Blog Post

How to Choose The Best Back-Up Power: Generators, Batteries and SimpliPhi Power

If you want to buy back-up power to avoid blackouts caused by extreme weather or grid outages, it helps to consider value, reliability, safety, and your usage plans.

Rapid advances in renewable energy and storage technology mean that you can add to your generator’s capacity - or skip a generator completely. The best lithium ion batteries can now go far beyond most generators’ run time and power output, thereby eliminating the refueling, maintenance, fumes and noise that come with running a generator. But if you already have a generator, you can add solar + storage, or just storage, to get even greater energy independence and security.

Value

Fuel-powered generators are generally priced from $500 to $6,000, depending on size. That’s typically a lower up-front price than non-fuel solutions like lithium ion batteries. However, if you factor in the cost of fuel, maintenance and replacement over a decade or more, the long-term costs of generators is now generally higher than the cost of fuel-free alternatives.

A SimpliPhi Power storage system may cost more up front than a generator for the average home. But SimpliPhi energy storage systems will provide more maintenance-free back-up power over a longer period. They can also save you money if you use them during hours when utilities higher rates, such as in Time of Use (TOU) and Peak Demand Charge pricing.

Depending on where you live and the local utility rates, you can significantly lower your energy costs or even sell power back to the grid. And SimpliPhi Power’s storage systems are warrantied for 10 years of reliable operation with no fuel costs or routine maintenance. During that same 10 years, you probably would have to replace a fuel-powered generator at least once -- essentially doubling your generator purchase price.

If you add up the cost of refueling, the hours of maintenance, the down-time due to failure, as well as the uncertainty of being able to obtain fuel in emergencies, you see that a generator’s lower up-front price doesn’t reflect the real and far greater cost over time. In addition, generators cannot be used to offset utility rates on a daily basis, further diminishing the up-front cost advantage of a generator.

Comparing equipment warranties, fuel and maintenance costs side-by-side, and factoring in the opportunity to reduce your daily utility costs, is the most reliable and unbiased way to comparison shop. If you add up the savings, convenience and peace of mind offered by a pre-programed, pre-wired energy storage and management solution that is silent and fume free, that automatically integrates your generator, battery storage, solar (if you have it) and your critical electrical loads for uninterrupted power during an outage, the advantages of a SimpliPhi system really begin to add up.

The good news for those who already own a generator or are committed to buying one is that SimpliPhi offers pre-wired energy storage and management systems such as our AccESS units that tie directly into your existing home or business.

SimpliPhi also offers smaller home back-up systems such as the ExprESS, Big Genny and Little Genny mobile generator systems, which can tie in or operate independently.

Moreover, these systems can extend the life of any generator and reduce fuel consumption. Working together, the generator takes on the role of a periodic charging source and the SimpliPhi system takes on the role of the primary power provider. The AccESS and ExprESS come with a 10-year warranty, delivering a lower cost of lifetime ownership and far greater return on investment than a generator alone. And SimpliPhi’s Big Genny and Little Genny Emergency Kits are warrantied for five years.

Reliability

When shopping for an emergency power solution, the most important question to ask is whether your backup solution will work when you need it. The warranty is an important indicator of reliability. Fuel-powered generators must be tested, maintained and run regularly to ensure they continue to operate, and some must be replaced every two to three years. This maintenance and replacement schedule creates uncertainty as to whether a fuel-powered generator will be ready to provide power when you need it most.

By contrast, SimpliPhi energy storage systems can store them over long periods of time, with a self-discharge rate of less than 1% a month. That means you can be confident that they will be charged and ready for use in an emergency. They require no maintenance and are warrantied to operate reliably for a decade.

Another factor to consider: fuel can be hard or impossible to get in a crisis - especially if many homes or businesses nearby are also losing power. A SimpliPhi system requires no fuel. The AccESS, ExprESS and Genny Emergency Kits can work with any charging source: grid, solar, wind, a generator or any combination. Charging to capacity takes two hours or less. They can be charged and discharged simultaneously and as often as needed.

 

Safety

One of the biggest concerns about fuel-powered generators are fumes. They release carbon monoxide and toxic pollutants, which makes them unsafe and potentially deadly to use in or near enclosed locations such as a home, office or garage. Opening windows or a garage door does not eliminate the risk.

Unlike fuel-powered generators, SimpliPhi’s AccESS, ExprESS and Genny Emergency Kits do not emit carbon monoxide or any other toxic pollutants or fumes. They are safe to use virtually anywhere: inside a home, business or garage, in closets or RV’s, sheltered in a basement, in the backyard, under a carport or on a porch.

It’s also important to consider fire danger. Fuel-powered generators require you to keep flammable fuel onsite, which is dangerous day-to-day and can be even more deadly during a fire or other disaster. Additionally, you must ensure the generator has cooled to a safe temperature before refueling it to avoid the danger of explosion or fire.

The LFP batteries used in SimpliPhi’s AccESS, ExprESS and Genny Emergency Kits can operate safely in high temperatures, don’t generate significant heat, don’t require costly cooling systems to stay safe, and don’t act as an accelerant when exposed to flames.

Note that not all lithium ion batteries use the same chemistry and that each chemistry has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is advisable to avoid lithium ion batteries that use Cobalt-based chemistry in order to eliminate the inherent toxicity and potential safety hazards associated with Cobalt (NMC & NCA). Newer innovations in lithium ion battery chemistry, such as the lithium ferro (iron) phosphate (LFP) utilized by SimpliPhi Power, don’t use Cobalt, creating safer battery solutions.

The lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) chemistry is the safest, most environmentally benign lithium battery chemistry available. Lithium batteries with the toxic and more volatile element Cobalt have been identified as the cause behind spontaneous fires and explosions such as those that powered the controversial Hoverboard and Samsung Galaxy phones, demonstrating the inherent risk of cobalt-based lithium ion batteries.  Finally, if you want to achieve energy security with your back-up batteries, why use something that is potentially hazardous? And if you are going to store clean renewable energy, or even power from your generator, why use a toxic battery?

Practical Use

One of the greatest concerns when it comes to back-up power is fuel supply. When an emergency strikes, it can be difficult to find. Most filling station pumps today are powered by electricity, meaning that if the grid goes down in a community, fueling stations are also out of service. In a serious emergency, if you are able to find a filling station with working pumps, you might face long lines, rationing and premium pricing.

If you use a fuel-powered generator as a source for charging your SimpliPhi energy storage system, rather than running it as a primary power source running 24/7, you can significantly reduce the amount of fuel you need. And as mentioned above, you can power up a SimpliPhi AccESS, ExprESS or Genny Emergency Kit with solar, wind, a generator or any combination as often as needed for as long as grid power is unavailable. When the grid comes back on-line, it’s seamlessly integrated as a charging source as well, optimizing all your charging assets.

Noise is also a consideration. Fuel-powered generators are notorious not only for emitting toxic fumes, but also for being loud. They produce noise levels ranging between mid-50 decibels to mid-80 decibels -- as loud as city traffic. Many communities have noise regulations that apply to generator use. Loud generators can also make it difficult to hear important sounds and alerts during an emergency, decreasing safety.

SimpliPhi LFP batteries emit virtually no noise since they are not run by a motor, and don’t need ancillary motors to run fans or cooling equipment.

SimpliPhi’s integrated systems are also relatively easy to transport. Most fuel-powered generators big enough to power all or part of a home have to be fixed in location. SimpliPhi ExprESS and Big Genny Emergency Kits are available on wheels. The Big Genny is slightly smaller than most carry-on luggage. And the Little Genny can easily be carried by hand. In most cases, SimpliPhi’s superior energy density, smaller size, non-toxic chemistry and fuel-free design make even large-capacity ExprESS systems easier to transport than smaller capacity fuel-powered generators.

In sum, carefully consider all of the factors that contribute to long-term value, reliability, safety and practical use before choosing your backup power solution. And even if you use a generator as a charging source, consider SimpliPhi-ing your back-up power solution!