Plug-and-play home battery system promises backup power and reduced energy costs

Orison Tower
© Orison

Reduced electricity costs, seamless backup power, and smarter home energy management are just a few of the claimed benefits of the Orison home energy storage system.

Whether you're looking for a way to keep the lights (and refrigerator) on during power outages, or you're looking to optimize your home's electricity use, or you'd like to store some of your excess solar energy at home for use during the night, you're most likely a good candidate for a home battery system.

And based on the crazy amount of interest expressed in the Tesla Powerwall units, home energy storage is rapidly moving away from being just a fringe-y off-grid thing to have and more toward a sensible and cost-effective solution (with the operative word here being "toward"). Granted, at the current costs for battery storage, coupled with the relatively high amount of electricity demand in most modern homes, it's not possible to just run down to the big box store and pick up an adequately-sized energy storage unit (yet), and it's certainly not within the budget of many of us.

But there's a new contender about ready to enter the home battery storage ring, and this version will come with its own networked software solution that is claimed to be able to work "collectively to make the energy grid as a whole exponentially more efficient."

Orison's home energy storage solution comes in two flavors, both very similar but with different physical footprints, and is designed to be modular and expandable. The Orison Tower is a 40 lb (18 kg), 34" high (86 cm), freestanding unit with a storage capacity of 2.2 kWh (and a built-in Bluetooth speaker, LED light, and USB charging ports), and the Orison Panel is a 38 lb (17 kg) wall-mounted unit that measures 22" x 28" x 2.5" (56 cm x 20 cm x 6.35 cm) and is made to accept different 'skins' for modifying its physical appearance.

Orison Panel© Orison

The batteries are lithium-ion modules, and the units come with a 10-year/5,000 lifecycle warranty. According to Orison, one or more of the Panel units can be combined with the Tower in order to create the optimally-sized energy storage system for each home, with installation said to be simple - essentially a "plug-and-play" operation.

On top of the physical side of the energy storage system, Orison adds a layer of software and controls, with automation and scheduling of charge/discharge times available through an app (of course), and the units are linked to the company's cloud network:

"This integrated network uses data including utility rates, peak demand charges, weather, blackout alerts, your usage profile, and more to determine the optimal operating schedule for your device. The Orison Cloud also works collectively to make the energy grid as a whole exponentially more efficient—capable of handling the growing influx of intermittent renewable energy, without the high cost of infrastructure entailed by other solutions." - Orison

Another added benefit to the Orison system is that it is said to be able to provide local circuits with electricity while also preventing "energy backflow" to the grid, such as in a blackout, and is something that addresses a problem that plagues most home grid-tied solar systems (with no battery storage added). During a power outage, even if it's during the day and your home has solar panels on it, you won't be able to access the electricity generated by it, thanks to a safety feature (for utility workers) that disconnects the system during grid outages.

According to Orison, their system can keep the lights on, seamlessly, through a blackout, without having to install a separate circuit. The company states that "During grid disruptions, Orison isolates the circuit it is plugged into to ensure all of your stored energy is available for your use and none is sent back to the grid. No wiring modification is required."

Here's the pitch:

In a nutshell, Orison is offering its Panel units for pledges of $1400, and its Tower units for $1550, as well as bundles of multiple units for higher storage capacities, and has already doubled its initial crowdfunding goal with more than a month still to run.

Although the costs may seem high when compared to the savings over the long term from more optimal charging and discharging, there's a big but in there. BUT when the grid goes down, even temporarily, and you've got seamless backup power in your house, it's hard to put a price on that kind of insurance, especially if it's coupled with a rooftop solar array and some sort of 'low-power mode' for operating your own home.

When using the payback calculator on the Orison site, it's quite evident that this is not for me - at least not yet. While I love the idea, I can't see spending this much money on a cost/savings angle alone. However, if my electrical consumption was higher, and I had a solar array on the roof, I might be tempted to consider something like the Orison system.

Home energy storage is still in the early days, similar to what was happening with electric cars just a few years ago, so it's still an expensive option and not for most of us, but if looking at the EV market is any indication, we're probably not too far away from a true revolution in how we (and when) we use, store, and generate electricity at home. And until integrated home energy storage is designed into new homes, these sorts of plug-and-play home battery systems may be the way forward, both for uninterrupted electricity access for emergencies and outages and for adding a layer of smartness and resiliency to the local grid.

Find out more about Orison at the company's website and the Kickstarter campaign page.

And as always, don't pull out your wallet to support a crowdfunding campaign, even if the perks for backers sound awesome, until you've done your due diligence on the product, the company, and the current state of technology in that sector. If you're convinced that the risk to benefit ratio of your "investment" in the project is worth it to you, then by all means pony up your cash for an Orison system (and then let us know how it turns out).

Tags: Batteries | Energy

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