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The Ultimate FAQ for Deep Cycle Batteries for Solar Electric Systems
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Battery History What is a Battery? Types of Batteries Battery Lifespan Starting, Marine, or Deep Cycle? Deep Cycle Battery as a Starting Battery? What Batteries are made of Industrial Batteries (fork lift type) Sealed Batteries Battery Size Codes Gel Cells (and why we don't like them) AGM Batteries (and why we do like them) Temperature Effects Cycles vs Lifespan Amp Hours - what are they? Battery Voltages Battery Charging (Here is where we get into the real meat) Charge Controllers (for wind/solar) Mini Factoids - Some small facts about batteries
Most batteries don't die - they are murdered...
The subject of batteries could take up many pages. All we have room for here is a basic overview of batteries commonly used with photovoltaic power systems. These are nearly all various variations of Lead-Acid batteries. For a very brief discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of these and other types of batteries, such as NiCad, NiFe (Nickel-Iron), etc. go to our Batteries for Deep Cycle Applications page. These are sometimes referred to as "deep discharge" or "deep cell" batteries. The correct term is deep cycle. This is a very long page, so you may want to download it and print or read it off-line - A printable version of this page is available in Adobe PDF format without the website graphics for downloading and printing: Battery_FAQ.pdf. Most of the charts have small images for faster downloading. To see the full size picture, just click on the small one (Large images not available in the PDF version).
Although Alessandro Volta in Italy is usually credited with being the inventor of the modern battery (Silver-Zinc), ancient cells have been discovered in Sumerian ruins, origin around 250 BC.. or maybe 400 AD - there is some dispute over the exact age. The first evidence of batteries comes from archaeological digs in Baghdad, Iraq. This first "battery" was dated to around 250 (?) B.C. and was used in simple operations to electroplate objects with a thin layer of metal, much like the process used now to plate inexpensive gold and silver jewelry [This is also debated, the current put out by these batteries is very small, so they may have been no more than a witch doctors props to amaze patients with electrical tingles]. The jars were found in Khujut Rabu just outside Baghdad and are composed of a clay jar with a stopper made of asphalt. Sticking through the asphalt is an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder. When filled with vinegar or even grape juice - or any other electrolytic solution - the jar produces about 1.1 volts. The actual term "battery" was coined by Benjamin Franklin to describe an array of static charged glass plates (sort of a primitive capacitor). He used the term battery, as that term was common at the time for a group of guns or artillery. Batteries were re-discovered much later, in 1800 in Italy by a man named Alessandro Volta after which the unit of electrical potential was named, the volt. His original battery consisted of discs of Zinc and Copper in a large glass tube separated by cardboard. The French inventor, Gaston Plante developed the first practical Lead-Acid rechargeable storage battery in 1859. In 1881 Faure discovered a way to make a Lead "paste", which greatly improved the capacity of batteries. This is basically the same method and chemistry used in most batteries today.
Most early batteries were used for telegraphs, and research and development was slow until the automobile came along. Some of the first cars were electric, and relied on these rather primitive batteries to get around. With the suddenly increased demand for rechargeable batteries, the modern battery started to take shape. One of the first commercial car batteries was made with an Oak wood case with Red Cedar plate separators. A variety of other woods were used, but Cedar was most common. The cases were dipped in asphalt, assembled, and then the top was glued, tied, screwed, or latched on. Up until around 1916 it was quite common to have these batteries repaired, so they had to be easy to take apart. A few "luxury" batteries also used glass cases, and a variety of what we would consider strange materials were tried by some manufacturers including kiln fired clay and heavily waxed leather. Needless to say, reliability was not a strong point, and neither was safety. Rubber plate separators were introduced by Willard Battery Company in 1915. Shortly after, Willard and several other companies started using hard rubber cases. These were common in car batteries until the invention of easily molded plastics, like Bakelite, prior to WW2. The First gelled VRLA battery was made in 1958, and Polypropylene cases became common in the mid to late 60's. In 1980 the first AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery was invented, mainly for military use. Up until the early 90's AGM batteries were very uncommon outside the military, but then around 1991 Concorde battery began selling it's military line of batteries to the civilian market. Accu Oerlikin and several other manufacturers followed soon after.
What is a Battery?
There are two classes of batteries, primary and secondary. No idea why they are called that, but primary cannot be recharged, secondary can be. A battery, in concept, can be any device that stores energy for later use. A rock, pushed to the top of a hill, can be considered a kind of battery, since the energy used to push it up the hill (chemical energy, from muscles or combustion engines) is converted and stored as potential kinetic energy at the top of the hill. Later, that energy is released as kinetic and thermal energy when the rock rolls down the hill. Common use of the word, "battery," however, is limited to an electrochemical device that converts chemical energy into electricity, by use of a galvanic cell. A galvanic cell is a fairly simple device consisting of two electrodes (an anode and a cathode) and an electrolyte solution. Batteries consist of one or more galvanic cells. A battery is an electrical storage device. Batteries do not make electricity, they store it, just as a water tank stores water for future use. As chemicals in the battery change, electrical energy is stored or released. In rechargeable batteries this process can be repeated many times. Batteries are not 100% efficient - some energy is lost as heat and chemical reactions when charging and discharging. If you use 1000 watts from a battery, it might take 1200 watts or more to fully recharge it. Slower charging and discharging rates are more efficient. A battery rated at 180 amphours over 6 hours might be rated at 220 AH at the 20-hour rate, and 260 AH at the 48-hour rate. Typical efficiency in a lead-acid battery is 85-95%, in alkaline (NiFe) and NiCad batteries it is 65% or less.
Practically all batteries used in PV and all but the smallest backup systems are Lead-Acid type batteries. Even after over a century of use, they still offer the best price to power ratio. A few systems use NiCad (Nickel Cadmium), but we do not recommend them except in cases where extremely cold temperatures (-50 F or less) are common. They are expensive to buy, and very expensive to dispose of due the the hazardous nature of Cadmium. We have had only a little direct experience with the NiFe (Nickel-Iron alkaline) batteries, but from their general characteristics we do not not recommend them. One major disadvantage is that there is a large voltage difference between the fully charged and discharged state, which mean that most conventional chargers and inverters will not work well with them. Another problem is that they are very inefficient - you lose from 40-50% just in charging and discharging them. It appears that the only current source for new cells is from Hungary. NiFe batteries were also very expensive the last time we saw any for sale. Their only real advantage is that they can last for 30+ years. It is important to note that ALL of the batteries commonly used in deep cycle applications are Lead-Acid. This includes the standard flooded (wet) batteries, gelled, and AGM. They all use the same chemistry, although the actual construction of the plates etc can vary considerably. NiCads, Nickel-Iron, and other types are found in some systems, but are not common due to their expense, availability, and/or poor efficiency - they are generally only used in very unusual situations. Back to top
Major Battery Types
Batteries are divided in two ways, by application (what they are used for) and construction (how they are built). The major applications are automotive, marine, and deep-cycle. Deep-cycle includes solar electric (PV), backup power, and RV and boat "house" batteries. The major construction types are flooded (wet), gelled, and AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat). AGM batteries are also sometimes called "starved electrolyte" or "dry", because the fiberglass mat is only 95% saturated with Sulfuric acid and there is no excess liquid. Flooded may be standard, with removable caps, or the so-called "maintenance free" (that means they are designed to die one week after the warranty runs out). All gelled are sealed and a few are "valve regulated", which means that a tiny valve keeps a slight positive pressure. Nearly all AGM batteries are sealed valve regulated (commonly referred to as "VRLA" - Valve Regulated Lead-Acid). Most valve regulated are under some pressure - 1 to 4 psi at sea level.
Lifespan of Batteries
The lifespan of a battery will vary considerably with how it is used, how it is maintained and charged, temperature, and other factors. In extreme cases, it can vary to extremes - we have seen L-16's killed in less than a year by severe overcharging, and we have a large set of surplus telephone batteries that sees only occasional (5-10 times per year) heavy service that are now over 25 years old. We have seen gelled cells destroyed in one day when overcharged with a large automotive charger. We have seen golf cart batteries destroyed without ever being used in less
than a year because they were left sitting in a hot garage without being charged. Even the socalled "dry charged" (where you add acid when you need them) have a shelf life of at most 18 months, as they are not totally dry (actually, a few are, but hard to find, the vast majority are shipped with damp plates). These are some general (minimum - maximum) typical expectations for batteries if used in deep cycle service:
Starting: 3-12 months Marine: 1-6 years Golf cart: 2-6 years AGM deep cycle: 4-7 years (this can vary considerably - the large 2 volt cells can last for 20+) Gelled deep cycle: 2-5 years Deep cycle (L-16 type etc): 4-8 years Rolls-Surrette premium deep cycle: 7-15 years Industrial deep cycle (Crown and Rolls 4KS series): 10-20+ years Telephone (used) (float): 1-20 years. These are usually special purpose "float service", but often appear on the surplus market as "deep cycle". They can vary considerably, depending on age, usage, care, and type. NiFe (alkaline): 5-35 years NiCad: 1-20 years
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Starting, Marine, and Deep-Cycle Batteries
Starting (sometimes called SLI, for starting, lighting, ignition) batteries are commonly used to start and run engines. Engine starters need a very large starting current for a very short time. Starting batteries have a large number of thin plates for maximum surface area. The plates are composed of a Lead "sponge", similar in appearance to a very fine foam sponge. This gives a very large surface area, but if deep cycled, this sponge will quickly be consumed and fall to the bottom of the cells. Automotive batteries will generally fail after 30-150 deep cycles if deep cycled, while they may last for thousands of cycles in normal starting use (2-5% discharge). Deep cycle batteries are designed to be discharged down as much as 80% time after time, and have much thicker plates. The major difference between a true deep cycle battery and others is that the plates are SOLID Lead plates - not sponge. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to tell what you are really buying in some of the discount stores or places that specialize in automotive batteries. The popular golf cart battery is generally a "semi" deep cycle - better than any starting battery, better than most marine, but not as good as a true deep cycle solid Lead plate, such the L-16 or industrial type. However, because the golf cart (T-105, US-2200, GC-4 etc) batteries are so common, they are usually quite economical for small to medium systems. Many (most?) Marine batteries are usually actually a "hybrid", and fall between the starting and deep-cycle batteries, while a few (Rolls-Surrette and Concorde, for example) are true deep cycle. In the hybrid, the plates may be composed of Lead sponge, but it is coarser and heavier than that used in starting batteries. It is often hard to tell what you are getting in a "marine" battery, but most are a hybrid. "Hybrid" types should not be
discharged more than 50%. Starting batteries are usually rated at "CCA", or cold cranking amps, or "MCA", Marine cranking amps - the same as "CA". Any battery with the capacity shown in CA or MCA may not be a true deep-cycle battery. It is sometimes hard to tell, as the terms marine and deep cycle are sometimes overused. CA and MCA ratings are at 32 degrees F, while CCA is at zero degree F. Unfortunately, the only positive way to tell with some batteries is to buy one and cut it open - not much of an option.
Using a deep cycle battery as a starting battery
There is generally no problem with this, providing that allowance is made for the lower cranking amps compared to a similar size starting battery. As a general rule, if you are going to use a true deep cycle battery (such as the Concorde) also as a starting battery, it should be oversized about 20% compared to the existing or recommended starting battery group size to get the same cranking amps. That is about the same as replacing a group 24 with a group 31. With modern engines with fuel injection and electronic ignition, it generally takes much less battery power to crank and start them, so raw cranking amps is less important than it used to be. On the other hand, many cars, boats, and RV's are more heavily loaded with power sucking "appliances", such as megawatt stereo systems. winches, etc. that are more suited for deep cycle batteries. We have been using the Concorde SunExtender AGM batteries in some vehicles for with no problems. Back to top
Battery Construction Materials
Nearly all large rechargeable batteries in common use are Lead-Acid type. (There are some NiCads in use, but for most purposes the very high initial expense, and the high expense of disposal, does not justify them). The acid is typically 30% Sulfuric acid and 70% water at full charge. NiFe (Nickel-Iron) batteries are also available - these have a very long life, but rather poor efficiency (60-70%) and the voltages are different, making it more difficult to match up with standard 12v/24/48v systems and inverters. The biggest problem with NiFe batteries is that you may have to put in 100 watts to get 70 watts of charge - they are much less efficient than Lead-Acid. What you save on batteries you will have to make up for by buying a larger solar panel system. NiCads are also inefficient - typically around 65% - and very expensive. However, NiCads can be frozen without damage, so are sometimes used in areas where the temperatures may fall below -50 degrees F. Most AGM batteries will also survive freezing with no problems, even though the output when frozen will be little or nothing.
Industrial deep cycle batteries
Sometimes called "fork lift", "traction" or "stationary" batteries, are used where power is needed over a longer period of time, and are designed to be "deep cycled", or discharged down as low as 20% of full charge (80% DOD, or Depth of Discharge). These are often called traction batteries because of their widespread use in forklifts, golf carts, and floor sweepers (from which we get the "GC" and "FS" series of battery sizes). Deep cycle batteries have much thicker plates than
automotive batteries. Plate Thickness Plate thickness (of the Positive plate) matters because of a factor called "positive grid corrosion". This ranks among the top 3 reasons for battery failure. The positive (+) plate is what gets eaten away gradually over time, so eventually there is nothing left - it all falls to the bottom as sediment. Thicker plates are directly related to longer life, so other things being equal, the battery with the thickest plates will last the longest. Automotive batteries typically have plates about .040" (40/1000") thick, while forklift batteries may have plates more than 1/4" (.265" for example in the Rolls-Surrette) thick - almost 7 times as thick as auto batteries. The typical golf cart will have plates that are around .07 to .11" thick. The Concorde AGM's are .115", The Rolls-Surrette L-16 type (CH460) is .150", and the US Battery and Trojan L-16 types are .090". Most industrial deep-cycle batteries use Lead-Antimony plates rather than the Lead-Calcium used in AGM or gelled deep-cycle batteries. The Antimony increases plate life and strength, but increases gassing and water loss. This is why most industrial batteries have to be checked often for water level if you do not have Hydrocaps. The self discharge of batteries with LeadAntimony plates can be high - as much as 1% per day on an older battery. A new AGM typically self-discharges at about 1-2% per month, while an old one may be as much as 2% per week.
Sealed batteries are made with vents that (usually) cannot be removed. The so-called Maintenance Free batteries are also sealed, but are not usually leak proof. Sealed batteries are not totally sealed, as they must allow gas to vent during charging. If overcharged too many times, some of these batteries can lose enough water that they will die before their time. Most smaller deep cycle batteries (including AGM) use Lead-Calcium plates for increased life, while most industrial and forklift batteries use Lead-Antimony for greater plate strength. A few industrial batteries have special caps that convert the Hydrogen and Oxygen back into water, reducing water loss by up to 95%. The popular "HydroCaps" that we sell for flooded batteries do the same job for conventional ("wet"), golf cart, and fork-lift batteries. LeadAntimony batteries have a much higher self-discharge rate (2-10% per week) than Lead or LeadCalcium (1-5% per month), but the Antimony improves the mechanical strength of the plates, which is an important factor in electric vehicles. They are generally used where they are under constant or very frequent charge/discharge cycles, such as fork lifts and floor sweepers. The Antimony increases plate life at the expense of higher self discharge. If left for long periods unused, these should be trickle charged to avoid damage from sulfation - but this applies to ANY battery. As in all things, there are trade offs. The Lead-Antimony types have a very long lifespan, but higher self discharge rates.
Battery Size Codes
Batteries come in all different sizes. Many have "group" sizes, which is based upon the physical size and terminal placement. It is NOT a measure of battery capacity. Typical BCI codes are group U1, 24, 27, and 31. Industrial batteries are usually designated by a part number such as "FS" for floor sweeper, or "GC" for golf cart. Many batteries follow no particular code, and are just manufacturers part numbers. Other standard size codes are 4D & 8D, large industrial batteries, commonly used in solar electric systems. Back to top
Some common battery size codes used are: (ratings are approximate)
U1 Group 24 Group 27 Group 31 4-D 8-D Golf cart & T-105 L-16 34 to 40 Amp hours 70-85 Amp hours 85-105 Amp hours 95-125 Amp hours 180-215 Amp hours 225-255 Amp hours 180 to 220 Amp hours 340 to 415 Amp hours 12 volts 12 volts 12 volts 12 volts 12 volts 12 volts 6 volts 6 volts
Gelled batteries, or "Gel Cells" contain acid that has been "gelled" by the addition of Silica Gel, turning the acid into a semi-solid mass that looks like gooey Jell-O. The advantage of these batteries is that it is impossible to spill acid even if they are broken. However, there are several disadvantages. One is that they must be charged at a slower rate (C/20 maximum) to prevent excess gas from damaging the cells and causing bubbles or pockets in the electrolyte. They cannot be fast charged on a conventional automotive charger or they may be permanently damaged. This is not usually a problem with solar electric systems, but if an auxiliary generator or inverter bulk charger is used, current must be limited to the manufacturers specifications. Most better inverters commonly used in solar electric systems can be set to limit charging current to the batteries. Some other disadvantages of gel cells is that they must be charged at a lower voltage (2/10th's less) than flooded or AGM batteries. If overcharged, voids can develop in the gel which will never heal, causing a loss in battery capacity. In hot climates, water loss can be enough over 2-4 years to cause premature battery death. It is for this and other reasons that we no longer sell any of the gelled cells except for replacement use. The newer AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries have all the advantages (and then some) of gelled, with none of the disadvantages.
AGM, or Absorbed Glass Mat Batteries
A newer type of sealed battery uses "Absorbed Glass Mats", or AGM between the plates. This is a very fine fiber Boron-Silicate glass mat. These type of batteries have all the advantages of gelled, but can take much more abuse. We sell the Concorde (and Lifeline, made by Concorde) AGM batteries. These are also called "starved electrolyte", as the mat is about 95% saturated rather than fully soaked. That also means that they will not leak acid even if broken. AGM batteries have several advantages over both gelled and flooded, at about the same cost as gelled: Since all the electrolyte (acid) is contained in the glass mats, they cannot spill, even if broken. This also means that since they are non-hazardous, the shipping costs are lower. In addition, since there is no liquid to freeze and expand, they are practically immune from freezing damage. Nearly all AGM batteries are "recombinant" - what that means is that the Oxygen and Hydrogen recombine INSIDE the battery. These use gas phase transfer of oxygen to the negative plates to recombine them back into water while charging and prevent the loss of water through electrolysis. The recombining is typically 99+% efficient, so almost no water is lost. The charging voltages are the same as for any standard battery - no need for any special adjustments or problems with incompatible chargers or charge controls. And, since the internal resistance is extremely low, there is almost no heating of the battery even under heavy charge and discharge currents. The Concorde (and most AGM) batteries have no charge or discharge current limits. AGM's have a very low self-discharge - from 1% to 3% per month is usual. This means that they can sit in storage for much longer periods without charging than standard batteries. The Concorde batteries can be almost fully recharged (95% or better) even after 30 days of being totally discharged. AGM's do not have any liquid to spill, and even under severe overcharge conditions hydrogen emission is far below the 4% max specified for aircraft and enclosed spaces. The plates in AGM's are tightly packed and rigidly mounted, and will withstand shock and vibration better than any standard battery. Even with all the advantages listed above, there is still a place for the standard flooded deep cycle battery. AGM's will cost about twice as much as good flooded batteries of the same capacity. In many installations, where the batteries are set in an area where you don't have to worry about fumes or leakage, a standard or industrial deep cycle is a better economic choice. AGM batteries main advantages are no maintenance, completely sealed against fumes, Hydrogen, or leakage, non-spilling even if they are broken, and can survive most freezes. Not everyone needs these features. Back to top
Temperature Effects on Batteries
Battery capacity (how many amp-hours it can hold) is reduced as temperature goes down, and increased as temperature goes up. This is why your car battery dies on a cold winter morning, even though it worked fine the previous afternoon. If your batteries spend part of the year shivering in the cold, the reduced capacity has to be taken into account when sizing the system batteries. The standard rating for batteries is at room temperature - 25 degrees C (about 77 F). At approximately -22 degrees F (-27 C), battery AH capacity drops to 50%. At freezing, capacity is reduced by 20%. Capacity is increased at higher temperatures - at 122 degrees F, battery capacity would be about 12% higher. Battery charging voltage also changes with temperature. It will vary from about 2.74 volts per cell (16.4 volts) at -40 C to 2.3 volts per cell (13.8 volts) at 50 C. This is why you should have temperature compensation on your charger or charge control if your batteries are outside and/or subject to wide temperature variations. Some charge controls have temperature compensation built in (such as Morningstar) this works fine if the controller is subject to the same temperatures as the batteries. However, if your batteries are outside, and the controller is inside, it does not work that well. Adding another complication is that large battery banks make up a large thermal mass.
Thermal mass means that because they have so much mass, they will change internal temperature much slower than the surrounding air temperature. A large insulated battery bank may vary as little as 10 degrees over 24 hours internally, even though the air temperature varies from 20 to 70 degrees. For this reason, external (add-on) temperature sensors should be attached to one of the POSITIVE plate terminals, and bundled up a little with some type of insulation on the terminal. The sensor will then read very close to the actual internal battery temperature.
Even though battery capacity at high temperatures is higher, battery life is shortened. Battery capacity is reduced by 50% at -22 degrees F - but battery LIFE increases by about 60%. Battery life is reduced at higher temperatures - for every 15 degrees F over 77, battery life is cut in half. This holds true for ANY type of Lead-Acid battery, whether sealed, gelled, AGM, industrial or whatever. This is actually not as bad as it seems, as the battery will tend to average out the good and bad times. Click on the small graph to see a full size chart of temperature vs capacity. One last note on temperatures - in a few places that have extremely cold or hot conditions, batteries may be sold locally that are NOT standard electrolyte (acid) strengths. The electrolyte may be stronger (for cold) or weaker (for very hot) climates. In such cases, the specific gravity and the voltages may vary from what we show for flooded batteries.
Cycles vs Life
A battery "cycle" is one complete discharge and recharge cycle. It is usually considered to be discharging from 100% to 20%, and then back to 100%. However, there are often ratings for other depth of discharge cycles, the most common ones are 10%, 20%, and 50%. You have to be careful when looking at ratings that list how many cycles a battery is rated for unless it also states how far down it is being discharged. For example, one of the widely advertised telephone type (float service) batteries have been advertised as having a 20-year life. If you look at the fine
print, it has that rating only at 5% DOD - it is much less when used in an application where they are cycled deeper on a regular basis. Those same batteries are rated at less than 5 years if cycled to 50%. For example, most golf cart batteries are rated for about 550 cycles to 50% discharge which equates to about 2 years. Battery life is directly related to how deep the battery is cycled each time. If a battery is discharged to 50% every day, it will last about twice as long as if it is cycled to 80% DOD. If cycled only 10% DOD, it will last about 5 times as long as one cycled to 50%. Obviously, there are some practical limitations on this you don't usually want to have a 5 ton pile of batteries sitting there just to reduce the DOD. The most practical number to use is 50% DOD on a regular basis. This does NOT mean you cannot go to 80% once in a while. It's just that when designing a system when you have some idea of the loads, you should figure on an average DOD of around 50% for the best storage vs cost factor. Also, there is an upper limit - a battery that is continually cycled 5% or less will usually not last as long as one cycled down 10%. This happens because at very shallow cycles, the Lead Dioxide tends to build up in clumps on the the positive plates rather in an even film. The graph above shows how lifespan is affected by depth of discharge. The chart is for a Concorde Lifeline battery, but all lead-acid batteries will be similar in the shape of the curve, although the number of cycles will vary. Back to top
All Lead-Acid batteries supply about 2.14 volts per cell (12.6 to 12.8 for a 12 volt battery) when fully charged. Batteries that are stored for long periods will eventually lose all their charge. This "leakage" or self discharge varies considerably with battery type, age, & temperature. It can range from about 1% to 15% per month. Generally, new AGM batteries have the lowest, and old industrial (Lead-Antimony plates) are the highest. In systems that are continually connected to some type charging source, whether it is solar, wind, or an AC powered charger this is seldom a problem. However, one of the biggest killers of batteries is sitting stored in a partly discharged state for a few months. A "float" charge should be maintained on the batteries even if they are not used (or, especially if they are not used). Even most "dry charged" batteries (those sold without electrolyte so they can be shipped more easily, with acid added later) will deteriorate over time. Max storage life on those is about 2-3 years. Batteries self-discharge faster at higher temperatures. Lifespan can also be seriously reduced at higher temperatures - most manufacturers state this as a 50% loss in life for every 15 degrees F over a 77 degree cell temperature. Lifespan is increased at the same rate if below 77 degrees, but capacity is reduced. This tends to even out in most systems - they will spend part of their life at higher temperatures, and part at lower.
Myth: The old myth about not storing batteries on concrete floors is just that - a myth. This old story has been around for 100 years, and originated back when battery cases were made up of wood and asphalt. The acid would leak from them, and form a slow-discharging circuit through the now acid-soaked and conductive floor.
State of Charge State of charge, or conversely, the depth of discharge (DOD) can be determined by measuring the voltage and/or the specific gravity of the acid with a hydrometer. This will NOT tell you how good (capacity in AH) the battery condition is - only a sustained load test can do that. Voltage on a fully charged battery will read 2.12 to 2.15 volts per cell, or 12.7 volts for a 12 volt battery. At 50% the reading will be 2.03 VPC (Volts Per Cell), and at 0% will be 1.75 VPC or less. Specific gravity will be about 1.265 for a fully charged cell, and 1.13 or less for a totally discharged cell. This can vary with battery types and brands somewhat - when you buy new batteries you should charge them up and let them sit for a while, then take a reference measurement. Many batteries are sealed, and hydrometer reading cannot be taken, so you must rely on voltage. Hydrometer readings may not tell the whole story, as it takes a while for the acid to get mixed up in wet cells. If measured right after charging, you might see 1.27 at the top of the cell, even though it is much less at the bottom. This does not apply to gelled or AGM batteries. "False" Capacity A battery can meet all the tests for being at full charge, yet be much lower than it's original capacity. If plates are damaged, sulfated, or partially gone from long use, the battery may give the appearance of being fully charged, but in reality acts like a battery of much smaller size. This same thing can occur in gelled cells if they are overcharged and gaps or bubbles occur in the gel. What is left of the plates may be fully functional, but with only 20% of the plates left... Batteries usually go bad for other reasons before reaching this point, but it is something to be aware of if your batteries seem to test OK but lack capacity and go dead very quickly under load. On the table below, you have to be careful that you are not just measuring the surface charge. To properly check the voltages, the battery should sit at rest for a few hours, or you should put a small load on it, such as a small automotive bulb, for a few minutes. The voltages below apply to ALL Lead-Acid batteries, except gelled. For gel cells, subtract .2 volts. Note that the voltages when actually charging will be quite different, so do not use these numbers for a battery that is under charge.
All deep cycle batteries are rated in amp-hours. An amp-hour is one amp for one hour, or 10 amps for 1/10 of an hour and so forth. It is amps x hours. If you have something that pulls 20 amps, and you use it for 20 minutes, then the amp-hours used would be 20 (amps) x .333 (hours), or 6.67 AH. The accepted AH rating time period for batteries used in solar electric and backup power systems (and for nearly all deep cycle batteries) is the "20 hour rate". This means that it is discharged down to 10.5 volts over a 20 hour period while the total actual amp-hours it supplies is measured. Sometimes ratings at the 6 hour rate and 100 hour rate are also given for comparison and for different applications. The 6-hour rate is often used for industrial batteries, as that is a typical daily duty cycle. Sometimes the 100 hour rate is given just to make the battery look better than it really is, but it is also useful for figuring battery capacity for long-term backup amp-hour requirements.
Why amp-hours are specified at a particular rate: Because of something called the Peukert Effect. The Peukert value is directly related to the internal resistance of the battery. The higher the internal resistance, the higher the losses while charging and discharging, especially at higher currents. This means that the faster a battery is used (discharged), the LOWER the AH capacity. Conversely, if it is drained slower, the AH capacity is higher. This is important because some folks have chosen to rate their batteries at the 100 hour rate - which makes them look a lot better than they really are. Here are some typical battery capacities from the manufacturers data sheets: Battery Type
Trojan T-105 US Battery 2200 Concorde PVX-6220 Surrette S-460 (L-16) Trojan L-16 Surrette CS-25-PS
100 hour rate
250 AH n/a 255 AH 429 AH 400 AH 974 AH
20 hour rate
225 AH 225 AH 221 AH 344 AH 360 AH 779 AH
n/a 181 AH 183 AH 282 AH n/a 639 AH
State of Charge
Here are no-load typical voltages vs state of charge (figured at 10.5 volts = fully discharged, and 77 degrees F). Voltages are for a 12 volt battery system. For 24 volt systems multiply by 2, for 48 volt system, multiply by 4. VPC is the volts per individual cell - if you measure more than a .2 volt difference between each cell, you need to equalize, or your batteries are going bad, or they may be sulfated. These voltages are for batteries that have been at rest for 3 hours or more. Batteries that are being charged will be higher - the voltages while under charge will not tell you anything, you have to let the battery sit for a while. For longest life, batteries should stay in the green zone. Occasional dips into the yellow are not harmful, but continual discharges to those levels will shorten battery life considerably. It is important to realize that voltage measurements are only approximate. The best determination is to measure the specific gravity, but in many batteries this is difficult or impossible. Note the large voltage drop in the last 10%. State of Charge 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 12 Volt battery 12.7 12.5 12.42 12.32 12.20 12.06 Volts per Cell 2.12 2.08 2.07 2.05 2.03 2.01
40% 30% 20% 10% 0
11.9 11.75 11.58 11.31 10.5
1.98 1.96 1.93 1.89 1.75
These voltages are always a bit "iffy", as they depend on what you consider to be a totally discharged battery. For example, the chart above shows the usual industry standard of 10.5 volts as being 100% discharged. A few charts around though - like for some inverters - will show 100% discharge as being at some other voltage, usually around 11.2 to 11.5. Back to top
Battery Charging Battery charging takes place in 3 basic stages: Bulk, Absorption, and Float. Bulk Charge - The first stage of 3-stage battery charging. Current is sent to batteries at the maximum safe rate they will accept until voltage rises to near (80-90%) full charge level. Voltages at this stage typically range from 10.5 volts to 15 volts. There is no "correct" voltage for bulk charging, but there may be limits on the maximum current that the battery and/or wiring can take. Absorption Charge: The 2nd stage of 3-stage battery charging. Voltage remains constant and current gradually tapers off as internal resistance increases during charging. It is during this stage that the charger puts out maximum voltage. Voltages at this stage are typically around 14.2 to 15.5 volts. Float Charge: The 3rd stage of 3-stage battery charging. After batteries reach full charge, charging voltage is reduced to a lower level (typically 12.8 to 13.2) to reduce gassing and prolong battery life. This is often referred to as a maintenance or trickle charge, since it's main purpose is to keep an already charged battery from discharging. PWM, or "pulse width modulation" accomplishes the same thing. In PWM, the controller or charger senses tiny voltage drops in the battery and sends very short charging cycles (pulses) to the battery. This may occur several hundred times per minute. It is called "pulse width" because the width of the pulses may vary from a few microseconds to several seconds. Note that for long term float service, such as backup power systems that are seldom discharged, the float voltage should be around 13.02 to 13.20 volts. Chargers: Most garage and consumer (automotive) type battery chargers are bulk charge only, and have little (if any) voltage regulation. They are fine for a quick boost to low batteries, but not to leave on for long periods. Among the regulated chargers, there are the voltage regulated ones,
such as Iota Engineering and Todd, which keep a constant regulated voltage on the batteries. If these are set to the correct voltages for your batteries, they will keep the batteries charged without damage. These are sometimes called "taper charge" - as if that is a selling point. What taper charge really means is that as the battery gets charged up, the voltage goes up, so the amps out of the charger goes down. They charge OK, but a charger rated at 20 amps may only be supplying 5 amps when the batteries are 80% charged. To get around this, Statpower (and a few others?) have come out with "smart", or multi-stage chargers. These use a variable voltage that starts lower but keeps rising to keep the charging amps much more constant for faster charging.
Battery Chargers: We carry the Iota Engineering and the Statpower Truecharge "smart" chargers.
Back to top Charge controllers A charge controller is a regulator that goes between the solar panels and the batteries. Regulators for solar systems are designed to keep the batteries charged at peak without overcharging. Meters for Amps (from the panels) and battery Volts are optional with most types. Some of the various brands and models that we use and recommend are listed below. Note that a couple of them are listed as "power trackers" - for a full explanation of this, see our page on "Why 120 watts does not equal 120 watts". Most of the modern controllers have automatic or manual equalization built in, and many have a LOAD output. There is no "best" controller for all applications - some systems may need the bells and whistles of the more expensive controls, others may not. These are the charge controllers that we recommend at this time for all systems. Exact model will depend on application and system size, amperage, and voltage.
Xantrex Morningstar Steca Outback Power Blue Sky Energy Apollo Using any of these will almost always give better battery life and charge than "on-off" or simple shunt type regulators.
Back to top
Battery Charging Voltages and Currents:
Most flooded batteries should be charged at no more than the "C/8" rate for any sustained period. "C/8" is the battery capacity at the 20-hour rate divided by 8. For a 220 AH battery, this would
equal 26 Amps. Gelled cells should be charged at no more than the C/20 rate, or 5% of their amp-hour capacity. The Concorde AGM batteries are a special case - the can be charged at up the the Cx2 rate, or 200% of the capacity for the bulk charge cycle. However, since very few battery cables can take that much current, we don't recommend you try this at home. To avoid cable overheating, you should stick to C/4 or less. Charging at 15.5 volts will give you a 100% charge on Lead-Acid batteries. Once the charging voltage reaches 2.583 volts per cell, charging should stop or be reduced to a trickle charge. Note that flooded batteries MUST bubble (gas) somewhat occasionally to insure a full charge, and to mix the electrolyte. Float voltage for Lead-Acid batteries should be about 2.15 to 2.23 volts per cell, or about 12.9-13.4 volts for a 12 volt battery. At higher temperatures (over 85 degrees F) this should be reduced to about 2.10 volts per cell. Never add acid to a battery, except to replace spilled liquid. Distilled or deionized water should be used to top off flooded batteries. Float and charging voltages for gelled batteries are usually about 2/10th volt less than for flooded to reduce water loss. Note that many shunt-type charge controllers sold for solar systems will NOT give you a full charge - check the specifications first. To get a full charge, you must continue to apply a current after the battery voltage reaches the cutoff point of most of these type of controllers. This is why we recommend the charge controls and battery chargers listed in the sections above. Not all shunt type controllers are 100% on or off, but most are. Flooded battery life can be extended if an equalizing charge is applied every 10 to 40 days. This is a charge that is about 10% higher than normal full charge voltage, and is applied for about 2 to 16 hours. This makes sure that all the cells are equally charged, and the gas bubbles mix the electrolyte. If the liquid in standard wet cells is not mixed, the electrolyte becomes "stratified". You can have very strong solution at the top, and very weak at the bottom of the cell. With stratification, you can test a battery with a hydrometer and get readings that are quite a ways off. If you cannot equalize for some reason, you should let the battery sit for at least 24 hours and then use the hydrometer. AGM and gelled should be equalized 2-4 times a year at most (some manufacturers do not recommend an equalizing charge) - check the manufacturers recommendations, especially on gelled.
As batteries age, their maintenance requirements change. This means longer charging time and/or higher finish rate (higher amperage at the end of the charge). Usually older batteries need to be watered more often. And, their capacity decreases. Internal resistance goes up, so higher voltages may be needed to keep the same rate of charging current.
Nearly all batteries will not reach full capacity until cycled 10-30 times. A brand new battery will have a capacity of about 5-10% less than the rated capacity.
Batteries should be watered after charging unless the plates are exposed, then add just enough water to cover the plates. The liquid will expand somewhat when fully charged. After a full charge, the water level should be even in all cells and usually 1/4" to 1/2" below the bottom of the fill well in the cell (depends on battery size and type). In situations where multiple batteries are connected in series, parallel or series/parallel, replacement batteries should be the same size, type and manufacturer (if possible). Age and usage level should be the same as the companion batteries. Do not put a new battery in a pack which is more than 3 months old or has more than 75 cycles. Either replace with all new or use a good used battery. For long life batteries, such as the Surrette and Crown, you can have up to a one year age difference. The vent caps on flooded batteries should remain on the battery while charging. This prevents a lot of the water loss and splashing that may occur when they are bubbling. The only exception we know of is that Hydrocaps should be removed when equalizing. When you first buy a new set of flooded (wet) batteries, you should fully charge and equalize them, and then take a hydrometer reading for future reference. Since not all batteries have exactly the same acid strength, this will give you a baseline for future readings. When using a small solar panel to keep a float (maintenance) charge on a battery (without using a charge controller), choose a panel that will give a maximum output of about 1/300th to 1/1000th of the amp-hour capacity. For a pair of 200 Am-Hour golf cart batteries, that would be about a 1 to 5 watt panel - the smaller panel if you get 5 or more hours of sun per day, the larger one for those long cloudy winter days in the Northeast. Lead-Acid batteries do NOT have a memory, and the rumor that they should be fully discharged to avoid this "memory" is totally false and will lead to early battery failure. Inactivity can be extremely harmful to a battery, especially if not 100% charged. It is a VERY poor idea to buy new batteries and "save" them for later. Either buy them when you need them, or keep them on a continual trickle charge. The best thing - if you buy them, use them. Only clean water should be used for cleaning the outside of batteries. Solvents or spray cleaners should not be used. Contrary to what you may have heard, it is usually not a good idea to use baking soda to neutralize any acid on the outside of a battery. Even a tiny amount getting inside will also neutralize acid IN the battery. If you need to use it, make sure all the caps are on the battery. Mixing up a tablespoon or so in a small glass of water works for neutralizing any acid around the posts - but again, be careful not to get any inside.
Who is Peukert, and why should I care?
The true capacity of a battery depends on the rate of discharge. The faster the rate of discharge, the less total amp-hours that can be delivered. This was first described back in 1897 by a researcher named Peukert. The Peukert's number essentially tells you the effective internal
resistance of the battery. Peukert applies to ALL batteries of any type (except some high end Lithium-Ion), not just the Lead-Acid normally used in PV systems. A Peukert value of 1 would be the ideal battery, which does not exist. The higher the number, the more internal resistance - which translates into more losses and heat. Typical batteries currently sold range from around 1.07 up to as high as 1.6. Typical for most flooded is around 1.2, for deep cycle AGM around 1.1. Anything over about 1.3 is pretty bad, and indicates a junk battery, or one that is pretty old and/or sulfated. The "Peukert Capacity" of a battery is the total number of amp-hours that you can get from a battery when discharged steadily at exactly one amp - or basically just how many hours it takes for the battery to drop to 10.5 volts at 1 amp draw. Some Peukert Exponent values (not complete, just for info). We don't have a lot of data: Trojan T-105 = 1.25 Concorde AGM = 1.06 Optima 750S = 1.109 US Battery 2200 = 1.20 Hawker Genesis = 1.11 Back to top
More information - Manufacturers Websites
Car and Deep Cycle Battery FAQ - another very good site for lots of battery info. US Battery Manufacturing Company - some good information and data. Trojan Battery - not a lot of real technical info here, but has all the specifications. Exide - not much here but marketing stuff, but you can buy Exide T-shirts. We don't sell Exide. Surrette - Specs and data on the Surrette deep cycle and marine batteries Concorde - specs and data on all the Concorde batteries, including Lifeline.
Please feel free to email us with any comments about this page or batteries in general.
Charger, Inverter, Deep Cycle Batteries Author Message
admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:39 am
Post subject: Charger, Inverter, Deep Cycle Batteries This is another article in my series of practical solutions to Nigeria's problems. In response to incessant power interruptions in Nigeria, I recently built a friend a battery power backup system. This is an alternative solution to Diesel Generators. Not even Abuja is immune to PHCN's incompetence, since my friend lives in Abuja. The idea of this Power backup system is quite simple. When power is on from PHCN (NEPA), the battery Charger charges the Battery. When PHCN strikes with a blackout, the battery takes over. One can run several electrical devices on the charged Battery. Typically the backup system runs fans, light bulbs, laptop, TV, cellphone chargers, etc. The following are the components that I used to build the system, along with what we paid for them:
Schumacher SSC-1500A Battery Charger
Deep cycle battery
Senpower 1000W 12V DC to $48 220V AC Power Inverter
The battery puts out 12 volts DC current. As we know, home electrical appliances run on 240 volts AC. So we need to convert the 12 volts DC coming from the battery to 240 volts AC that our electrical devices require. The Inverter converts 12 volts DC to 240 volts AC. The advantages of this power backup system are numerous compared to a conventional diesel generator. - No noise. - No fuel required. - Practically maintenance free once you get it up and running. - Can be upgraded and downgraded easily. The above is a 1000W system. Generally, a more powerful system can be built by adding more batteries, and getting a higher wattage Inverter. The more batteries you have, the longer you can run the system for. Assuming I want to build a 5kW system, I would need to purchase a 5kW Inverter. I would also need to get more batteries to share the load.
I will post next a step-by-step on how to connect all of the above components together.
admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:03 pm
Post subject: How to connect components Battery Power Backup System Connection Guide. First, label the Charger and the Inverter. This would forestall confusion later. I suggest you give this section of the guide a cursory read before you start connecting things. A quick read to the end would give you a complete picture of what you are about to do. Decide where you want to situate these devices. They should be away from general living area. Remember, you won't need to move them later. So find a permanent location for them. So with the preamble out of the way, let's start...
1. The Charger has two terminals - positive, and negative. Note: Positive is labelled +. Negative is labelled -. Note: For the wires, Red is Positive. Black is Negative. 2. Take a Red wire, with alligator clip on one end. 3. Connect one end of the Red wire to the positive terminal of the charger. 4. Connect the other end (with the alligator clip) of the same Red wire to the terminal of the battery marked +. 5. Take a Black wire, with alligator clip at one end. 6. Connect one end of the Black wire to the negative terminal of the charger. 7. Connect the other end (with the alligator clip) of the Black wire to the terminal of the battery marked -. 8. Take a Red wire, with alligator clips at one end.
9. Connect one end of the Red wire to the positive terminal of the Inverter. 10. Connect the other end (with the alligator clip) of the Red wire to the terminal of the battery marked +. 11. Take a Black wire, with alligator clips at one end. 12. Connect one end of the Black wire to the negative terminal of the Inverter. 13. Connect the other end (with the alligator clip) of the Black wire to the terminal of the battery marked -.
Double check your connections from step 1 through step 13.
IMPORTANT: Please make sure that: positive goes to positive, and negative goes to negative. If you cross terminals, you'd either end up with an explosion, or the devices would be permanently damaged. That should be all. Now plug the Charger into a PHCN outlet. Turn on the Charger. The charger would begin to charge the battery. Read the manual for the Charger. It should give you a good idea of how many hours it would take to charge the battery. Wait for the battery to be fully charged before you start using the setup. How to start using the setup. - Get a power strip, with a very long extension cord. - Plug the power strip into the Inverter. - Run the power strip to any part of the house where you need it. Images:
admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:59 pm
Post subject: Now that you know how to build a battery backup system, it's time to delve into the theory and science behind it. It's not enough to just know how to build it. It pays to understand the underlining principles, the physics and chemistry of it. By the time you're done reading, you should almost be thinking like an electrical engineer.
Hopefully, this this would be an easy read, rather than come across as a technical manual.
My goals are as follows:
1. Shed more light on Inverters, Chargers, and Batteries. 2. Explain what to look for when making purchase decisions. 3. Understand how to upgrade an existing backup system. 4. Graduate from this backup system, into a full blown solar generator.
5. Save power by switching to power saving devices.
My plan is to write something each night, till I cover everything.
Without further ado, let's get started.
Take a look at this illustration:
In a nutshell, when power is on from PHCN, the Charger would charge the battery. An Inverter is connected to the battery, which converts the 12 volts DC current, to 240 volts AC.
A power strip can then be connected to the Inverter, and electrical appliances connected to the strip.
During a blackout, this system will be able run most electrical appliances, with the exception of high power appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.
If you look at the picture again, you notice that we only show one battery. A single battery like this would be drained quickly if used to run electrical devices. So we need multiple batteries, to extend the time you can run things
for. For example, if one battery lasts for 90 minutes, two batteries would last 3 hours, and four batteries would last 6 hours. More batteries = longer run time.
Now, let us see why more batteries equates to longer run time.
Pay attention to what I'm about to present. It's the theory behind the system.
Battery power is measured in Amp-Hours (abbreviated to Ah). This is a measure of the amount of power the battery can store. If you look on a battery, you will find two important values written on it: The Voltage, and the AmpHours.
So, assuming a battery is rated at 80 Ah. This means that you could theoretically pull from it:
80 amps for 1 hour 40 amps for 2 hours 16 amps for 5 hours 8 amps for 10 hours, etc.
Since electrical appliances consume power measured in Watts, we're really only intereted in how many Watts the battery produces, not Amps. So how may Watts can this 80 Ah battery produce?
The formula for calculating Wattage is:
Watt = Amperes x Volt.
If you're interested, the formula is known as Ohm's Law.
DC car batteries are rated at 6 volts, 12 volts, 24 volts, etc.
So, assuming our sample battery above is rated at 12V, 80Ah, we can calculate the Watts output as follows:
12V x 80Ah = 960 Watts for 1 hour. 480 Watts for 2 hours 192 Watts for 5 hours 96 Watts for 10 hours, etc.
Now that we know what Amp-Hours is, and how to use it to calculate power in Watts, let's look at typical home applicances we could run on the battery above.
As a rule of thumb, a home run on batteries should have energy efficient electrical appliances. Here are some examples: instead of tungsten incandescent lamps, you should use fluorescent or LCD bulbs. Instead of CRT TV, you should get LCD TV and computer monitors. And so forth. We will elaborate on this topic later.
Fluorescent bulbs consume less power than incandescent light bulbs. Take a look at this bulb:
They are 3 watts each. If you run 20 of those around the house, that is a total of 60 watts being consumed. In other words, 20 of those bulbs would consume the same amount of power as a single 60 Watt incandescent bulb.
Let's do some calculations of power consumption at home. Let's say we're running 10 of those 3 watt bulbs = 30 watts. Next, assuming the TV is rated 100 watts,
and the computer needs 60 watts,
and our fan is a 45 watt fan. (Let's say we have 3 fans. 3 x 45 = 135 watts).
So far we have: 30 + 100 + 60 + 135 = 325 watts.
We have already determined that our battery above can supply 960 watts for one hour.
So, how long can this battery last, if we ran all of the listed appliances above?
960 / 325 = 2.9 hours.
As you can see, 2.9 hours is not very much time.
In order to increase time, we can add another battery.
How do we need to connect the second battery in order to increase the total Amp-Hours?
There are two ways by which we can connect a second battery - in Series, and in Parallel. If we connected the two batteries in series, we would increase the battery Voltage.
If we connected them in parallel, we would increase the Amp-Hours.
Therefore, since our goal is to increase the Ah, we need to connect the second battery in parallel.
Connecting in parallel means connecting the negative terminal of one battery, to the negative terminal of the other other battery. And the positive of one to the positive of the other.
As we assumed before that the battery is 12V@80Ah, connecting a second battery in parallel would give us 80 x 2 = 12V@160Ah.
To calculate the Watts that the two batteries would produce together,
again with our formula: Watt = Amperes x Volt.
We calculated the power output of a single battery to be: 12V x 80Ah = 960 watts for 1 hour.
For two batteries,
160 Ah x 12 volts = 1920 watt-hour
In other words, the two batteries would produce 1920 Watts for 1 hour.
We have effectively doubled our power output.
Back to the question we asked before: how long can the two batteries last, if we ran all of the electrical appliances we listed earlier (i.e. bulbs, tv, fans, etc)? Go ahead and answer that question yourself.
If we continue the calculation for more batteries, you would find that each successive battery we add effectively increases the length of time the batteries can run for.
In summary, when you want your batteries to run longer, you add more batteries in parallel.
Here is an example of a large number of batteries connected together to form a powerful battery bank.
That's it for today. The write-up continues tomorrow.
admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:55 pm
Post subject: Inverters Here is an illustration of parallel wiring of batteries.
When you wire in parallel, the voltage output stays the same, while the AmpHours increases. Now let's talk about Inverters, and chargers. What are they? Inverters... An Inverter converts the DC current from a battery to AC current. Some inverters convert to 110 volts, some to 240 volts AC, based on your needs.
Essentially, an Inverter performs two tasks: 1. It converts Direct Current to Alternating Current. 2. It acts as a step-up transformer by converting 12 volts to 240 volts. Why do we need to convert DC to AC? It's because our home electrical appliances require AC to run. Later on, we would look at why most devices run on AC instead of DC. Two main types of Inverters exist: 1. pure sine wave, 2. modified sine wave. The difference lies in the purity of the AC current output. Depending on what types of electrical appliances you want to run, you may need a "pure sine wave" inverter. A pure sine wave Inverter puts out consistent current without jitter (i.e. fluctuation of curent). A pure sine wave inverter is required for running sophisticated equipments such as laser printers, Photocopiers, sensitive circuits, etc. If there is no need to run such devices, then a "modified sine wave" inverter would suffice. There is a big price difference between "pure sine wave" and "modified sine wave" inverters. Compare these 1000 Watt inverters... http://just4electronics.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=112&p roducts_id=1053 http://www.bestconverter.com/PROsine-1000-Sine-Wave-Inverter40Hardwire41_p_250.html If the pages are no longer available, here are the screenshots:
They both put out 1000 watts (1kW). One costs $71.02 The other, $747.00 The price difference is staggering, at more than ten-fold! For the most part, home users don't run anything sophisticated. So most just go with modified sine wave inverters. A business/school/government however, is a different story. admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:39 pm Post subject: How to make purchasing decisions How do you choose what type of Inverter to buy? The amount of power output determines what type of Inverter to get. First count how many watts you will need. You do this by counting the watts used by all the appliances, and electric bulbs you would need to run whenever there is a blackout from PHCN. We've earlier seen how to count total Watts. It's an easy exercise.
Every electrical device has a label on it that shows its power consumption. In the event that a device does not provide this information, you can always calculate the wattage using the formula: Volts x Amperes. If even the current is not shown on the device, then you can use a measuring instrument called Kill-A-Watt to find out how much power it consumes. KillA-Watt is discussed later. After you get the total number of Watts you'd need, add about 50% to it. So assuming the total comes to 450 Watts that all your appliances require, you would be looking to buy an Inverter that is rated about 675 watts or higher, like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Xantrex-Technologies-851-0700-700-WattInverter/dp/B00009OYH8 Here is a question you've probably wondered about... Can one simply purchase a large inverter, to make room for future expansion? In other words, if currently your electrical devices consume a sum of 450 watts, wouldn't it be a good idea to just purchase something like a 2 kiloWatt Inverter, to leave room for higher power needs in future? The answers is, nothing stops you from purchasing a large inverter to accommodate future expansion. However, you must be aware that Inverters themselves need power to run. The larger the Inverter's wattage, the more power the inverter requires to run. An inverter gets hot, and has a fan in it to cool it down. That means power is needed to run an Inverter. So, assuming you have a 12V@80Ah battery, this equals 960 Watt-Hour power output. In a case like this, if you purchase a small Inverter, it would only take a small amount of power to run the Inverter. However, if you purchase a large kilowatt Inverter, that inverter itself would draw a lot of power from the battery, and run down your battery very quickly. If you're going to run a large Inverter, then you must have a battery bank that consists of many batteries, with a high Amp-Hours output. As you can see, the decision about what type of inverter to buy is a balancing act, but not an overly complicated one. You just need to be prudent about what your needs are currently, vs what they are likely to be in the future. Assuming you buy a 750W Inverter today because your needs are limited to 500W. Then 6 months down the road you suddenly need a 2kW inverter, your only choice would be to replace the 750W Inverter. In a case like this, you could have just purchased a 2kW Inverter in the first place.
There is a relationship between Inverter input voltage, and the output Watts. 12 Volts is the most common (i.e. the battery voltage). Higher voltages exist: 24, 36, 48, and 96 volts. 6 Volts and 12 Volts systems are often ideal for a maximum Inverter output of about 2400 Watts. If you have an inverter of higher wattage, you're better off getting batteries of higher voltage. For heavy duty industrial use, you need special batteries with very high voltage (24 Volts or higher). An inverter has two output ratings. One is called the continuous power, and the other, peak power. For example, an Inverter may be rated at 1000 Watts continuous, and 2000 Watts peak pwer. The 1000 Watts is the standard running power output. The 2000 Watts shows it's ability to momentarily handle the starting of certain devices such as power tools, refrigerator, etc. A drill is an example, which may be rated at say, 800 Watts, but require 1600 Watts to start up. That's it about Inverters. Next we will cover Battery Chargers. admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:14 am Post subject: Battery Charger Now onto battery chargers. A battery is not usable until it's charged. A charged battery holds electrons, that then begin to flow once a circuit is completed. The flow of electrons is what is known as electric current. A battery charger's function is to transfer electrons from PHCN, over to the battery. When the battery can no longer take any more electrons, it's considered to be fully charged. You connect a Charger to the battery, and plug the Charger into the PHCN power outlet. This setup would remain that way permanently. When PHCN power is on, the Charger charges the batteries. Once the batteries are fully charged, some chargers are smart enough to automatically stop charging the batteries. As the battery charge slowly drops, either through use or even when idle, the Charger again commences topping up the charge. Basically, the charger keeps the batteries at optimum charge level. Just like anything else, battery chargers come in all shapes and sizes.
1. Charge only. 2. Charge, and top up. 3. Charge, top up, and desulfate. Obviously, the least expensive among them is the type that only charges the battery and nothing else. For such a Charger, you must keep an eye on the process. Otherwise, the battery would be overcharged. Overcharging reduces the lifespan of a battery, or it may even damage the battery entirely. The next class of Chargers has another function, which is to top up the charge. What happens is that the Charger brings the battery's charge up, and then automatically stops charging. If left connected to the battery, the Charger monitors the charge level of the battery, and periodically enters maintenance mode to make sure the charge is maintained at the maximum level. How does a Charger know when to stop charging and automatically enter into maintenance mode? This is possible because such Chargers have electronic circuit board. These chargers are described as intelligent Chargers. The most advanced of Chargers offers one more function, which is defulfation. To understand what desulfation is, we must first talk about sulfation. Basically, when your battery uses substrate such as Sulphuric acid, sulphur begins to deposit on the Lead elements. These types of deposits progressively reduces the battery's ability to hold a charge. This process is known as sulfation. Desulfation therefore, involves lifting the deposits off the battery's Lead elements. A desulfator works by sending periodic electric pulse through the battery. A Charger that desulfates, prolongs the life of your battery. It can also bring a dead battery to life, by stripping deposits off the Lead elements. There are so many batteries out there that are considered dead because they can no longer hold a charge. Using a desulfation Charger on such batteries can rejuvenate them. Generally, I wouldn't recommend buying a Charger in group #1. But if that is all you can afford, you can always purchase the charge maintainer separately. They are called Battery Tender. Chargers in group #2 are OK, but if you can afford to purchase a Charger in group #3, that is the best. If you only purchase a group #1, or #2 charger, you can later purchase a desulfator separately. You would save a lot of money purchasing an all-in-one
Charger, than buying Charger+Tender+Desulfator as separate units. You will often find Chargers according to Amps. Lower Amp chargers take longer to charge your battery. The higher the Amp, the quicker your battery gets charged. While this statement is true, beware that some batteries can only be charged using certain defined Amps level. So make sure you buy a Charger that is compatible with your battery. Ultimately, if you can afford it, you should get a fully automatic Charger (often called Smart Charger). Such Chargers first inspect the state of your battery, and then begin to charge the battery at the appropriate Amp level. As stated earlier, I purchased Schumacher SSC-1500A Battery Charger for $49. This is a great Charger for the low price. Other examples are: You will find several other types of Chargers here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=searchalias%3Dsporting&field-keywords=battery+charger&x=0&y=0 and here: http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/search.do?searchtype=simple&catg=3721 &simplesearchfor=deep+cycle+battery+charger&x=0&y=0&simpleitemtype= 0 I only recommend a Charger that charges the batteries, and then maintains the charge. Chargers with LCD display will display charging status. LCD is irrelevant to the actual charging, but it's good to have if you can find a charger that comes with one. admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Sat Feb 27, 2010 6:32 am Post subject: Batteries BATTERIES There are two main classes of batteries: (1) Crank, and (2) Deep cycle. Crank batteries are used in cars and motorcycles. When a car is ignited (cranked up), it requires a temporary high current. This zaps the battery. The car immediately commences charging the battery back up while the car is running. Deep cycle batteries are used in RV's, boats, etc. Deep cycle batteries are more suitable for slow discharge, and for situations where the battery is
charged/discharged very frequently. A crank car battery would die very quickly if treated this way. For best results, you're advised to not allow your Crank batteries to be discharged below 20%, i.e. the battery should always have a charge of 80% or more. Deep cycle batteries should not be discharged beyond 50%. When buying your batteries for our Backup system, you want to look for "Deep Cycle" batteries. A crank battery is not suitable for this purpose. There are generally three types of Deep cycle batteries available: (1) Flooded cell, (2) Gel cell, (3) AGM (absorbed glass mat). Flooded cell are Lead-Acid batteries that use Sulphuric acid on lead grids. These kinds of batteries must be maintained monthly. The maintenance involves checking the acid level, and topping it up with distilled water. The other two are sealed, and need no maintenance. But they are also much more expensive. When buying Deep cell batteries, 1. check the Amp-Hours. That is how you know the capacity of the battery. I have already gone over that earlier. 2. Check the voltage. The most used are 12 volts. However, if you find 24 volts batteries at reasonable prices, get those instead. 24 volt batteries are usually industrial grade batteries. They are generally more reliable. If you do get 24 volts, then you have to also buy 24 volts charger, and 24 volt inverter. In the same vein, if you buy 12 volt batteries, you must also buy 12 volt charger, and 12 volt inverter. There are 6 volt batteries, but I wouldn't recommend those. However, if you do want to purchase 6 volt batteries, the connection would have to be changed. Instead of pure parallel connection, we would have to first connect in series, then again in parallel. Here is an assignment for you: If I had 4 batteries rated at 6V@80Ah each. How must those 4 batteries be
connected, so as to end up with a 12V@160Ah bank? Here is an example of a powerful battery bank:
For best results:
- Use the same brand of batteries in your battery bank. - Plan your battery bank carefully, so you can purchase your batteries all at once. If you add new batteries to a bank of old batteries, the new batteries would quickly become as worn as the old batteries. admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:03 am Post subject: Exercise Practical exercise Let's say we have 4 pieces of 6-Volt batteries. Our goal is to connect the batteries into a battery bank, with effective output of 12 Volts. As we noted before, in order to increase voltage, we must connect in Series. Since we have 4 batteries, we could connect 2 in series, and another 2 in series. Then connect the two pairs in Parallel. The ultimate battery bank would be 12 volts. However, that is not the only way to connect the batteries. We could also connect 2 in Parallel, and another 2 in Parallel. Then connect the two Parallel pairs in Series. The ultimate battery bank would still be 12 volts. Is there a difference between these two approaches? Are the two methods the same, or is one method preferred over the other? When connecting batteries in a series-parallel formation, first connect pairs of batteries in Parallel. Then connect those pairs in Series. Avoid chains of Series batteries in Parallel. admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Sat Mar 06, 2010 5:53 pm Post subject: Electrical Wires Wires It's worth our while to mention a thing or two about wires. We must use the appropriate wires for connecting our components (Inverter, Battery, Charger), as well as for connecting batteries in series/parallel. Wires are measured in guages. Each task requires the right guage wires, else the wires could melt, or it could become a bottleneck in the system. Luckily, most devices come with the correct wires. But just in case they don't, you should know what to look for when buying wires. Here is a wire guage table: http://www.rbeelectronics.com/wtable.htm
Basically, when connecting your batteries together in series or in parallel, you should keep the wires as short as possible. This minimizes voltage loss. Ask for advice about what thickness to use to connect your batteries. You can just go to any automotive electrician, or ask at the store where you make your purchase. Note: When installing batteries, you always install positive terminal first, and negative last. admin Site Admin Joined: Joined: 02 Apr 2006 Posts: 1023 Sat Mar 06, 2010 6:04 pm Post subject: Tools Every job requires that some form of tool be used. This job is no exception. The following are typical tools you'd need to get the job done. - Multimeter. Used to measure current, voltage, etc. This is a must have. Of course, you can accomplish your task without it, but it's best to take measurements, to be sure you're getting what you should be getting. For example, if you connected two 6 Volt batteries in series, you want to be sure that the output is 12 Volts. - kill-a-watt. For measuring the amount of energy an appliance is consuming. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l_mo1jwh8Y - Cable & Wire cutter. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zd98Cejhhw - Crimper (when making your own cables). See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPbcy1nhllQ - Drill. Depending on the complexity of your setup, you may need a drill. If for instance you decide to pass wires through holes in walls, or you decide to run wires through your ceiling, an occasion may present itself for the use of a drill. - Wire Stripping Tool. - Silicone Caulk sealant. When you drill holes through walls, you could use silicone to seal the loose ends around the wires. Other tools may be required, such as hammer, screwdrivers, etc.
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