Can you have Battery Storage without Solar Panels?

Home battery storage has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly for homes with solar panels. But what about homes without solar? Is it still worth investing in a home battery system? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

Interest in battery storage systems for renewable energy is on rise, and going hand in hand with battery storage is solar panels. 

The premise is simple: Solar PVs generate the electricity when the sun is out and the battery stores any electricity that isn’t used immediately. Perfect. 

But what about if you don’t have solar panels? Can you still make the most of home battery storage without solar panels? If you did, what would be the benefits and what are the downsides? The good news is that the use of battery storage is not exclusively tied to solar power generation. Batteries are versatile units capable of storing energy from different sources.

How does domestic battery storage work?

Battery storage systems work by storing electricity for later use in homes. The batteries are generally charged using electricity generated from solar panels or that comes from the national grid during off-peak hours.

When the stored energy is needed, usually during peak hours or when your solar panels aren’t generating enough power, the battery system kicks in and discharges electricity to your home appliances.

There are a few types of battery storage systems, but the predominant type for modern, domestic batteries is lithium-ion. This is thanks to their high energy density and longer lifespan. A battery energy storage system (BESS) is made up of the battery unit itself, an inverter to convert DC power from the battery to AC power used by household appliances, and a control system to manage the flow of electricity. The control system monitors all the important metrics, including energy production, consumption and grid connection to optimise the battery’s charging and discharging cycles.

Does battery storage work without solar panels?

The answer to this one is straightforward: Yes, battery storage systems can work without solar panels.

In simple terms, the main job of a battery system is to capture electrical energy and keep it stored until it’s needed. The science and technology behind it is way more complicated of course. 

Battery storage is often associated with solar panels, and for good reason. Solar panels generate green electricity in a feast or famine type of way. On bright, sunny days it’s possible to generate too much energy for your home’s needs. Without battery storage, this ‘free’ energy is wasted for you.  

That said, batteries can store energy from various other sources, including the national grid or other renewable sources like wind turbines.

In a home without solar panels, a battery storage system can be charged by drawing power directly from the grid. This is particularly beneficial when using a time-of-use tariff, which allows homeowners to charge their batteries during off-peak hours (usually early hours of the morning) when electricity prices are lower. 

For example, with the Octopus Go tariff, there are four hours between 12:30am and 4:30am where electricity costs 8.5p per kWh. During peak hours, this same electricity costs around 31p per kWh. If you charge your battery during these low cost hours, you’ll make significant savings.

There are a variety of home battery storage systems available on the market, each with their own unique features and benefits. Some popular options include:

  • Tesla Powerwall: a sleek, wall-mounted battery that can store up to 13.5 kWh of energy.
  • LG Chem RESU: a compact, high-performance battery that can store up to 9.8 kWh of energy.
  • Sonnen ecoLinx: a smart, energy management system that can integrate with solar panels and other home automation technologies.

The benefits of battery energy storage without solar

Even without solar integration, battery energy storage systems offer several benefits to homeowners. While solar panels and storage batteries form a complementary, independent system that can reduce reliance on the grid, batteries alone can still provide significant advantages. Here are some of the key benefits:

Here are some of the key benefits of non-solar home battery storage:

1. Backup Power

One of the most significant benefits of non-solar home battery storage is backup power. With a battery storage system, homeowners can store energy during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper and use it during peak hours when electricity is more expensive. This means that homeowners can reduce their reliance on the grid and save money on their electricity bills.

2. Energy Independence

Another benefit of non-solar home battery storage is energy independence. With a battery storage system, homeowners can generate and store their own energy, reducing their reliance on the grid. This can be particularly beneficial during power outages or grid failures. Homeowners can continue to power their homes even when the grid is down.

3. Environmental Benefits

Non-solar home battery storage can also have environmental benefits. By reducing reliance on the grid, homeowners can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner environment. Additionally, some battery storage systems are made from recycled materials, making them a more sustainable option.

4. Reduced Emissions

If connected to a supplier that sources energy from renewable sources, such as Octopus Energy, you’re still voting for a greener future even without personal solar panels. Green suppliers can help you reduce your household’s carbon footprint and support the transition to a cleaner energy future.

5. Grid Stability

Using stored power during high demand has two benefits: it saves you money and reduces the overall strain on the grid, resulting in a more stable and reliable electricity network. Bigger residential BESS can even act as ‘virtual power plants’ for which you get paid for.

6. Flexibility

Battery storage systems present a good option for homes that are not suitable for solar panel installation (due to orientation, shading or other architectural constraints) but still want to get involved in smarter and greener energy use.

7. Cost Savings

Finally, non-solar home battery storage can help homeowners save money. By storing energy during off-peak hours, homeowners can reduce their electricity bills. Additionally, some battery storage systems are eligible for government incentives and rebates, further reducing the cost of installation.

Overall, non-solar home battery storage offers a range of benefits for homeowners. From backup power to environmental benefits, homeowners can enjoy increased energy independence and cost savings with a battery storage system. You can read here how battery storage will save us almost £1,000 this year.

Cons of battery storage systems without solar panels

Although we’ve seen that battery storage systems can work independently of solar panels, there are still certain drawbacks you need to be aware of. The main disadvantages include: 

1. High Initial Cost

Purchasing and installing a home battery storage system requires a fairly hefty initial investment. There are certainly ways to make this more cost-effective (as we discuss below) but a BESS will still cost you several thousand pounds. For the savings you can make though, this works out for you in the long run.

2. Still Grid Dependent

Although batteries offer you some energy independence, a battery without solar means you’re still reliant on the grid and at the mercy of price changes by energy suppliers.

3. Lower Environmental Benefits

Without free solar energy that you know is 100% renewable, charging from the grid may mean tapping into fossil fuel generated electricity. Even with the best green suppliers, it’s hard to dictate exactly where your electricity has come from.

4. Battery Degradation

Batteries don’t last forever. They’ll naturally degrade and become less efficient over time and with use. The average lifespan for a good lithium-ion battery set up is 10-15 years.

Types of Home Battery Storage Systems

Home battery storage systems are becoming increasingly popular as more homeowners seek to reduce their reliance on the grid and save money on their energy bills. While many people assume that home battery storage systems are only useful for those with solar panels, there are actually several types of home battery systems available for those without solar. Here are a few of the most common types:

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable battery and have been used in a variety of applications for over 150 years. They are relatively inexpensive and widely available, making them a popular choice for home battery storage systems. However, they have a relatively short lifespan and require regular maintenance to ensure they are functioning properly.

Lithium Ion Batteries

Lithium ion batteries are the most common type of battery used in modern electronics, including smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. They are also becoming increasingly popular for home battery storage systems due to their high energy density and long lifespan. While they are more expensive than lead acid batteries, they require less maintenance and are more efficient.

Flow Batteries

Flow batteries are a relatively new type of battery technology that use two electrolyte solutions separated by a membrane to store energy. They are highly efficient and have a long lifespan, making them a popular choice for large-scale energy storage systems. However, they are currently more expensive than other types of batteries and are not as widely available.

Nickel Iron Batteries

Nickel iron batteries are another type of rechargeable battery that have been around for over 100 years. They are known for their long lifespan and durability, making them a popular choice for off-grid applications. However, they are less efficient than other types of batteries and are more expensive.

Overall, there are several types of home battery storage systems available for those without solar panels. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to do your research and choose the one that best fits your needs and budget.

Installation and Maintenance of Battery Storage Systems

Installing a battery storage system without solar panels is a straightforward process that can be completed by a licensed electrician. The installation process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the size and complexity of the system.

Before installation, it is important to determine the appropriate location for the battery storage system. It should be installed in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area that is easily accessible for maintenance. The battery should also be located away from sources of heat, such as direct sunlight or heating appliances.

Once the location has been determined, the electrician will install the battery storage system and connect it to the home’s electrical system. They will also install any necessary monitoring equipment and ensure that the system is functioning properly.

Maintenance of battery storage systems is minimal, but it is important to perform regular checks to ensure that the system is functioning properly. This includes checking the battery’s charge level, monitoring the system’s performance, and ensuring that all connections are secure.

How much does standalone battery storage cost?

The cost of installing a residential battery energy storage system can, and will, vary. The final price depends on the size of the battery capacity, the technology and how it’s integrated with or without solar panels. Installation costs also contribute to the overall price.

The average cost for battery storage in the UK is around £4,500. But you can pay anywhere up to £10,000 for a well-sized battery storage system. A helpful rule of thumb is to budget an additional £900 per kWh of storage capacity.

The table below provides a rough estimate of the expected costs for a lithium-ion battery based on its capacity. The optimal battery size will depend on the household’s specific energy needs.

Battery size (kWh)Battery price
3-5£2,500 – £5,000
5-7£3,500 – £7,500
7-9£5,000 – £10,000
9-12+£8,000 – £13,000+

It’s worth noting that the cost of a BESS doesn’t have to come straight out of your pocket or savings. They can be added on to certain mortgages as a green home improvement. 

It’s also worth considering the payback time. When paired with a favourable time-of-use tariff, the return on investment can be relatively short. In some cases, the battery could pay for itself within 5-6 years. Considering the typical 15-year lifespan of a BESS, this represents excellent value for money.

Solar battery grants

There aren’t any specific grants available for battery storage. However, there are still things you can take advantage of. 

For example, Ofgem’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme enables homeowners to receive payments for exporting energy to the grid. However, this requires a solar PV installation.

Starting from February 2024, standalone batteries will be subject to a zero-rate VAT. This has been expanded from the 0% VAT on solar panels.

Apart from these measures, you’re not getting too much help from the government, sadly.

Is battery storage better with solar panels?

We’ve covered the benefits of battery storage systems on their own, but it’s clear that they are better with solar panels. 

Pairing battery storage with solar PVs creates a more comprehensive, efficient and renewable energy system for households. The complementary nature of solar panels and batteries allows you to make the most of both renewable energy investments, reducing the amount of electricity you need to buy from the grid. 

But you also get the best of both worlds. You can generate and store your own electricity, as well as tap into cheaper energy from the grid to top up your battery when needed. 

Overall, battery storage plus solar array will help you to reduce your monthly bills and environmental footprint. 

Can solar panels be added to a battery storage system later?

Yes, solar panels can be retrofitted to an existing battery storage system at a later stage. This is much in the same way that you can add battery storage to an existing solar array, which is the most common way to go about things. 

When retrofitting solar panels to an existing battery storage system, it’s essential to make sure that systems and components, such as inverters, are compatible. As you’d expect, this requires getting an expert in.

Wrapping up, battery storage systems can offer benefits for your home even without solar panels, including cost savings, smarter energy use, back up power and future flexibility. However, combining battery storage with solar panels is the optimal move as both complement and maximise the efficiency of the other.

About the author 

Ben Hardman

Ben is a professional writer and the creator of sustainable living website
It's here where he helps people to reduce their environmental impact through simple, everyday choices. Away from the laptop, Ben loves spending time in the natural environment with his young family and Murphy the cocker spaniel.

First Class BSc Biology degree (environmental and climate change focus)
Six years of working and writing in the environmental sector, including two years working at an international sustainability consultancy
Written for Ethical Consumer magazine, My Mother Tree, Unsustainable Magazine, Happy Eco News, Emission Index,
Commented in The Independent, The Guardian, GreenMatch. Also featured on Radio 1's environmental special 'Minute of Me'

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