If you have an off-grid solar energy system, you are familiar with solar batteries. Solar batteries help store excess energy so you can use it at night and during power outages. They are necessary for off-grid systems because, when you have this type of system, you rely solely on the sun’s energy and cannot use the utility grid as a backup. You can also opt to purchase a solar battery if you have a grid-tied solar energy system, so that you can have a backup power source. Solar batteries are very useful, but are also very expensive, which is why you need to maintain your solar batteries to extend their lifespans. Fortunately, we have some simple maintenance tips that will allow you to properly take care of your solar batteries.
Program Your Solar Battery System
When you buy your solar batteries, the first thing you will need to do is program the voltage set points. Usually, whoever installs your solar energy system will set it for you. This is critical for extending the lifespan of your batteries.
Limit Your Number of Batteries
The more batteries you have connected the better, right? Wrong. When you have a large amount of batteries connected, these multiple connections increase resistance. With a lot of resistance comes uneven charging, so try to limit yourself to 16 batteries or less.
Solar batteries need to be charged often, or they can get damaged. When you charge them, you need to rotate your batteries periodically in order to balance out the charge, otherwise the ones in the middle will not get as much charge as the ones connected on the outside.
Only Add Distilled Water
There are two types of batteries: flooded and sealed. Sealed batteries do not contain any liquid that will spill out if broken, or need to be vented to release fumes, unlike flooded batteries. Plates in flooded batteries have to be submerged at all times, and when you charge the batteries, they lose water during the charge cycle. You have to fill them up regularly in order for them to function properly, but only with distilled water. If you use non-distilled water, your batteries could get small particles and contaminants in them, which will weaken them over time. Depending on where you live, you should check the water levels every 15-30 days. When your battery is fully charged, check the water level and add water if needed until they are filled to just below the maximum water level line.
Boiling is normal for batteries when they are charging; it allows them to avoid any hydrogen buildup. Batteries will begin to boil at approximately 14.1Vdc(12V nominal system), 28.2 Vdc (24V) or 56.4 Vdc(48V). This will produce water and hydrogen.
Protect Them From Extreme Temperatures
Batteries will lose about 25% of their capacity at 30°F. The higher the temperature, the more quickly batteries will deteriorate.
Fully Charge Your Batteries
Your batteries should be charged everyday. If that is not possible, then try to make sure they are all at 100% of capacity at least once a week. This will prevent battery sulfation and extend the life of your batteries. You can use a refractometer to check how well your batteries are keeping their charge after a full charge cycle.
In order to make your batteries last longer, equalize them, or in other words, overcharge them! While overcharging sounds like a bad thing that will damage your battery, the opposite is actually true for solar batteries. You should do this every 30 to 90 days. Equalizing them allows all the cells in the battery to return to a full charge.
Check battery cable connections and make sure they are tight, clean and there is no corrosion. To prevent corrosion, you can use distilled water and baking soda to clean the area.
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