Chapter Preview: The Battery Powered Home
Take a free peek at the Amazon Best Seller The Battery Powered Home: Foolproof Grid Tied Lithium Storage. Written for the professional solar installer and the curious homeowner, this book guides the reader through the ins and outs of energy storage systems. And it all begins with Chapter 1. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 Introduction
Robert and Carol Beckett were sitting with their two young children in the dark. Through the living room window drapes, they could see the culprit of their power outage- the faint orange glow of a wildfire only 20 miles away. The winds were in their favor for the time being and they were safe. It had been another 100-degree day in the Sacramento Valley and without air cond
itioning, the house had reached an uncomfortable 90 degrees. But they dared not open the windows since the soot and the smell of the wildfire would quickly enter the house. Robert used his cell phone sparingly, turning it off when not in use, but Carol kept hers on in case a fire alert came through.
The faucets still worked for now. Carol quickly opened and shut the refrigerator only when necessary. She finally found the old can opener since the electric one was useless. Robert lit candles and used his old camping lantern when walking around the house. There we
re a thousand different ways the Beckett’s would have rather begun their weekend. Then an alert came through on Carol’s phone.
The power outage was estimated to last another 4 days.
“How can this be? We spent over fifty thousand dollars on this solar and battery system and here we are in the dark. I just don’t get it. We bought this system to make it through a power outage, but we only made it a day.” Robert had a serious case of buyer’s remorse. He was going to call the installer first thing Monday morning since he couldn’t get anyone on the phone during th
“Pack it up. Grab all the food you can. We’ll find a motel.”
As the Becketts drove off, Robert looked over at his house with resentment as he saw the night sky’s orange reflection on their rooftop solar array. “Piece of shit.”
Although the utility power had been out for about 24 hours, the Beckett’s had power in their home until 8 hours ago. They were sold a battery system that wa
s supposed to give them “energy security” and provide power during an outage so that their lives could go on with very little impact on their daily routines. And they did, until they prematurely emptied their battery. It wasn’t the battery’s fault. It wasn’t the solar’s fault. In the end, it was their own fault. But the company that sold the Beckett’s on disaster resiliency had some responsibility to bear.
Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar story for me. If I had a beer for every email, phone call and text from someone with this story I would be a drunkard. In th
e 12 years I have been training solar professionals, the dangers of bad customer expectation management have always been a priority. Although a technical trainer by job title, I frequently take service calls from frustrated installers because I am usually the first technical person they meet at my company. Occasionally, I am put on speaker so that the homeowners can also voice their frustrations.
I have been a trainer for most of my adult life beginning
with my first naval shore duty assignment as a submarine sonar instructor. I had to learn how to train and talk the language so the baby sonarmen as well as the crusty enlisted and officers could understand since the
y would usually be in the same room. I have always maintained the notion that if I could make my training sailor proof, then anyone could learn the material. If you can get a sailor to learn and safely execute a new skill without hurting himself or equipment, then the curriculum is solid. That is how I wrote this book.
This book started as a LinkedIn blog post, but I realized it could be much more than that. I want to help you be a better solar and storage professional. I want to emp
hasize the word professional. This book is NOT for do-it-yourselfers who want to punch holes in their roof for cheap Chinese made solar and use golf cart batteries and a $30 charge controller to power their off grid shanty. I’ve seen too many of those dumpster fires to know better and will leave that part of the industry to someone with more guts than I have.
This book is NOT for solar and storage system installers- the people on the roof fastening solar modules, bending conduit, turning wrenches, and running wire. Those skills require OJT and are beyond the scope of this book.
Solar is one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide, and storage is not far behind. There are many places in the United States (Hawaii, for example), where installing solar without batteries doesn't make sense. The reasons to dive into this industry are as numerous as the products and jobs it creates. As climate awareness grows, so does the desire to reduce our carbon footprint. Solar and storage offer a clean and reliable energy source that appeals to the climate-sensitive and the environmentally responsible. Having a miniature power production plant in one's home
appeals to the techno-geek in all of us. Combining solar and storage offers true grid resiliency, peace of mind, zombie apocalypse sustainability, and energy security. Make no mistake, amongst all of these legitimate Pollyanna-esque reasons, is the real opportunity to make a good living in this billion-dollar industry.
Here's the WIFFM, the "what's in it for me?". Diving into specific areas of renewables requires baseline and continuing education- particularly for salespeople and system designers.
Prepare to be schooled beyond the spec sheets, bey
ond the sales and marketing hype. Become prepared to talk to your customers in an intelligent and informed way to establish and maintain status as a subject matter expert. If you find yourself saying, "That's a great question. Let me get back to you on that." more often than you are comfortable with, keep reading. I get weekly calls, emails, or texts from installers about their pissed off customers. Most of their reasons can be traced back to (your) poor customer expectation management. The other reasons are usually bad system designs.
If you size and design solar and storage systems, I have devoted an entire chapter to your craft. Mainly because this is where many negative customer expe
rience issues can be avoided, particularly with battery systems. I will show you how to correctly size these systems to keep you, the customer, and the product manufacturer's service line happy.
The internet has closed the gap between the novice and expert; however, the beneficial information is intertwined and buried within the sales and marketing bullshit, or worse, the court of public opinion. Navigating these waters can be a daunting task, and this book is the nautical chart to keep you from running aground.
The section that I am most passionate about deals with the myths and misconceptions in our industry. These MnM's range from harmless industry superstitions to egregious and deliberate marketing misinformation. This section was the impetus for this book.
Even in the renewables industry, storage is still r
elatively new to many people and downright scary. This apprehension seems counterintuitive since solar and storage started out together decades ago in the quest to save the world from fossil fuels. Or maybe it was to hide grow lights. Regardless, some solar companies deliberately shy away from storage (offering, promoting, or even talking about it) until they get a customer who wants it. Why would someone intentionally turn away business? For them, storage is too much of a hassle, there isn't enough margin, and/or they lack the skillsets to size, design, and install the system. It becomes a scramble to learn storage "real quick" when they do get a serious customer. Newsflash: those customers are becoming more frequent.
You must educate yourself and your team on storage- there will be a time when installing solar without storage won't make any sense. You should be prepared for this inevitability even if you don't think it is imminent. You do not want an angry Beckett chewing you out.
To compensate for varying knowledge levels, a Too Long; Did Not Read (TL; DNR) sound byte will preface a new thought or discussion. Be on th
e lookout for an occasional footnote and my antithesis voice as well.
"Cripes, man, just get to it already!"
Yeah, that's him. Let’s dip our toes in the murky waters and start making sense of it all.