• Francie Finn Sunrun

Why Brightbox Home Batteries, Not Generators, Are The Answer To Outages

Updated: Feb 6

Californians have recently faced frequent and unpredictable blackouts from mandatory utility power shutoffs, like those in Southern California and the Bay Area that impacted millions this October. During these outages, hundreds of Sunrun customers used Brightbox home solar and batteries to keep the lights on and food fresh for several days at a time.  In fact, one of our customer’s Brightbox kept her power on for 142 hours straight.

Home solar and batteries are a newer and better blackout solution than generators,  which rely on polluting fossil fuels. Here’s a look at the two options side by side.

An Affordable Solution

For many customers, solar paired with battery backup will cost you less than what you pay the utility for basic electricity. With Sunrun’s financing plans, households can also get clean, reliable home solar and batteries for zero upfront costs -- dramatically increasing access to this critical technology.

Compare this to other solutions for multi-day outages: Small portable generators often require repeated refuelings to provide ongoing backup power for even the most basic appliances like refrigerators and lights, and fuel may last only a few hours if you have too many appliances running at once. If your generator runs out of fuel, appliances may turn off, potentially resulting in spoiled food and loss of connectivity. A standby generator can run around $10,000, and often requires installing a concrete pad, a fuel tank, new wiring, and more. This can easily add up to as much as $20,000 all-in. That’s not even factoring in hidden costs, such as regular maintenance every three to six months and refueling with gas or diesel. If they aren’t properly maintained, generators simply won’t start up when you need them. Sunrun Brightbox is monitored 24/7, and our Sunrun Guarantee covers you if something needs to be fixed.

Reducing Safety and Health Risks

Sunrun’s Brightbox is powered by clean, renewable solar energy and doesn’t rely on dirty gas or diesel. Generators, on the other hand, operate by burning fossil fuels, generating significant amounts of poisonous and odorless carbon monoxide (CO). Nine hundred people were killed between 2005 and 2017 by CO from home generators. A FEMA bulletin emphasizes that there are other safety risks as well, including shock and even electrocution. The health risks of using generators are also seriously overlooked. One study found that an uncontrolled one-megawatt diesel engine that runs only 250 hours per year increases the cancer risk to residents within one city block by 50 percent. 

Beyond health and personal safety, the environmental impacts of generators are significant. According to experts, a relatively new, average-size gas-powered generator running for an hour produces emissions on par with a car driving for about 150 miles. An older, larger industrial diesel generator spews as much in an hour as driving a truck from Sacramento to Salt Lake City. 

Solar with Batteries: The Superior Solution

These two solutions are not simply an apples to apples comparison. While traditional generators are collecting dust 99% of the time, Sunrun’s Brightbox is constantly working and improving daily life. Every day it fills up with clean solar energy which could be used as a “virtual power plant,” replacing and reducing the need for dirty, centralized power sources. 

Home batteries paired with solar offer true peace of mind during an outage. It’s affordable, safe, reliable, and powered by a clean, renewable source that everyone can rely on: the sun.

This post has been updated to more accurately reflect the capabilities of fossil fuel generators.