As I recently wrote, I am trying to decide if when I get a solar system installed on my roof here at 1644 W. Canal Court in Littleton, Colo., which will hopefully happen sometime in the next several months, I should spend more money to get a bigger system or use some of that money to buy battery storage and go with a smaller system.
I am ALL about getting off of fossil fuels as much as I possibly can as quickly as I possibly can and, if I could, I would cut the cord from my utility, Xcel Energy, in order to accomplish that goal. Yes, that is how “extreme” I am about this. But we are in an extreme situation where our entire ecological system is crashing and that requires immediate, extreme action.
Buying battery storage would allow me to say, with 100% certainty, when the electricity I am drawing in my 1,400 square foot condo has been produced by renewable energy generated electricity. Without battery storage, I cannot say this, as, even though I have paid extra for Xcel Energy Windsource for seven years now, I do not know what the grid mix of the electricity flowing into my condo is at any given time.
That bothers me. A LOT!
So, I have been leaning heavily toward buying a smaller solar system, maybe a 4.5 to 5 kW system and adding battery storage, which is pricey, rather than going with a 7 kW system without storage, as the doing the latter means every single night I will be drawing from the electric grid and whatever its mix is.
Turns out, I could have a problem with my dream of going with battery storage to do my best to ensure that as much as possible of the electricity I use in my condo has indeed been produced by my solar system: Battery placement 😖.
My garage is not attached to my condo and my basement is finished — it is a living space for my oldest teen daughter.
Battery storage units such as Tesla Powerwalls or the LG Chem RESU Prime are typically installed in non-living spaces, either in a garage, which, in my case is not attached to my condo (but which does have solar panels on it, thanks to me and my successful drive to persuade my HOA, Highline Crossing Cohousing Community to pay to have a 9.3 kW system installed on our shared garage block units), or in an unfinished basement. My basement is finished.
The solar installer that I am leaning toward having install my system — ARE Solar — indicated to me that it could be a problem that the only place where a battery storage pack can be installed in my condo is in a living area, likely in the finished basement in which my oldest daughter has her bedroom.
Apparently, while there is nothing in the written city building code for the City of Littleton that states that a storage battery cannot be installed in a living area, inspectors can be capricious and decide unilaterally that, well, this doesn’t meet code, and one could potentially red-flag a battery unit installation in my basement/daughter’s bedroom after it is installed. Then, I would be out $12,000 to $15,000 because there would be no place to place the battery pack outside of a living area — other than outdoors, which is a very BAD idea given that outdoor placement exposes the battery to temperature and weather extremes that would reduce its capacity, efficiency and life.
Say what?! A random city building inspector can do whatever he or she wants without written documents to back them up? Apparently, yes!
ARE Solar had indicated it is somewhat reluctant to install a battery storage unit with my solar system given this — though they also told me that two to three customers in Littleton they have installed for have solar + battery storage that is located in a living space in their home.
So, I have been researching alternatives, and I have come across this interesting possibility: EcoFlow portable batteries. You can cluster multiple EcoFlow units — Delta Pros and/or Delta Maxs — and create just as much kWh potential as a Powerwall or an LG Chem RESU Prime. And, because they are portable, presumably there is not the code issue that a permanent battery installation on a wall in my basement could raise with a capricious City of Littleton inspector.
Another portable battery storage option might be a Goal Zero Yeti portable power station.
But there is a catch: EcoFlow’s larger storage units are so popular that they are all sold out (as are GoalZero’s Yetis)! In addition, in order to get the kind of set up I would want, I would need a Delta Pro Smart Generator electric panel, or essentially, an electric-sub panel for my main electric panel. I would need to hire an electrician to do this work because that kind of installation is WAY above my head!
Then, City of Littleton Code probably comes into play again. That is, if I hired an electrician to install this Smart Generator panel, he or she would presumably have to file a permit with the City of Littleton and a building inspector would land in my basement (where my electrical panel is).
Presumably, that inspector would ask: What is the purpose of adding this Delta Pro Smart Generator electric panel. And I would have to say: Home battery storage and that storage would technically be in a living area, albeit most likely in my laundry room, which is also in my finished basement, not in my daughter’s bedroom.
Could he/she then capriciously decide not to pass my new sub-panel because it was linked to storage batteries, albeit portable, storage batteries?
I REALLY want battery storage now that I have thought about it more. This is because, with 10 kWh of daily storage, I could easily ensure that 100% of my electricity use in my condo was solar generated for at least six months of the year, possibly as much eight: I rarely use more than 5 kWh per day (my 2020 Chevy Bolt is parked in a detached shared community garage block with solar on it and is not linked to my condo’s utility meter).
Might the EcoFlow and Delta Pro or Max, two of them, plus a sub-panel that would help me manage the battery use and distribution of electricity across my electric drawing appliances, etc. here be a good (even better?) alternative than a Powerwall or LG Chem RESU Prime?
A final aside: The EcoFlow Delta batteries can be hooked up to portable solar panels that can directly fill them up! Is that not the coolest thing ever!