Tesla revolutionizes anything it touches. Its efforts in the electrical vehicle market pushed automakers into taking the industry more serious. Their efforts in solar power and energy storage has also led to more and better power storage options to people who want to go offline.
However, they are known for having long waiting lists when they launch a product or rather complicated after sales support.
This is what forced me to start thinking of alternative powerwall solutions. My search even saw me dabble with DIY powewalls using lithium-ion cells from old laptop batteries. While my DIY powerwall is cheap, nothing can beat the reliability, safety and deployment simplicity a complete product gives you.
That is why I went back to commercial powerwalls and started looking for Tesla alternatives. The most notable thing I had in mind when looking for alternatives is the fact that the Tesla Powerwall is a complete package.
It has the batteries, an inverter and a charge control (power management) system. All you need to incorporate it to you solar system is a couple of circuit breakers, cables and solar panels.
My alternatives list will omit multiple battery packs that just give you a compact wall-installable battery with a battery management system. I will look into these when comparing them to my DIY powerwall in another post.
LG Chem RESU
LG is a well-known electronics brand. Their shot smart home energy storage, Chem RESU, LG is a good start. The basis of the system is a lithium-ion battery paired up with a smart management system that controls how you charge or use these batteries.
The capacity ranges from 3.3 kWh to 9.8 kWh. This makes it a great full-home backup system and it is good to note that LG didn’t design it to be a full-time off-grid system even though you can charge it with solar.
The LG Chem RESU was designed to take some of the strain off your utility electricity supply while giving you some protection from short blackouts.
If you live in a sunny place, it will be a good way to even out the ups and downs of your solar panels and even help you lower your electricity bill.
A 3 kWh pack can power an average home for a couple of hours while the 9.8 kWh can push you to almost a day if you are frugal enough.
The LG RESU is good for people looking for a hybrid system but don’t find a solar panel only grid-tie system good enough.
It will help you lower your electricity bill on sunny days and carry you through short power blackouts but don’t expect to go off the grid using this system alone.
Pika Energy Harbor Smart
Pika Energy comes from a background of building inverters and power optimizers. This gives them the credibility they need to venture into smart home batteries. The Pika Energy Harbor Smart is as a result of their partnership with Panasonic.
The Harbor Smart is optimized for solar panels. You will, however, need to also get a Pika Energy Inverter to get the best off this Harbor Smart Battery.
The battery has all the hardware and software needed to manage your energy consumption and juggle between renewable energy and power from the grid.
Pika Energy gives you between 10.6 kWh and 15.9 kWh or storage. You can stack up a couple of batteries to fully utilize the 60 kWh capacity on the Pike Energy Inverter.
The battery is robust enough to survive in an off grid setting even though it shines the most in an hybrid setting. You can power a tiny home or off grid cabin with one or two batteries but you will need more to run a home with a family of four and above off grid.
If anything goes wrong, you can tap into the 10 year warranty that can be extended to 25 years on special occasions.
This is a good option for homeowners who want to go fully off grid. You might need more batteries to survive winter and perhaps a backup generator though. The warranty option is also very lucrative. It will keep you covered for the system’s lifespan.
ElectrIQ Power IQ System
The IQ system from ElectrIQ is a comprehensive product consisting of an energy meter, a battery and a hybrid inverter. This Tesla Powerwall alternative also features a home energy management system that will give you absolute control over your power use.
The system is based on a 10 kWh stackable storage option that lets you pile up a couple of the batteries to increase how much power you have at your disposal at the end of the day.
This all in one system is perfect for the fully automated home since it will even integrate with other smart devices in your house like Ecobee and Nest thermostats.
Big homes will need more than a few of these to go off grid but small homesteads that have optimized energy consumption with the intent to go off grid can easily work on the IQ System.
Sonnen Eco is the only lithium ion phosphate based alternative on this list right now. Even though it might not be as energy dense as the other lithium ion chemistries, it is safer making it less of a bother to people worried about storing so much energy in their basements or home wall.
You will get between 4 kWh and 16 kWh depending on how much you are willing to spend.
It is a good option for people who want to go off grid especially if you are willing to cut down on your energy consumption. It focuses on putting all excess from the panels into your battery meaning that you will use less grid power if have a big solar array.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Tesla Powerwall Alternative
Powerwalls are a good solution to people who want to integrate solar power or an on-grid power backup in a neat compact package.
All the products featured in this list come in one compact and slim package that occupies less space than a collection of AGM or Lithium batteries, a lot of cables, circuit breakers, charge controllers and inverters.
You still have to consider some factors before deciding to ensure that you get the best product. Here are the top things I considered when thinking of getting a powerwall.
Usable Stored Capacity
The total capacity on a battery doesn’t mean much if you can’t use all of it. Normally, Lithium batteries operate at 80% for optimum lifespan.
Some powerwall manufacturers factor this in and overspec the battery bank so that the quoted total capacity is higher than the usable capacity.
Dig deep into the specs and look for the usable capacity. This is the figure you need to consider when buying your powerwall as it will determine how much energy you can draw out of the battery before recharging it.
The inverter output in the system will dictate how much power you can pull from your new powerwall at a go. A 5 kWh powerwall with a 2000 Watts inverter will limit you to less than 2000 watts at a go. Sometimes, this might be less than what your home needs to run off grid.
Look for a system that can meet your instantaneous power requirements even if it can do so just for an hour. This will come in handy when running the system with the sun shining.
Going for an over powered inverter that is almost double what you need will give you surge headroom hence saving you the stress of tripped circuit breakers or blown inverters.
All these companies, just like Tesla, have installation costs and additional hardware costs separate. While these might sound minimal compared to the overall powerwall cost, they will eventually add up.
Compare the prices and look for what will give you the best kW/hr deal possible.
Availability in Your Region
The thing that pushed me into exploring alternatives was Tesla powerwalls are not available in my region. Shipping in most of the alternatives also costs an arm and a leg.
Always check if the powerwall is readily available in your area and if the company has accredited installers ready to work on your house. Everything else will be pointless if they can’t get the powerwall or urgent spares and maintenance services to you.
Are Powerwalls Worth it?
The convenience of a professionally built powerwall makes it a very lucrative solution for a busy homeowner who doesn’t want to spend hours troubleshooting their power supply. These compact solutions have more safety features and will fail less often.
They are beautiful, compact and easy to use. If convenience and looks is top on your list, then they are worth it.
However, if you are looking for the biggest bang for your buck and don’t want to wait for a technician every time something fails, powerwalls might be a bit limiting.
If you are good at learning and love a challenge, you can make do with high quality Lithium Ion batteries, charge controllers, a good grid tie inverter and some assistance from a certified local electrician.
The good thing with assembling your own power backup is you can either service it yourself or get modular support when something fails as opposed to waiting for a big company to send in a technician for a simple repair when they can.
How Long Can a Powerwall Power a House?
This varies depending on your property’s energy consumption and the size of the powerwall. If you have gone through any of my post touching on how much energy a home or an RV needs, you will be familiar with the energy consumption.
Basically, if your tiny home consumes 2 kWh per day, you can go for two days without charging a 4.2 kWh powerwall.
A frugal home in the US might use around 15 kW per day. This means that a 9.8 kWh LG RESU powerwall can’t even take you through a day.
A good way to avoid exhausting your battery backup is either paralleling more than one battery or drastically lowering your power consumption when running on backup. You could cut off power to things like air conditioning, electric heaters and induction cooking to lower power consumption.
The ideal Tesla Powerwall alternative is a complete system with an energy management system and the inverter you need to interphase between the battery and your 110V/240V energy requirements.
Battery packs that simply store energy but don’t give your home a way to use it without adding extra off-brand equipment didn’t make it to this list. If you are looking for these to build a modular backup system, you can find them littered all over the website.
After all, we are gaga about going off grid.