Tesla Powerwall Vs DIY Backup Battery Bank


Tesla Powerwall Vs DIY

With renewable energy and home-based energy storage becoming more popular, Tesla still leads the market on both for in-home solutions. However, some home DIY projects are popping up, so how do they stack up against the Powerwall?

Tesla Powerwalls beat DIY solutions in nearly every category. While DIY solutions offer flexibility and sometimes lower cost, they cannot compete with everything else a Powerwall offers.

It is no surprise that individuals and businesses are trying to emulate Tesla’s Powerwall with their own DIY battery systems. Using a lithium-ion battery in tandem with solar energy is by no means a patented idea. Whether it be to save on money or the sheer thrill of technological challenge, DIY battery systems have gained popularity along with the Tesla Powerwall.

Function: What Can Each Do?

The Tesla Powerwall can store up to 14kWh of energy, this unfortunately is significantly less than what a normal household uses on a daily basis. So, while a single Powerwall can lend a helping hand as a backup generator, in many cases one Powerwall may not be able to completely take you off the power grid.

The energy storage itself may be one of the few areas where DIY can have an edge. Considering there are no limitations, energy hobbyists have found ways to create a larger store of energy on their DIY battery systems. This does not speak to the efficiency of the energy itself however, only the maximum amount of energy storage allowed.

The Tesla App allows you to monitor and control your energy system from anywhere. This is a huge advantage compared to some home systems and increases the efficiency of the energy used. For example, you can set your system to switch to grid power to allow for the Powerwall to recharge overnight.

Tesla’s Energy Modes

Many unique features are available for configuration from the Tesla Powerwall system. They increase efficiency during instances where power goes out and can even detect incoming storms. The following can be programmed into your system:

  • Time-based control is a function that allows you to determine whether you can save money by switching to backup power or power up from the grid when energy rates are low.
  • Backup-Only is a mode that will ensure your energy is saved for the event of a power outage.
  • Self-Powered mode is only available with the use of solar energy and will store the extra energy from your solar panels.
  • Preconditioning mode heats up your Powerwall to ensure it has maximum energy capability during cold or extreme weather.
  • Storm watch mode pairs with the National Weather Service to detect incoming severe weather and prepares for proper energy storage.

While rigging your electronics to your phone can be done on your own as well, there are no guarantees on tracking your data correctly. There are many factors that may not be taken into account. The Tesla app is the sure winner here and will take a lot of the hassle out of optimizing your home energy system.

The Tesla Powerwall operates in temperatures ranging from -4° to 122° Fahrenheit. If you are living in an area where temperatures are below freezing or exceed 86° regularly, it will be recommended to install the Powerwall indoors.

The indoor/outdoor flexibility is an advantage that most DIY power systems can’t compete with as they need to be protected from the elements.

DIY Battery systems require some sort of climate-controlled apparatus. It is not recommended to install a home battery system in a house or garage. This means that on top of building your own battery system you’ll need something to protect it as well. This adds cost and is less efficient than having a built-in climate-controlled system.

Winner: Tesla Power

Tesla Powerwall wins for these reasons:

  • Monitored energy efficiency
  • Automatic backup
  • Climate flexibility 

Form: How Does Each Fit in a Home?

The Tesla Powerwall is a slick, compact device that looks just like the name implies. It is a tower of power that can be installed either inside or outside based on your geographic location. The Tesla Powerwall relieves the headache of random wires, connections and exposed hardware. Best of all, you can control this sleek setup from your phone with the Tesla App.

DIY battery systems come in all shapes and sizes, some are exposed rows of battery cells in metal fixtures and some are enclosed and compact. Many energy enthusiasts are using the Tesla Powerwall as a standard and working off its design. However, trying to reproduce the look and compactness of a Tesla Powerwall may be harder than mimicking its power.

Winner: Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall wins this category for these reasons:

  • Sleek Design
  • Compact
  • Compatibility for multiple Powerwalls
  • Indoor/outdoor flexibility

Cost: Which One Will Be Cheaper?

For all the form and function of a Tesla Powerwall it’s not surprising to see the cost where it is.

Though many would find it hard to put a price tag on clean energy, Tesla’s price on the Powerwall is $11,500 not including the federal solar tax credit. With the tax credit you can save yourself a couple thousand.

The federal government is offering a tax credit for those wishing to install a Tesla Powerwall in a new or existing solar energy system. As long as the system is powered only by solar energy, you can get the cost of a Tesla Powerwall reduced to $8,510.

DIY charging systems range in price and will depend on your overall technical savviness. There are ways to keep the cost low, but as with everything, you pay for what you get. When you factor in time and material costs, DIY charging systems projects can take months and thousands of dollars depending on the scale.

Some of the more popular DIY battery systems enthusiasts cite that DIY Powerwalls can be built for less than a thousand dollars, one claiming that one could be built for around $300. The pricing depends upon materials used and amount of energy storage capacity.

However, Tesla Powerwalls last about fifteen years and are under a ten-year warranty. There is no guarantee with a DIY battery system.

Winner: Draw

This one was tough to determine, and it’s no secret that DIY energy enthusiasts are improving their personal models and they can do so cheaply with enough time and know how. While examining cost alone, it would seem that DIY battery systems offer more flexibility, but that doesn’t speak to its overall energy efficiency.

Determining factors for Tesla include the following:

  • No need to piece different parts together
  • Standard products
  • Ten-year warranty included

Determining factors for DIY battery systems include the following:

  • Many different material costs and broad range
  • Can be done cheaply
  • Power and capability flexible  

Installation and Maintenance

It is recommended that the Tesla Powerwall be installed by certified technicians. Tesla offers their own trained professionals for installation purposes and will even survey your space for you. Not only will they install the Powerwall, a handful of technicians will also install new solar energy systems on the same day.

However, you can hire your own installation team or do it yourself as well. The estimated cost of installation including the Backup Gateway is around five thousand dollars. There is no standard pricing on installation cost of a DIY battery system and there is much added time putting all the different pieces together.

DIY battery systems require constant maintenance and upkeep. Batteries cells often need replacing and all the other working parts of the system must be accounted for as well. The Tesla Powerwall has all its features integrated in their own system and requires little to no maintenance. 

Multiple Tesla Powerwalls can be installed together and doing so increases the backup potential. One Powerwall can backup lights and a number of small appliances while adding a second or third Powerwall allows you to back up even more.

DIY Battery systems are flexible enough to reach power levels of the Tesla Powerwall, but there is no telling if they would be able to reach the amount of coverage that Tesla provides. With the added convenience of installation by trained professionals and no configuration guesswork, Tesla is the clear winner here.

Winner: Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall wins for these reasons:

  • Convenience factor
  • Installed by trained professionals
  • Technicians determine best installation location
  • Low maintenance and upkeep

Battery Lifespan and Capacity

Lithium-ion batteries have one of the longest life cycles which is why it’s an obvious choice for powering Tesla Powerwalls. DIY Battery systems also use lithium-ion batteries but can also use acid-lead batteries which have a notably shorter lifespan.

Tesla’s warranty on the Powerwall ensures that the battery life will remain at above 70% capacity past the ten-year mark. It has been noted that using your Powerwall as a backup as opposed to a primary source of energy will increase the lifespan and overall capacity long term.

The warranty only covers failure however, and does not cover degradation which happens naturally in lithium-ion batteries over time. Since lithium ion batteries hold up well over a duration this is a distinct advantage over DIY battery systems as failure for these systems would be a huge setback.

Depending on the materials or batteries you use for your DIY battery system, there may be some warranty or guarantee available. Considering most of these systems are composed of many working parts, it’s hard to pinpoint any guarantee on the lifespan.

Multiple Tesla Powerwalls can be installed to increase overall energy storage capacity and ability. This helps increase battery lifespan and take some of the heavy lifting off that a single Powerwall endures.

What Can Each Configuration Power?

We’ve broken down what you can expect each Tesla Powerwall configuration to power.

Single Tesla Powerwall:

  • Lights
  • Electrical outlets
  • 120v small appliances

Double Tesla Powerwall:

  • Lights
  • Electrical outlets
  • 120v small appliances
  • Central air conditioner
  • Electric oven
  • Compatible well pump
  • Tesla electric vehicle charging

Triple Tesla Powerwall:

  • Lights
  • Electrical outlets
  • 120v small appliances
  • Multiple Central air units
  • Electric oven
  • Tesla and non-Tesla electric vehicle charging
  • Electric dryer
  • Electric water heater
  • Pool equipment

Winner: Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall wins for these reasons:

  • System failure coverage
  • Overall energy efficiency
  • Product standard
  • Lithium-ion powered

Monitoring

The Tesla Powerwall is monitored by the Backup Gateway system. The Backup Gateway allows you to manage and oversee your overall energy efficiency. The system also provides smooth transition during the event of a power outage without lifting a finger.

DIY Battery systems can also be monitored by various apps. There is no standard with these apps so there are no guarantees on properly monitoring energy usage. The monitoring systems cost hundreds of dollars and vary from product to product on their capability. Another case of pay for what you get here.

Net Metering

Net metering allows you to send unused energy back to the power grid to “bank” energy for later use, as opposed to storing the excess energy on site. This system is available from some utility providers and in some cases, you will not receive full credit for the unused energy.

The Tesla Powerwall reduces the need for net metering and increases its potential because energy is stored on site. This is overall more cost efficient as the energy will be stored for later use instead of being sold back to utility companies at a fraction of the cost.

DIY battery systems aren’t always tied to the grid. There could be a substantial amount of energy that goes un-stored and you never get credit for. Backup storage on DIY systems provides no guarantees and their components generally undergo quick degradation requiring extended maintenance.

Winner: Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall wins for these reasons:

  • Overall capability
  • Monitor/control from mobile app
  • Integrated Backup Gateway system
  • Onsite energy storage
  • Greater net metering potential

Environmental Impact

Tesla’s name and products in general are associated with environmental consciousness, their Powerwall is no different. While cost might be the only limiting factor of the Tesla Powerwall, the environmental efficiency is the reason for it. Cheap self-sustaining renewable energy is still a far cry in most people’s minds which is why so many energy enthusiasts have tried to make their own.

DIY Battery systems are often made with the minimum components, since there is no standard among these DIY types, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact efficiency of these systems. DIY Battery systems may also use acid-lead batteries which save on cost, but add a negative environmental impact. Tesla Powerwalls are always lithium-ion.

Lithium-Ion Vs Acid-Lead Batteries

Some DIY battery systems use lead-acid batteries as opposed to the lithium-ion batteries that Tesla uses in their products. While the energy of an acid-lead battery comes at a reduced cost, the lithium-ion battery beats it in every other category. The use of acid-lead batteries in  DIY energy systems reduces their efficiency and increases their over environmental impact.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

  • Have a greater capacity than acid-lead batteries
  • Have a greater depth of discharge which extends battery life
  • Use 95% of the battery charge making it more energy efficient
  • Have a longer lifespan lasting many energy cycles

Acid-lead Batteries

  • Have a lower overall cost
  • Better for the flexibility of DIY Battery systems
  • The technology has been around and tested longer

While acid-lead batteries are recycled at a higher rate than lithium-ion batteries, partly because lithium-ion batteries have a longer lifespan. Tesla has their own designated sites for recycling and actively refurbishes old batteries for use in their products.

Winner: Tesla Powerwall

Tesla Powerwall wins for these reasons:

  • Onsite Recycling
  • Global Standard
  • Long battery life

Long Term Impact

This is an area where Tesla has received some criticism. The popular argument is that at the end of the lifespan of lithium-ion batteries recycling will be problematic. Many people believe Tesla should be focusing on what the impact will be down the road when these batteries inevitably die.

The recycling process requires strict adherence and important steps should be taken to ensure these batteries don’t end up in a landfill. This issue is not specific to Tesla however, since most DIY battery systems are made up of lithium-ion batteries, DIY energy enthusiasts share in the responsibility.

On top of that, extracting the lithium from the earth is an energy intensive process. Mining operations generally use coal or other harsh forms of energy. Tesla sends the lithium to China for processing and is outside of U.S environmental regulations.

There is no guarantee that DIY battery system enthusiasts have procured their own lithium-ion batteries in a more environmentally friendly way. Tesla does have their own recycling facilities that can process lithium-ion batteries that have reached the end of their life cycle. DIY battery systems will have to be properly recycled on their own.

As it stands today, a small percentage of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, meaning the majority of them ends up in a landfill. This gives slight advantage to Tesla as there is no global standard on lithium-ion battery recycling.

Winner: Draw

Determining factors for Tesla Powerwall and DIY battery systems include the following:

  • Both the Tesla Powerwall and DIY Battery systems use batteries with questionable long-term implications
  • The responsibility of recycling properly over time is both a personal and global issue
  • Lithium-ion batteries have a long lifetime, but have strict recycling policies

Summary

The convenience and overall efficiency of a Tesla Powerwall System is sure bet in the renewable energy game. DIY battery systems may provide added flexibility and lower cost potential, but lack the guarantees and the measured success that the Tesla Powerwall has.

In this head-to-head battle, it looks like the Tesla Powerwall remains on top!

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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