Which brand solar battery is best?
Which solar battery is the best in 2023? Since 2019 there has been consistent uptake with solar batteries for homes and businesses in Australia. Some of this volume was due to State wide Government rebates and incentives around solar battery storage in the form of interest free loans and extra discounts on batteries.
However, from late 2021, this increase started to rise quite rapidly. And, it is the first time we have seen desire for solar batteries among consumers without any media attention around a new rebate or incentives. But why this sudden increase? In a nutshell there are 6 pillars which are driving consumer behaviour towards solar battery systems rather than just standard solar systems with no batteries:
- New Peak Demand tariffs for homes means higher fees for using lots of power during peak times when solar panels are not working.
- Time Of Use (TOU) Tariffs mean higher charges during early morning and early evening.
- Decreasing Feed In Tariffs (FITs) means you now get paid less for selling excess solar energy into the grid during the day.
- Emergence of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) means you can now get paid extra for having a battery.
- There is an increased desire for grid independence among general population.
- And people want black out protection for when power cuts occur.
All of these benefits are explained more clearly in our article with videos: Are Solar Batteries Worth It? The take home point here is that solar batteries now have value than ever and we expect this trend to continue in an upward spiral for the next few years.
So, how do I know which solar battery to buy?
Choosing a solar battery for your home can be a daunting process and very difficult to navigate. Especially if you are trying to find the the best solar battery in 2023. Luckily, there are third party facilities that have no allegiance with any battery manufacturers or installers that spend a fortune testing batteries and making the results readily available to the public. Also, our upper level management team here at GI Energy have over 37-years of combined solar and battery experience. This means we can take the non-biased third party data and interpret it for you in a really easy to understand way.
By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to make an informed decision on which battery is best in 2023.
The most reputable test for solar batteries in Australia is conducted by ITP Renewables, a renewable energy consulting company. ITP have been running a battery trial in Canberra since 2016. They have secured major funding grants totalling $870,000 from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), they built a test facility and have been testing storage batteries to an accelerated program designed to measure performance and reliability under typical Australian conditions.
At the time of writing there are 26 batteries being tested at this facility. Many of these batteries are not readily available in Australia and some are designed for off-0grid solar arrays. For the purpose of keeping this article focused on grid connected solar batteries and also ones that are readily available here in Australia, we will focus on the following brands:
In addition to these batteries that are being tested at ITP, we will also cover the following batteries that are newer and not in the facility (yet) but big players in Australia:
- Q Cells Q Home
- Sungrow Battery
So, what did the test results say?
Tesla have had two batteries tested at ITP: Tesla Powerall and Tesla Powerall 2.
The Tesla Powerwall (1 and 2), are not compatible with the SMA inverters used in the test lab, so a Solar Edge inverter was used instead. Nevertheless, this first Powerwall performed reliably and in line with its claims, with no problems. This was however, until it failed to restart after a planned shut down in 2019. The issue appeared to be that the inverter didn’t start the battery up correctly, or the battery was unable to charge due to a failed cell.
The Tesla Powerwall 2 had a fault when the it was delivered to ITP and was promptly replaced by Tesla. The new one has been on test since November 2018 and is performing really well and in line with what Tesla have suggested on datasheets.
The Powerall 2 is still in place and still being tested.
Sungrow batteries were only launched in mid 2021 and therefore have not been included in the ITP testing facility as yet. More information on the Sungrow battery can be found in the section below.
sonnen (intentional lower case s) is a German company who manufacture batteries in South Australia. They are a modular all-in-one unit comprising battery cell modules, BMS and inverter so no external inverter is needed. sonnen have only been tested at ITP since early 2020.
ITP had some initial issues with controlling the battery when it was commissioned, but since then it has operated without any problems. It’s too soon to draw any particular conclusions about this battery. More on sonnen below.
LG Chem are one of the largest battery supplies globally and manufactured in Korea. They have currently got two batteries being tested: RESU 1 and RESU HV.
The RESU 1 shut down multiple times during the 2018/19 summer temperature tests, suggesting a problem with operation in hot weather, though this has probably been exacerbated by the accelerated cycling program. Until then it was reliable and was performing well. Under real-life conditions it is less likely this would have happened. LG now have a newer version of this battery in the facility.
The RESU HV worked well for the first year of testing, but then would not restart after a shutdown. Inspection showed that the battery voltage had dropped too low and that had resulted in swelling of the battery cells. The battery was replaced with a new sample in October 2018, and the replacement sample has operated without problems.
BYD have also had two batteries tested: BYD B-Box and BYD B-Box HVM.
The BYD B-Box performed very well but the capacity seemed to be accelerated over time. This resulted in the battery being replaced with a newer version in 2020, which is performing well so far.
The BYD B-Box HVM had some initial problems after being unable to turn on or off after a shutdown and also with an internal DC breaker tripping. BYD assisted in resolving these problems – the second problem was due to out of date firmware in the Sunny Boy inverter being used with this battery. Since them, It has performed well but it is still early as this battery has only been in place since early 2020.
Alpha ESS is another all in one solution like sonnen. Unfortunately, the battery did not perform as expected during the 2018/19 summer temperature tests, with the battery cycling at a reduced charge and discharge rate. The manufacturer stated this was abnormal and took the test battery away for their own analysis in March 2019. The battery was not replaced and testing for this battery has concluded.
The Q Home product was only launched in Australia in mid 2021 so testing has not been done at ITP. More on this battery later though as we think it is worth considering.
What does all this testing really mean to me?
While this testing is a fantastic way to get some third party qualified input into which batteries are better than others, it is also worth noting the following:
- Solar batteries are changing all the time. Most of the batteries being tested are older version of the current models available to buy.
- Batteries are improving all the time, as illustrated by the newer versions performing better in these tests.
- There are lots of other pros and cons that are not taken into considering with these performance and reliability testing.
- The best solar battery 2023 for you will depend on your specific requirements, expectations and budget.
So, what else do I need to know about each of these batteries? And how do they rank?
The current Tesla Powerall 2 is the battery everyone wants. Tesla have made their battery sexy, appealing and have somehow created an Apple like consumer desire for the product. So, what is good and bad about the Tesla product?
- There is a reason Tesla are most people first choice. They are marketed extremely well, look amazing and add value to a home in ways other batteries don’t – because everyone notices them and knows what they are.
- They have a really high power output of 5kW which is way above average for solar batteries.
- They have a great back-up function and a very useful app that easily allows you to use the battery during peak times or only for blackouts if required.
- They are built in the USA so the build quality is high.
- Tesla are a booming company with a very bright future. Your warranties should be safe should you need them.
- The 13.5kWh battery is the only choice so if you need less storage you will need to look at a different battery.
- Tesla are not cheap. They are a great product but they come with a premium price.
Overall mark out of ten: 9.5
As mentioned above the Sungrow batteries were only launched in mid 2021 and therfore have not been included in the ITP testing facility as yet. So, what is good and bad about the Sungrow product?
- Sungrow are the worlds largest solar inverter manufacturer and they sell more than anyone else in Australia. They manufacture a great inverter for a very good price and they now have their own battery.
- Unlike the majority of their competitors, Sungrow manufacture the battery and the hybrid inverter needed to power it. This is a huge selling point because a host of issues can occur with an inverter being paired with a different brand of battery. Quite often you can have an inverter manufacturer blaming a battery and vice versa if something is not working as it should.
- The battery is also modular in 3.2kWh increments so you can stack up your storage as you wish.
- As with the Sungow inverters, the battery offers great value for money.
- Although their battery is new, they are not a new manufacturer entering into the battery market. We anticipate a lot of new manufacturers will pop up now volume is increasing and many of these will not last.
- They don’t look as nice as some of the batteries on this list (Tesla and sonnen in-particular).
Overall mark out of ten: 8
The German company that manufacturers in SA – what a dream combo! What else do you need to know?
- Being an Aussie made product the build quality should be higher than solar batteries made in Asia.
- They have been manufacturing batteries since 2010 and were an early adopter of lithium ion chemicals for solar batteries.
- They look awesome, like Tesla!
- They have a great warranty which covers 80% of their capacity over 10-years.
- sonnen are not designed to be installed outdoors so you will need to pay extra for an enclosure if you do not have space in the garage.
- Like Tesla, they are a premium product so they price is higher than most on this list.
- Quite often sonnen have offers where the battery can provide more value in the short term. Over the years this has been in the form of cash back or with a sonnen flat (where you are guaranteed $0 bills if you remain within the parameters of your chosen plan).
Overall mark out of ten: 7
LG manufacture solar panels and also batteries. They also have a partnership with Goodwe where they have a LG hybrid inverter to work with their batteries. Their solar panels are probably the best solar panels you can buy if you are not concerned by price. However, the batteries are a totally seperate division and a different office here in Australia if you ever need anything. So, what else do you need to know?
- LG batteries are South Korean made. South Korea is one of the technological capitals of the world, famous for making advanced, high-quality products.
- For a non-Chinese brand of battery they are very well priced.
- LG have a household name brand on par with Tesla but have been trading way longer (since early 1940s) so you will be looked after if you have a warranty claim.
- However, the service we have received from LG battery division to support customers has not been favourable. So, while they will be there to help if you need anything due to the big brand name, it might not be easy.
- With the co branded Goodwe and LG hybrid inverter, they have bridged the gap somewhat to eradicate the potential compatibility issues with one supplier of inverter and one supplier of battery. However, under the hood you still have a Goodwe inverter which would never be our first choice of inverter brand.
Overall mark out of ten: 6
BYD have a range of batteries and are another massive manufacturer on this list. They have a rich history making batteries for lots of different applications and are one of the biggest electrical vehicle and battery manufacturers in the world. What else is worth knowing?
- BYD have a good range of batteries and are therfore very versatile in terms of getting the right amount of storage for your needs. They are modular and you can stack up to nearly 1MW of battery power using the LVL version.
- You can also start really small and have as little as 4kWh of storage if you wish.
- They do have a tight relationship with Fronius, who will handle any tech related compatibility issues with the BYD battery installed with their inverters. Although this is a good thing as Fronius are a great inverter, it is still not as good as having the battery and inverter come from the same manufacturer.
Overall mark out of ten: 9
Alpha ESS is another all in one solution and is manufactured in China. So, what else do you need to know?
- They did not do well at the testing facility and failed to present a new battery for testing after the first sample failed.
- Alpha were formed in 2012 in China and have an office here in Australia.
- They use lithium iron phosphate chemistry; widely considered the safest type of lithium ion battery technology.
- The Storion SMILE version, which is the one available in Australia gets very mixed review from consumers who have them installed.
Overall mark out of ten: 6
Q Cells were the flagship German manufacturer of solar panels for a long time. They were more recently purchased by Hanwha Group, a South Korean monster of a company. The battery, called Q.Home, is a newer product and has been available in Australia since mid 2021.
- The Q.Home is effectively a hybrid solar inverter and a battery storage system paired together in an all in one unit.
- Like the Sungrow battery and inverter, you will only have one point of call if something with your solar and battery system is not working or you need support.
- The Q.Home solution utilises a Samsung lithium iron phosphate battery, which is regarded as very safe and reliable.
- The hardware is IP65 rated as “dust tight” which means it would survive being sprayed by a hose pipe and is therefore suitable for installation indoors or outdoors.
- It is too early to see any significant test results for this product but if the solar panels are anything to go by, Q Cell will have delivered a very good battery and inverter combo.
Overall mark out of ten: 7.5
Let’s sum that up, nice and easy:
What about the technical stuff?
For those who are interested in the technical stuff, the section below will help you decide which is the best solar battery 2023.
- Total useable energy: 13.5kWh
- Real power, max continuous: 5kW (charge and discharge)
- Apparent power, max continuous: 5kVA (charge and discharge)
- Maximum Output Fault Current: 32A
- Warranty: 10-years
- Dimensions: 1150 mm x 753 mm x 147 mm
- Weight: 14kg
- Indoor our outdoor: Either, IP67 (Battery & Power Electronics) IP56 (Wiring Compartment)
- Total useable energy: 9.6kWh – 25.6kWh
- Real power, max continuous: 3kW
- Apparent power, max continuous: 3kVA
- Warranty: 10-years
- Dimensions: 625 x 545 x 330 mm (3 x 3.2kWh modules)
- Weight: 114kg (3 x 3kWh modules)
- Indoor our outdoor: Either, IP55
- Total useable energy: 4.5kWh – 13.5kWh
- Max charge / discharge: 2.5 – 3.3kW
- Warranty: 10-years
- Dimensions: 137 x 67 x 23 mm (various – see below)
- Weight: 81kg (for 4.5kWh usable storage)
- Indoor our outdoor: Indoor only (enclosure available to purchase)
LG make various different batteries. The LV range tech details are as follows:
The HV range tech details are as follows:
BYD have three types of solar battery.
1) The HVS / HVM:
2) The LVL:
3) The LVS: