Selecting The Right Battery For Your Solar Project

Maximize your battery life, avoid common mistakes and reduce costs by learning the way to select the proper battery for your system anytime.

Did you recognize that batteries, even with nearly identical specifications, may have unequal life and performance? It’s true. Choosing the proper model for your system can mean the difference between long project life, low maintenance and high performance — or frustrating downtime and early failure.

All batteries are made differently. Some manufacturers use heavier grids and more lead, robotic assembly and automatic internal control , and exhaustive performance testing. Other manufacturers make batteries using manual assembly and outdated materials which will compromise performance. Low-price batteries appear to be a bargain, but they often require more maintenance, fail earlier and price more within the end of the day.

By asking the proper questions, you’ll be will make you identify differences in design, materials, manufacturing and internal control to decide on the most effective battery for you.

Understand Different Battery Types
The first step is to chose the proper type. Lead-acid batteries are made for specific applications, and a few aren’t an honest fit renewable energy (RE) systems. Automotive and commercial starter batteries deliver short bursts of power and occupy full charge most of the time, making them unsuited for such applications. Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) batteries are designed to supply backup electricity during power outages but won’t tolerate continuous discharge and charge cycles.

Deep-cycle batteries deliver electricity for an extended time, even multiple days, because they’re designed for constant discharge and charge cycles. The difference between deep-cycle and RE-specific batteries is that RE batteries’ basic design accounts for the precise requirements of renewable energy applications.

Acid recirculation systems use computerized vacuums to circulate acid through batteries, reducing heat for longer life. -Photo courtesy of Crown Battery Manufacturing, Inc.

Flooded batteries are the foremost commonly used batteries in RE and grid-backup systems, because they’re affordable, easy to take care of , long-lasting and reliable. Valve-regulated lead–acid (VRLA) batteries, like Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) and GEL, are maintenance-free but typically costlier . Whatever sort of battery you select , know which materials, construction methods and internal control systems translate into affordable, reliable power for your system.

Materials And Manufacturing Matter
A battery produces electrical current through a reaction that converts its stored energy into electricity . This process starts within the lead itself. Most manufacturers within the North American battery industry use recycled lead, therefore the performance and lifespan differences between lead within the batteries come from the quantity of lead, additive formulation, lead-oxide production methods and quality control employed by producers.
Metal grids that hold lead paste make energy storage possible. Thicker, heavier plates withstand corrosion longer and hold more lead for chemical reactions, in order that they increase battery life. But raw lead prices have skyrocketed some years back, and since lead comprises 60 to 80% of a battery’s cost, there’s pressure to chop corners to offset staple price hikes.

Robots load plates in this computer-controlled production system, for increased precision and lifespan. -Photo courtesy of Crown Battery Manufacturing, Inc.

Manufacturers that understand the importance of quality still produce a superior product. they are doing not attempt to cut costs through curtailing on key materials like lead, but by improving manufacturing efficiency and using of active lead materials. Ultimately, more lead and advanced manufacturing save customers money because they don’t need to replace their batteries as often.

Even grid production methods affect life. Some manufacturers use expanded metal and stamped grid production because they’re quicker, but these methods embed impurities and porosity into grid wires. In contrast, grids produced by gravity casting contain no impurities and near-zero porosity. Gravity-cast plates extend life and improve reliability.

Active lead material is applied to plates during a process called pasting, and dozens of variables in paste mixing significantly affect battery performance. In conventional systems, these variables are adjusted by hand and paste is just as good as its operator. Computerized paste mixing alleviates these problems by instantly adjusting variables.

Once grids are pasted, they’re cured (dried in specialized “curing ovens” at a specific temperature and humidity) to bond active lead materials to the grid for better performance and longer life. search for batteries built with plates prepared in curing ovens, which optimize important variables like temperature and humidity at every stage of the curing cycle to make sure all plates deliver optimal capacity and repair life.

After curing, battery plates are stacked in groups and connected by fusing the plates along side a lead strap that makes a shunt circuit between the plates. Many companies still use strap-assembly processes that originated within the half of the 20th century because they’re economical. Workers manually attach lead lugs to a strap and burn them together one-by-one employing a torch and lead stick or by manually pouring molten lead around a jig. Manually welded straps have weaker connection points.

Other companies use cast-on-strap (COS) assembly systems that fuse battery plates together simultaneously at the optimal temperature. Because COS allows for 4,000 adjustments versus only 40 for hand welding, it ensures consistent, low electrical-resistance welds that strengthen connections, resist cracking and improve battery life. Robotic COS assembly also prevent failure modes that are common with manually-assembled batteries, like “lead run-down” between plates, and permit for features that reduce corrosion, increase current and reduce maintenance costs.

Battery manufacturers should monitor every stage of production with a combination of trained employees and computer systems. -Photo courtesy of Crown Battery Manufacturing, Inc.

Properly integrating the COS process may be expensive and time-consuming. ensure your battery manufacturer has had time to refine its COS system. If a corporation advertises using COS, ensure to ask if it produces 100% of its offerings using COS manufacturing.

Following assembly, batteries are charged for the first time in a very process called formation that converts lead sulfate and ensures maximum capacity. Some companies “speed up” formation using higher currents, which cut production time at the expense of active (usable) material and lifespan. In contrast, lower current over a extended time always leads to longer life.

Recognize Quality
Quality control should be built into all stages of production to enhance product quality and consistency. in advanced plants, this includes machine testing for brief circuits, along side computerized welding and warmth sealing. Some battery companies even use vision systems (image capturing and advanced software that automatically inspect parts) to identify defects humans can miss.

An on-site lab tests batteries to ensure performance and consistency. -Photo courtesy of Crown Battery Manufacturing, Inc.

When you know what check for — and what to avoid — in a renewable energy battery, it’s much easier to search out the most effective model for your needs. to match manufacturing techniques and materials and obtain an improved idea of which batteries will perform better and last longer, visit your RE battery manufacturer’s website or call the manufacturer or your distributor.

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