the information you need for a more powerful future.

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