In this article we will discuss some of the key elements of battery storage systems for homes and businesses. It will provide you with a solid knowledge base to help you understand the basics of battery storage, to empower you to ask the right questions of the electrical contractors that you are interviewing, and to help you end up with a system that meets your specific needs, taking into consideration your budget.

After witnessing how rapidly and completely COVID-19 ravaged our society, and how ill prepared everyone was for it, it got me thinking about how generally unprepared we are for the inevitable disasters we have seen and been warned about year after year. And when one thinks about disaster preparedness for their home or business, the obvious starting point is to make sure you have a secure independent power supply.

Without electricity to power our refrigerators and freezers, our food and medical supplies will quickly perish. Communication and security devices will fail to operate. Fuel and potable drinking water will not be able to be produced and distributed on a mass basis, if at all. Businesses will lose billions of dollars’ worth of data, and their operations will be paralyzed. Everyone will literally be left in the dark. And the inevitability of catastrophic grid failures is a certainty.

Planned rolling blackouts caused by excessive load demand in the summer are already annual events, as utility companies struggle to meet peak demand. Utility companies also blackout entire regions during fire season when high winds threaten to blow down aging power lines which in turn could cause massive wildfires. But even beyond that we have repeatedly seen and been warned about bigger and longer lasting grid failures caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteor impacts, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses), cyber-attacks, and the list goes on. Recent history proves this to be true in places like Puerto Rico where Hurricane Maria decimated the electric grid leaving most of the island without electric power for over a year, and even as recently as yesterday when tornados ripped through southern states leaving over 1,000,000 people without electric power, and with no idea when they will have their power restored. The only way to protect yourself from this same vulnerability is to have independent emergency battery backup power for your home and business; to be independent of the utility company’s electric grid. So let’s discuss battery storage, and answer some of the basic questions that many people have.

While some battery storage systems can be charged via the grid, this article is going to assume that your storage system is paired with a solar system for infinite charging capability in the event of a grid failure. Otherwise, when the grid goes down you will no longer be able to recharge your batteries, rendering the entire system useless.

Inverter/Component Selection
With that said, the first thing to know about battery storage is that all batteries store electricity as low voltage DC electricity (the same as the low voltage DC electricity that your solar panels produce), but your home and business (“property”) runs on higher voltage AC electricity, so inverters are used to convert the electricity from DC to AC, and in some cases from AC back to DC, as explained in more detail below. Second, it is important to know that inverters fall into one of two general categories: string or micro. String inverters use a single inverter to convert all of your system’s electricity from DC to AC in one central location, whereas micro inverters convert electricity in multiple locations so you are not subject to the risk of being dependent on just one inverter, thereby providing a modicum of redundancy as added security. Additionally, micro inverter-based systems commonly offer more flexibility and have greater output capabilities, so in general they have a higher entry point in terms of price. As with everything, there are pros and cons for string and micro inverters. But regardless which you decide on, they are both proven technologies, and they both offer high levels of efficacy, so either one could be a good solution for you depending on your personal requirements. In Addition, some storage systems are bundled as “all-in-one” solutions, which means that all the critical component come packaged in one consolidated unit that includes inverters, transfer switches, charge controllers, etc. While others are constructed on a piecemeal basis with the various components of the system, manufactured by different companies, having to be put together by the installing electrical contractor on site. There is no right are wrong when it comes to these choices. Deciding which is right for you will depend on your budget and your performance requirements, and your electrical contractor should be able to provide you with unbiased information to help determine which solution is best for you.

AC/DC Coupling
The next item to be aware of is the difference between AC coupling and DC coupling. DC coupled storage systems tie into your property’s electrical system between your solar panels and your inverter, so the DC electricity from your solar panels can be stored directly in your batteries without having to be converter by an inverter. Thereafter, the DC electricity can be fed from the batteries into your inverter and converted into AC electricity that can be delivered for use in your property’s electrical system. AC coupled storage systems ties into your property’s electrical system between the AC side of the inverter and your property’s electric panel. Because of the location of the tie in, the stored electricity ultimately needs to be converted 3 times before it can be delivered for use in your property’s electric panel. Initially your solar system’s electricity is converted from DC to AC by your solar system’s inverter, it is then converted back to DC to be stored on the batteries, and lastly it needs to be converted back to AC one more time before it can be used in your property’s electrical system. Therefore, a DC coupled system could have a higher efficiency, however, it will also be more exposed to the risk of a catastrophic system wide failure that could come with the use of a single string inverter. If you are starting from scratch with a brand new solar and storage system, AC or DC coupling will be equally easy to install. However, if you are adding storage to an existing solar system it could be more efficient to install an AC coupled system, so you don’t have the added cost of replacing your existing solar inverter. Again, there are pros and cons and budgetary considerations for both, but regardless of whether you end up with an AC or DC coupled system, installing solar and storage will provide incredible financial savings and disaster preparedness for your property.

Power Versus Capacity
This is a largely misunderstood consideration for most property owners because it is usually inadequately explained to them by the person or company that is trying to sell a storage system to them. Capacity is the total maximum amount of electricity that can be stored on your batteries at any one time, and its measured in kWh (kilowatt hours). Power is a measurement of how much electricity can be delivered from your batteries to your property’s electrical system for use in real time, which is measured in KW, or kVA (kilowatts). To use an analogy, Capacity is like the gas tank on your car, which is measured by how many total gallons it will hold. Power is how much of your car’s fuel you can convert to horsepower in real time. So you can have a car that holds hundreds of gallons of fuel in its tank, but if you can only access enough of that fuel to generate 20 horsepower at any given time, it’s not going to do you much good. Most consumers only look at, or are only shown, a system’s Capacity. And as just stated above, all the Capacity in the world will do you little good if it can’t be delivered when you need it, and in the quantity that you need it delivered in. This is not to say that total storage Capacity is not important. However, Power should be equally, if not even more importantly considered, as that is the greatest limitation of most storage systems. Furthermore, storage systems are rated for Continuous Power Output, which is its maximum steady state output capability, as well as for Peak Power Output which is slightly higher, but will generally be limited to about 5 seconds to cover electrical surges that are caused by large appliances when they initially start up. You should know the Capacity and Power (continuous and peak) ratings of the storage systems you are considering, so when you need that emergency power you won’t have any unpleasant surprises.

Load Shifting, Emergency Backup or Off-Grid
Another important consideration for property owners is what they want their battery storage system to be able to do. In the old days before there were concerns about peak demand on the electric grid, rolling blackouts, Time Of Use billing, or catastrophic grid failures resulting from natural or man-made catastrophes, solar and storage was rarely considered other than in situations where a property was beyond the reach of the utility grid (thus, “off-grid”). However, all of that has changed. Now in addition to providing off-grid power to those who live beyond the reach of the utility grid, storage systems may have the ability to Load Shift, and to provide emergency backup power to grid tied properties. Load Shifting is when solar or grid electricity from a grid tied property is stored on the batteries during the day, and then discharged in the evening when utility rates are at their highest (Peak rates), thereby maximizing the return on your investment. Emergency Backup occurs when electricity that is stored on your batteries automatically discharges to your property in the event of a grid failure. Having solar and storage transforms your emergency backup system into a renewable energy source that can recharge itself every day, indefinitely, for as long as a grid failure exists. And whereas an off-grid system is generally designed to power an entire property, an emergency backup system can and often is designed just to cover a grid tied property’s critical loads (ie: refrigerators, freezers, communication and security devices, data system, and any other loads that you couldn’t live or exist without), thereby reducing the capital outlay required to install a storage system.

Today’s modern storage systems are all UL tested, and are extremely safe. However, various storage systems use different chemistries in their batteries, with some providing an even higher level of safety than others. In instances where electrical contractors or manufacturers make claims regarding the stability and safety of their chemistry, they should be able to provide independent laboratory testing to support those claims. Furthermore, a battery’s chemistry may also limit the storage system’s depth-of-discharge (how much of the battery’s stored electricity you can actually discharge without damaging the batteries), and the life span of the battery, which is measured in both years and “cycles” (how many times a battery can be discharged and recharged). This is something that needs to be closely examined because two different systems that both guarantee a 10 year life and 3,000 cycles can provide vastly different amounts of power over their life depending on their depth-of-discharge, Capacity, and continuous Power capabilities.

How Much Storage Do You Need?
No two properties are the same, and no two property owners’ needs and goals are the same. Just like when designing a solar system, every storage system should be custom designed to a property’s specific needs and characteristics. Therefore, make sure that you are working with an experienced licensed electrical contractor who can not only answer all of your questions, but more importantly, one that knows all the right questions to ask you, and one that can perform proper load calculations depending on your overall goals and which loads you want to back-up. There are few storage systems that are easily expandable, so in most instances you’ve only got one shot to get it right.

Financing and Government Incentives
Lastly, it is important to mention that there are financing options available for almost every property owner regardless of their credit history, many of which require little or no money down. Additionally, there are still huge state and federal incentive that could pay for up to half of the cost of your system, but like all good things they will be coming to an end in the near future. Our licensed technicians can provide you with detailed information on both.

I hope this information helps to make you a smarter consumer as you evaluate solar and storage for your home or business. If you would like more detailed information about your specific project, we would welcome the opportunity to personally answer all your questions and provide you with a free quote. We install solar and storage systems as a package, as well as retrofitting new storage systems to pre-existing solar systems. We can even design and install a standalone grid-tied storage system without solar if your only goal is load shifting. Like I said before, every system is custom designed to the specific property’s goals, characteristics, and budget.

180 Solar Power is a premier provider of battery storage and solar systems throughout Southern California. The 180 Solar Power team brings the experience of over 30 years, and thousands of installations to every job we undertake. 180 Solar Power installs and services residential, commercial, non-profit, and government solar and battery storage systems for projects up to one megawatt. Contact us for a quote on a custom designed system for your project today; no cost, no obligation, no pressure.

Peter Stern is the president of 180 Solar Power. He’s a pioneer in the solar industry in Southern California, having overseen the installation of thousands of renewable energy projects for more than a decade.

What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught us so far?

What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught us so far?

Was this you?

Were you prepared for it? You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen the movies. ’Contagion’,‘Outbreak’, ‘Virus’; all the classic Hollywood end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it disaster movies. But like most people you probably said to yourself, “that’ll never happen here”.  Well, now we know differently. It can and it does, so let’s get serious.

Fortunately, this time most people were finally able to get the food supplies they needed, but it took a lot of hard work and patience, and it still does. We were also fortunate that this time there was no major damage to the country’s fragile aging infrastructure. This time it wasn’t “the end”. But what if it was? In an even greater crisis, in addition to having food and water stores for a minimum of two weeks, and up to 6 months, do you have an emergency coordination/communication plan for your family? Do you have transportation, medical supplies, cooking fuel, candles, flashlights, batteries, radios, emergency backup power, and all the other things that you’ve been warned to stockpile over the years? If the answer is “no”, as it undoubtedly is, then this is your wakeup call. This is the lesson that people should learn from the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve learned that it is no longer a matter of “if”. It is a matter of “when”. And pandemics aren’t the only real threat that we face. In addition to the fact that our country’s infrastructure is old and fragile and starting to fail on its own, leading government and private sector experts have long been warning about infrastructure destroying cyber-attacks by hostile actors. They have been warning about grid destroying Electro Magnetic Pulses (EMPs), both naturally occurring, and manmade. They have been warning about massive earthquakes, and colossal extinction level volcanic eruptions from the Pacific Northwest to Yellowstone Park. They’ve been warning about planet killing meteors, floods, tornados, fires, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the list goes on. Think it’s a joke? Think again. Governments worldwide spend billions of dollars each year researching, preparing, and enacting measures to try to mitigate the effects of these inevitable disasters.

Yet ironically, while Americans invest billions of dollars each year buying insurance policies to protect themselves from threats to their financial security (life, health, medical, home, car, fire, flood and earthquake insurance), they make virtually no investment in disaster survival preparations. And of all the disaster survival preparations that Americans should be making right now, an emergency power supply is the most critical for when the electric utility grid fails.

The reason an emergency power supply is the most important part of your disaster survival preparation portfolio is because without electricity to run your refrigerator and freezer it would only be a matter of hours or days before all of your perishable food and medical stores would spoil. There would be no way to power or charge radios, cell phones, ham radios, televisions, computers or any other type of emergency communications equipment. Burglar alarms and surveillance systems would be completely incapacitated, leaving property owners vulnerable at the time they most needed their protection. There would be no electricity to power the lights in your home, leaving you completely in the dark when all of the candles and flashlight batteries were gone. There would be no power to run your kitchen appliances, leaving you with limited options to cook the food you did have. Without electricity there would be no power to operate the pumps at gasoline stations, thereby rendering gas generators, cars, and all other gas-powered equipment obsolete. HVAC and air filtration units would become inoperable, garage door openers would cease to open, electric cars would become massive paperweights, and so on.

Furthermore, at a time when all of us are self-quarantining at home because of COVID-19, stop for a moment and imagine what your life would look like if your quarantine was taking place in a home…..with no electricity. Then imagine it stretching on like that for 6 months in a row…..or longer.
What would life be like for you and your family if you were quarantined in your home for 6 month or more with no electric power whatsoever?

The problem is that “the grid” is not just a small network connecting a few thousand homes in Southern California. Southern California’s grid is part of a massive interconnected web of wires, substations, and generating facilities that run up and down the entire west coast of the United States, and through Mexico and Canada. It is all interconnected, which means that any single point of failure anywhere along the line could derail power to anywhere or everywhere on the west coast for days, weeks, months or years, depending on the severity of the damage.

An example of this occurred in the summer of 2011 as a result of California’s dependence on electric power imports from Arizona, when a “human error” made by a technician caused an instantaneous power failure to approximately 2.7 million people up and down the west coast. In 2003 a software bug at FirstEnergy Corporation in Ohio caused a massive blackout that affected 45 million people in 8 northeastern and midwestern states. And in 1998 a simple lightning storm caused cascading transmission line failures that were so devastating that the northern midwestern region of the United States was completely separated from the eastern grid leaving people across the upper mid-west and central Canada without power. None of those outages lasted more than 24 hours, however, at some point in the future a more devastating and crippling disaster will cause an extended grid failure on just such a scale, or greater. Its just a matter of when. This also illustrates how these catastrophic events doesn’t need to happen right in your backyard for it to leave you completely incapacitated.

So what has the COVID-19 episode taught us so far? Be prepare for the worst, and do it now. Take every possible step to protect your family now. Make sure that you have a secure private renewable power source to power your family’s emergency electric loads, preserve your food and medical stores, power your communication and security devices, power your critical home appliances, lights, and any other equipment that you need to keep your house running and your family secure, even in the event of a total grid failure.

Furthermore, its important to emphasize that you should invest in a secure renewable power source, because generators cannot generate power without gasoline, and batteries cannot be recharged by an electric grid that is no longer functioning. Invest in a battery storage & solar system, fueled by the endless power of the sun, to create your own secure, private, renewable power infrastructure today.
It’s the only way to guarantee that you and your family will never be without the safety and security of electric power. And in the meantime, you’ll save money on your electric bill even while the grid is operable, because the cost of solar and storage power is a fraction of what utility electricity costs. So it’s a win-win either way.

180 Solar Power is a premier provider of battery storage and solar systems throughout Southern California. The 180 Solar Power team brings the experience of over 30 years, and thousands of installations to every job we undertake. 180 Solar Power installs and services residential, commercial, non-profit, and government solar and battery storage systems for projects up to one megawatt. Contact us for a quote on a custom designed system for your project today; no cost, no obligation, no pressure.

Peter Stern is the president of 180 Solar Power. He’s a pioneer in the solar industry in Southern California, having overseen the installation of thousands of renewable energy projects for more than a decade.



If you’re ready to free yourself from the grip of utility based electricity and its never ending rate increases, and you’re looking for the best alternative, solar panels might offer you the solution you want. Solar power positions you to reduce or completely eliminate your current electricity bills, convert to clean renewable energy, and do so while taking advantage of substantial government incentives. The 180 Solar Power team of experts can help you learn more about solar power while you research all of your options. When you’re ready to get started, the information below will help you prepare for the three most common issues to address before the installation of your new solar system installation.

 Make Sure Your Roof is Ready for Solar Panels

 The high quality solar systems that we install can produce energy for decades, so if your roof needs an upgrade, or you have concerns about its integrity, it is best to address it before your solar system is installed. Installing solar on a bad roof will cost a homeowner thousands of additional dollars when it comes time to remove and reinstall the solar system later when you finally reroof. 180 Solar Power performs a complete roof analysis prior to the installation of every solar system, providing professional guidance to ensure the best long term outcome from your solar panel investment.

Trim Nearby Trees

Shade from any source will reduce the output of your solar panels. And while some causes of shade are not addressable (for example, shade from a neighbor’s house on your roof), others, such as shade caused by trees can be mitigated. Prior to every solar system installation 180 Solar Power performs a detailed shade analysis to determine if there are trees shading the area where the solar panels will be installed. If there are we will inform you of it and what the expected impact will be, so you have the option of addressing it.

Three Foot Clearance

Your local utility company will perform an inspection prior to authorizing you to turn on your solar system, which is known as Permission To Operate, or PTO. One of the most important things they will look for will be the 3 foot clearance required on both sides and in front of the electric panel. Many property owners have shrubs, fences, gates or other obstructions around or in front of their electric panel. It is best to address any such obstructions before inspection, as a re-inspection can add days or weeks to the granting of your PTO.

Let Us Take the Lead

 With more than 2,000 solar installations and 30 years of experience, the 180 Solar Power team knows and follows all building codes, safety precautions and installation requirements, so we can have you up and running, quickly and safely. Whether your property is residential, commercial, non-profit, or governmental, 180 Solar Power is ready to make your dream of alternative solar power a reality.