See bottom of the page for graph sources.
Q. What is a battery?
A. A battery is a container/device, consisting of one or more cells, in which a chemical energy is converted into electricity and used as a power source.
Q. Can I add acid or water to my battery?
Q. Should I open the vent on a gel battery to top-up the electrolyte or for inspection?
A. No, under no circumstances should you ever open the vent on any sealed lead acid battery. You will void the warranty.
Q. During the life of a gel battery, does it require the addition of water or acid?
A. No, the battery is sealed for life.
Q. Can a new battery be used with old batteries?
A. The short answer is yes. However, the capacity of the bank will only perform as well as the least performing cell in the bank.
Q. How long will a battery last?
A. A battery is a box of electrochemical energy, and this has a limited life. The more capacity that is used from the battery over a brief amount of time, the quicker it will fail. Therefore the less capacity used, the longer the battery will last.
Q. What does the design life of a battery mean?
A. It is a method by which battery manufacturers self-rate their batteries, based on corrosion of the positive plate to failure. This test is usually undertaken in a controlled environment with a measured thickness of the battery grid in a known strenght of sulphuric acid. It should also be noted that batteries can fail due to numerous reasons besides positive grid failure.
Q. Does a battery with a thick plate have a longer life than one with a thin plate?
A. Yes, the more material in the grid structure, the longer it takes to corrode away.
Q. Are gel batteries recyclable?
A. Yes, using a scrap metal merchant you can recycle gel batteries.
Q. Are sealed lead acid batteries really maintenance free?
A. No, there is no requirement to top-up the electrolyte. However, the batteries still need to be kept clean and the terminals need to be clean and tight.
Q. What is Gel?
A. A solar Gel battery is a valve regulated lead acid battery. Rather than being in a liquid state (water and acid), the electrolyte is in a Gel material or form. So there is no spillage and the battery is sealed.
Q. What is VRLA?
A. VRLA is an abbreviation for Valve Regulated Lead Acid. The electrolyte can be in a liquid, gel or an absorbed glass matte form/material. Depending upon the type of material, these batteries come in sealed and unsealed states.
Q. Does temerature affect the battery?
A. All batteries are affected by the ambient temperature. Cold weather is a 'killer' of batteries, as they discharge quicker and further during cold weather (when in a circuit). Lowering the ambient temperature, affects the current that can be produced by the battery at a higher temperature. i.e. the colder the battery is, potentially the less current it will produce (if in a circuit). Batteries can reach a point where they cannot deliver enough current to keep up with demand. This is why, if you locate an older/cold battery in the sun, it will warm up and perhaps have enough charge to deliver the demand. Some battery banks have a pre-warmer, and batter temperature sensors connected. In Australia, cold weather isnt' the same problem as it is elsewhere, but it can have an affect on battery life and performance.
Q. Battery Safety
A. All batteries are a small or contained energy source. As with all energy sources, there is a potential for danger, batteries in particular involve chemical reactions. Explosions, electrocution and damage to personal and property is always possible. The installation operating instructions and material safety data sheet should always be present and read by all people that work or use solar battery banks, this includes the home owner. This information will provide health hazard warnings and initial first aid information, as well as safe handling and storage techniques. Batteries when disconnected can and are likely to remian charged. Please be mindful that disconnected does not ensure safety. Do not attempt to charge the battery bank by alternate means , you will risk death via explosion or electrocution. Batteries can be very heavy, so caution should be taken when handling, as personal injury can eventuate if handled incorrectly. There should be no smoking anywhere near the batteries or surrounding area, especially in an enclosed space. Large battery banks are NOT DIY (Do It Yourself). It is prudent and much safer to leave this work to a CEC Off Grid or Hybrid qualified electrician or electrical engineer. There are many aspects to battery safety, the above information is only a small part or indication to some of the dangers. It is by no means a checklist or definitive answer of battery safety.
- Ecoult Newsletter (What's the Real Story With Battery Recyling) sent Friday, 5 December 2014