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Generator vs battery – which is better for backup power?

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Losing power unexpectedly to your home or business can be a significant cause for concern. 

For a business, a power failure could result in substantial financial loss, cause safety concerns, or damage the business’s reputation.

Keeping your home powered can be vital when you live in an area with lots of power cuts or have life-sustaining equipment to power, such as a ventilator. 

Whether for comfort, financial stability, or life-saving reasons, you may consider investing in a backup power supply. To get the best backup power system for your needs, it’s worth doing some research. 

Throughout this article, we’ll compare backup generators and battery systems to help you make the best decision for your home or business. 

Using a generator for backup power

Generator Installation 300

To start with, it’s important to understand each backup system. 

A business or home backup generator can provide a reliable power source. The most common generators used in these circumstances are standby generators or portable generators. 

Standby generators are permanently installed and connected to the building’s power supply. The moment you lose power, the generator kicks in via an automatic transfer switch to provide the power to keep you up and running. 

Diesel generators are popular for large businesses as they offer a cost-effective solution to off-grid backup power. A natural gas home generator connected to the main gas line may be preferred to power your home. 

Portable generators tend to be smaller (hence portable) and less expensive as they don’t have installation costs. These are often used as a power solution when you need to power remote or temporary locations, such as construction sites and events, or you have more minor power requirements. Like with standby, the fuel source may be diesel, petrol, or a gas generator. 

Make sure you buy the right generator for your needs. In a power outage, you want to be confident you can generate power until grid power is restored. 

Using battery backup power

An alternative option to a generator is a backup battery system. A battery backup power source is a set of batteries and an inverter that can power things like appliances and electronics. 

A battery backup system can be installed as a standalone system that charges on grid power, or it can be part of a solar power system that uses solar panels to harness solar energy to charge the batteries. 

Whichever way the battery is charged, the energy stored in the battery can take over as emergency power in an outage. 

Battery backup vs generator: How do they compare?

Now let’s compare generators and battery backup. Before making any decisions, assess your backup power requirements to ensure you have the capacity to power your home or business. 

Bear in mind the length of time your generator or battery backup will need to run. If there is an extended power outage, you may require a continuous power source.

>> Make a contingency power plan to understand what power you need. 

Battery vs generator: the costs

Let’s start with the costs, as this is often an influencing factor when considering backup power options, and keep in mind you will have upfront costs and long-term costs. 

Generally, the upfront cost of a battery power system is greater than a generator, and this will vary if you go for a solar battery system with solar panels. Installation costs for battery systems also tend to be more expensive, so the initial costs will be in the £thousands. 

On the flip side, the long-term costs of a generator may be more than battery backup, particularly for larger power needs such as commercial businesses, due to the cost of fuel to run the generator. This may vary depending on whether fuel costs are lower than grid power costs

Diesel generators are a popular choice when the generator is running regularly due to frequent power outages, they are more fuel efficient than other types of generators so their long-term running costs tend to be cheaper than petrol generators, for example. 

It is worth noting batteries have a shorter lifespan than generators, so you will need to replace them over time. A generator that keeps your home running or business in power regularly can be more cost-effective than replacing batteries frequently. 

Battery vs generator: reliability and maintenance 

Whether you’re looking at a home battery backup system or want a generator as a backup for your business, you want to feel confident you can rely on your power source. 

Battery backup systems require little maintenance as they have no moving parts. They don’t have as many elements to go wrong, so they should be more reliable. However, you should check them regularly to know it’s ready to work when needed. 

Batteries do have a capacity limit and lifespan. If they are not charged adequately or are used to power high-demand appliances for extended periods, they can deplete quickly.

Generators do require more regular maintenance, depending on the generator you buy. Maintenance usually includes oil and filter changes and fuel refills to keep the fuel fresh.

You also need to run and test the generator as required. The supplier manual will advise you on this. A load bank test should be done to check the generator’s power output, so you’re confident it’s ready to operate during a power outage. 

Although generators require more servicing and maintenance, a well-maintained generator will outlive a battery. 

>> Talk to us about servicing and maintenance for your generator. 

Battery vs generator: environmental impact

Lastly, consider the environmental impact. Battery backups don’t emit greenhouse gasses or pollutants while in use, and solar energy systems offer a sustainable renewable energy solution. 

As mentioned above, battery life spans can be short and disposing of batteries can harm the environment, although some batteries are designed to be recyclable. 

Generators can impact the environment. Because they often run on fossil fuels, they can emit harmful pollutants. They can also be noisy and disruptive to the surrounding environment. 

There are environmentally friendly generators available. Natural gas generators burn cleaner than petrol or diesel, and you can get hybrid generators that combine generator and solar energy so you can have the best of both worlds.

Backup power that’s right for your home or business 

As we’ve discussed in this article, there are pros and cons to both battery and generator backup power options. 

Battery backup systems will cost you more upfront, but they are better for the environment and in most cases cheaper to run long-term. Whereas, a generator will be cheaper upfront but likely cost more to run, however, when well-maintained it will be reliable for years to come. 

It comes down to choosing the best solution for you, so to begin with, you should determine how much power you need to power your home or business. 

Contact the Solent Power team for advice on determining your power needs. We’d be happy to help. 

Paul Phelps Solar Power Owner
Paul Phelps
Paul is the MD of Solent Power and specialises in emergency power solutions, helping to protect your facilities from power loss. Get in touch with us today to discuss the different power brands that we can offer and how they can suit your needs.
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