As more and more people install solar on their homes and the price of electricity from the grid continues to spike, energy storage systems, also known as solar batteries, are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners. Solar batteries are a complementary technology to solar panels that help establish energy security and reduce grid dependency, while saving money in avoided electricity costs. In the U.S. there are rules, regulations and recommendations to ensure battery installations are completed in a safe and effective manner. In this article we’ll discuss where you should and shouldn’t install your battery to maximize its capacity and your safety!
- Solar batteries are the most common form of solar energy storage, and help reduce grid dependency, allowing homeowners to establish their own energy security.
- The NFPA 855: Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, contains requirements for the installation of energy storage systems.
- There are several factors such as weather, climate, and battery weight that determine how and where your battery can be installed.
- Check out the EnergySage Marketplace to compare quotes for solar-plus-storage installations.
What’s in this article?
What are solar batteries?
Solar batteries are the most common form of solar energy storage – which is important because the sun isn’t always shining! You may be considering a solar battery if you’re looking for resiliency, energy security, or cost savings (especially if you live in an area with time-of-use (TOU) rates or don’t have net metering). While most home batteries available today use lithium-ion chemistry, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and storage capacities. Check out the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide to explore and compare different solar battery options available today.
Where can you install a solar battery?
In order to determine where you should install your solar battery, it’s first important to consult requirements from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a non-profit organization dedicated to setting codes and standards to ensure fire safety. They created NFPA 855: Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems to set the minimum requirements to mitigate any hazards associated with energy storage.
NFPA 855 includes different location requirements for energy storage system installations depending on capacity. They consider systems between 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) and 20 kWh to be residential – any system larger than 20 kWh must comply with commercial installation requirements. If your system is 20 kWh or smaller, you can safely install your solar battery in the following locations, according to NFPA 855:
- An attached or detached garage
- On an exterior wall or outdoors as long as it’s three feet away from doors or windows
- In a utility closet or in a storage or utility space
Regardless of the location, if you install your storage system indoors in a room that’s unfinished, you’ll need to ensure that the walls and ceiling are protected by at least ⅝ inch gypsum board (commonly referred to as drywall) for fire resistance. Additionally, if you’re installing your battery in a location that could be impacted by a vehicle, you’ll also want to ensure there’s a barrier to protect it from accidental damage, which could lead to a fire or explosion.
What to consider when choosing a battery location
Solar batteries range in price from $8,500 to over $10,000 (not including installation) – so, when purchasing and installing your battery, it’s important to carefully determine where your system will be located. We’ve outlined some of the key things you’ll need to consider, but you’ll ultimately want to consult with your installer who will follow the recommended installation tips provided by the manufacturer.
Weather and climate
Many batteries can be installed indoors and outdoors depending on their IP rating, which is an international guideline that suggests the degree of protection a mechanical casing or electrical enclosure provides against dust and water. However, in areas of extreme climate variability, such as heavy rainfall, extreme sunshine and humidity, it’s best to install the battery indoors to maximize its life and minimize any chance of damage.
Weight of the battery
Some batteries can be very heavy and dense, so it’s possible that you’ll need to check with a licensed structural engineer before settling on a location for your storage system. The engineer should be able to examine your house and recommend areas and fittings that would be able to withstand the weight of the battery, while also meeting building codes.
Ventilation and safety
Some batteries can emit flammable gasses and many can get quite hot – thus, you’ll want to ensure your storage system is set up in a well ventilated area that isn’t near any main living spaces or flammable materials.
Make of the house
Brick houses aren’t flammable, which can give you a bit more flexibility in terms of installation location. If your house has wood siding, you’ll likely need to put up a barrier of non-combustible material between the battery and the house itself.
Most of the time your battery will run seamlessly and you won’t have to do much for it – but it’s always possible that something will go wrong and you’ll need to repair or replace your battery. So, when choosing a spot to install your battery, it’s best to choose a place that’s easily accessible in case it needs to be serviced.
If you’re installing a storage system with multiple batteries, you’ll want to make sure you install it in a place where you can maintain a safe distance between each of the batteries. Generally, you’ll want at least three feet between each battery to ensure a safe set up.
Many manufacturers include specific instructions on where to install their batteries – and, if you don’t follow these requirements, you might end up voiding their warranty. If you’re considering a specific battery product, consult with your installer before choosing a location for your storage system to make sure it complies with manufacturer recommendations.
Are solar batteries safe?
It’s possible you’ve read a few news stories here and there about solar batteries catching fire – and while this is possible, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s extremely rare and solar batteries are safe. Typically when you hear about these scenarios, it’s because the storage system was improperly installed, which is why it’s so important to find a reputable and experienced installer that knows how to install the battery you choose. To learn more about the safety of solar batteries, check out this article.
Find the right battery for your home
The best way to make sure you’re installing the right equipment for the right price (and in the right place!) is to compare quotes from multiple solar-plus-storage installers. Register for free on the EnergySage Marketplace today to get up to seven custom quotes from pre-screened, local installers. Already have a specific battery in mind? Simply note it in your account so installers can include the battery in their quotes.