Proper storage of solar batteries determines how long they will last. Some factors like high temperature will increase the internal discharge rate of your solar batteries. Extreme cold temperature also enhances sulfation. So, what is the proper storage of solar batteries?
In this article, we will discuss the different ways you can store your solar batteries to increase longevity. We will also provide you with important tips to maintain your solar lighting system. Read on to find out how you may be spoiling your solar batteries without your knowledge.
Solar battery storage is one aspect that is usually ignored by solar owners. When planning for the solar lighting system, where you are going to place the battery is as important as where you will place the solar panel.
Where to keep Solar Batteries
For starters, different types of batteries are stored differently. How you store a lithium-ion battery is different from where you can place a lead-acid battery. Ensure you store the battery away from the reach of children. Discussed below are some of the ways you can store different types of batteries.
How to store a lithium-ion solar battery
Modern Lithium-ion solar batteries have a system known as BMS that protects your battery from cool temperatures. The system activates the internal heating source when the battery is freezing.
- It is advisable to store the lithium-ion batteries indoors especially when it is freezing.
This is because lithium-ion batteries should not be charged at 0°c but can be safely discharged at -18°c.
- Make sure if you storing the battery, it is fully charged.
- Before using the battery again charge for 72hours.
How to store a lead-acid battery
- Unlike lithium-ion batteries, flooded lead-acid batteries should not be used indoors. This is because they release harmful hydrogen gas. They should however be stored in an enclosed battery box.
- The battery can then be placed in a well-ventilated space like the garage.
Ventilation allows off-gassing an important process that ensures the battery lasts longer.
- In case you decide to place the lead battery outside, ensure it is well insulated.
The lead-acid battery produces a high amount of heat when charging.
- Choose an insulating material rated for below-grade use and should be the right R-value.
Flooded led acid batteries can be charged at low temperatures of up to -20°c.
Most solar batteries come with advanced technology that ensures your battery is well protected. If you want to place your solar batteries outside, invest in a large battery bank.
Now that you know how to store different types of solar batteries, there are some maintenance exercises that you can use to increase the longevity of your solar batteries.
How to maintain solar batteries regularly
Although solar batteries deteriorate over a long period, proper maintenance can help protect your batteries. Some of these maintenance tips include;
- Ensure the battery charges fully
Before you start using a solar battery, ensure that it charges for up to 72hrs. If you start using a battery that is not fully charged, it stops holding power for long.
During winter you can use alternative methods of charging like the use of flashlights and electricity.
- Invest in a solar charge controller
A solar charge controller regulates the amount of voltage that reaches the battery. When the battery is dying, the controller allows up to 14.6V to the battery. When the battery is almost full, the controller reduces the voltage that reaches the battery.
- Check the fluid level regularly
This applies to flooded lead-acid batteries. Open the battery cap and check if distilled water is below the fill line. Add distilled water if the electrolytes are visible to prevent the metal surfaces from being exposed. Distilled water is the best option for fluid batteries.
- Check the battery charge level
To test if the battery is discharging at an abnormal rate, check the level of the charge. You can use several meters which have a display screen that indicates the level of charge. Voltmeter, hydrometer, and multimeter are among the most common meters used to measure the charge of the battery.
- Clean the batteries terminal
To remove the build-up of coating made when the battery is in use, you should clean the battery once in a while.
- Remove both negative and positive wires before you start cleaning.
- Use distilled water and terminal brushes and a mixture of distilled water and baking soda.
- Rinse the battery terminal with water and dry it before reconnecting again.
- Ensure all the parts are tightly sealed to prevent leakage.
- Replace a dead battery
Solar batteries are bound to die eventually. Trying to charge a dead battery will only disappoint you. You can use this guide to check if the battery is almost dead or is already dead.
Solar batteries last up to 20years without a need for replacement. This is however determined by the type and the quality of the solar lighting system.
How to Keep Solar Batteries Warm in Winter
Cool temperatures can spoil your battery over a long time. Most batteries operate between 70° F and 85°F. Temperatures lower than that or higher than that will cause the battery life span to reduce.
To prepare for the winter, there are several practices you should carry out to take care of your battery.
- Proper storage
During the winter, temperatures might be below the normal operating temperatures of solar batteries. Store the batteries inside a sealed battery box and place them indoors. The battery should be further from the reach of children.
If you are using a flooded lead-acid battery, burry the battery outside where the temperature is moderate. Flooded lead-acid batteries release explosive hydrogen gas when in use.
- Use monitors and controllers
Since there is no sunlight during the winter, solar batteries are bound to drain faster. Over-draining the battery will make the battery die slowly over time. To prevent this ensure that your solar panel has a sensor. A sensor switches off the solar lights in case there is no light.
Controllers also play a major role when it comes to keeping the battery intact for long. When the battery is almost drained, the controller displays a flashlight. You can use the signal to charge the battery using alternative methods.
- Take note of the depth of discharge
During winter the cold weather influences the discharge rate. Batteries discharge at different rates. Ensure you do not discharge the batteries when they are below 80%. If the batteries are discharging at a higher rate, you can buy other batteries for extra power storage.
Tips to protect solar batteries
Solar batteries just like other solar components require proper maintenance. If you take good care of your solar lights, you can enjoy a long period of free solar energy. Below are some of the top tips you should use to protect your solar batteries.
- Charge the batteries fully.
- Clean the batteries and the solar panels regularly.
- Play safe with the Depth of Discharge.
- Store the batteries in a well-ventilated sealed battery box.
- Use distilled water as the filler fluid.
- Do not fill the liquid up to the beam to prevent spilling.
- Do not touch the battery terminals.
- Replace rechargeable batteries if they are dead.
- Ensure the solar charge Controller and the sensor are working correctly.
There are other tips you can use to protect your battery from harmful variables.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you store flooded lead-acid indoors during the winter?
Flooded lead-acid batteries produce explosive hydrogen gas when in use. For this reason, ensure you store the battery in a sealed battery box and a well-ventilated room. If you are placing the battery outside, ensure it is properly insulated to prevent moisture from corroding the metal parts.
What do I do if my battery is not charging?
Have you checked the setup of the solar lighting system? This might be the reason why your solar batteries are not charging. Another reason might be the battery is dead. Use a multimeter to check the voltage of the batteries.
If the voltage does not change, chances are your battery is dead.
Can I charge my solar batteries using electricity?
If there is not enough sunlight during the winter, electricity is one of the other methods you can use to charge your battery.
Ensure the solar charger controller is installed to regulate the amount of voltage reaching the batteries.
Does placing the battery on the concrete destroy the battery?
The notion that concretes damages the battery has been discussed for years.
Modern batteries come with a system that prevents the battery from freezing. You should however ensure that the battery is placed inside a sealed battery box for protection.
Solar batteries can last longer even during the winter. Ensure you follow the tips provided in the guide above to protect your battery from dying prematurely.
Batteries are dangerous. They should therefore be stored in an enclosed battery box and placed further from children’s reach.
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as a Solar Electrical Engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.