Maintaining Your Solar Battery

Through many years in the solar industry, we’ve heard countless accounts of lead-acid batteries not lasting as long as they should. In most cases the problem was related to mishandling or lax maintenance, not defects in manufacturing. The good news is there are ways to help get peak performance from your batteries, saving you time, aggravation and possibly the cost of replacing batteries.

Start by becoming an informed system owner. This does not mean become an expert, but you must keep an eye on things, much like the average car owner does. Whether you handle maintenance yourself or hire a professional, here are some guidelines based on type of lead-acid battery:

  1. Overall, for all batteries - regularly maintain and monitor the charging and discharging.
  2. Check the cables. They can loosen over time, which can cause problems ranging from poor performance to safety hazards. There is a right amount of tightness based on the cable type. Become aware of this and keep an eye out for any loose cables.
  3. Checking the battery voltage every month to monitor the condition and know when to periodically equalize batteries.
  4. Wet cell batteries (generally the least expensive type) require periodic addition of distilled or deionized water to replace moisture lost thru boiling or off-gassing. This off-gassing of oxygen and hydrogen may be easily ignited by a spark, thus requiring special venting to the outside to dissipate even small concentrations of hydrogen gas.
  5. Sealed batteries, aka AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries, have lower resistance to charge, can be charged relatively quickly, and are safer to handle. They won’t freeze even when deeply discharged. This may play a role in how you service or charge the battery in freezing conditions.
  6. Gel-cells are similar to AGM batteries in many respects, but they require a stricter charge protocol to avoid getting “cooked” by over-charging. Gel-cells are best for more advanced users who can tend to the unique properties to get good life from them.    

Contact our technical support team for more details or any questions regarding battery maintenance. 

About Wet-Cell, AGM and Gel-Cell Batteries

For more about “the guts” of each battery type, read on….  

Wet-cell, AGM and gel-cell batteries are all lead-acid batteries with the major difference being how the sulfuric acid interacts with the lead plates.

  • Wet-cell batteries have a mix of H2SO4 and de-ionized water set to a specific acid density, it’s called specific gravity and is tested with a refractometer or a hydrometer with temperature correction.
  • AGM and Gel-cell batteries are valve regulated, sealed lead-acid batteries.
  • In AGM, the acid is soaked into a fiberglass mat and wrapped around the lead plates.
  • Gel-cells are a mixture of silica “sand” and sulfuric acid making a paste or mud surrounding the plates.

All lead-acid batteries require maintenance. Regardless of type, an equivalent sized and weight battery will have about the same life potential. Deciding which type to use is based on application, cost, ability to maintain and other factors – our technical support team can help you choose the right battery for your needs.  

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