One element most people do not think about when it comes to renewable energy is batteries. Images of wind turbines and vast fields of solar panel installations may appear in one’s mind but little thought is given to the behind-the-scenes superhero of green energy: batteries.
The past few years have seen solar battery capabilities blow the previous years completely out of the water. In 2017, Elon Musk installed a 100 MW battery storage center in Southern Australia (as a bet, no less!), successfully regulating the failure-prone rural electric grid system, saving the country $75 million in 2019 alone.
Today, California has launched a 250 MW battery storage system. This comes as a successful solution to years of black-outs due to aging transmission systems and not enough energy production to cover air-conditioning spikes in the summers.
Batteries are expanding the potential for solar industry every day, be it large or small scale installations, even on or off-grid systems.
Whether you have an existing solar system or are researching for a future project, a battery storage system is definitely worth investing in.
As with the rest of your solar system, it pays to be knowledgeable about expected maintenance procedures. Battery packs are no exception, and keeping on top of maintenance and knowing when to update them will save you time and money in the long run.
While batteries seem fairly straight forward, you would be surprised how much there is to learn about them. From proactive ways to extending battery life to the signs that you need a battery replacement, this article will cover all that you need to know.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BATTERIES
The number one way to extend your battery’s life is to keep it in a temperature regulated area where it is protected from extreme weather. Just like a car battery, solar batteries are adversely affected by extreme heat or cold.
Exposing batteries to temperatures above 80°F will accelerate the battery’s self-discharge. So be mindful and keep your battery packs away from furnaces or space heaters, as well as avoid exposure to peak summer temperatures.
On the other hand, allowing a battery to freeze will result in irreparable damage to it’s plates and container. So keep it protected from outdoor winter temperatures. Keeping batteries at a full charge will also protect them from freezing.
FLOODED BATTERY MAINTENANCE
Flooded batteries require that the plates inside them always be covered with water. Depending upon the battery, this can be a fairly easy and uncomplicated procedure but there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Only use distilled or deionized water
- The battery should be fully charged when you refill the water
- Do not fill the tank to the level of the cap. It will cause the battery to leak corrosive acid, which is both- messy and hazardous to clean up. It will also cause the battery to lose some capacity
- Never let the plates be exposed to the air. It will result in corrosion of the plates and damage the battery
Always make sure to check the manual of your specific battery or consult with the manufacturer for the exact watering procedures. Trojan Battery, (the battery supply company we at Pur Solar recommend) has a full list of maintenance procedures available here.
Generally, it is best to check your solar batteries once a month for watering purposes.
KEEP BATTERIES CLEAN
Regularly checking your batteries for cleanliness will help you keep an eye on them. This allows you to quickly notice any issues and also prevent any grime-associated problems.
Simply wipe them with a dry, clean cloth to remove any dirt. If they require a deeper level of cleaning, check your battery’s manual for exact cleaning procedures. Always keep the area around battery packs clean as well, to prevent debris and dirt from causing any issues.
CHARGING DO’S & DON’TS
The most important aspect to keep in mind while using your batteries are the charging do’s and don’ts as these can either largely extend your battery’s life or vastly decrease it.
- Depth of Discharge (DoD)
The first fact to understand about batteries is that using 100% of their stored electricity will significantly shorten the battery’s life. For this reason, every battery comes with a Depth of Discharge (DoD) value.
The DoD value refers to the largest percentage of the battery’s stored electricity that can be used without adversely affecting the battery. For example, if a battery is 10 kWh and has a DoD of 85%, then you can use 8.5 kWh before needing to recharge it.
2. Keep Batteries Charged
Another way to extend a battery’s life is to keep it fully charged as often as possible. Thankfully, a battery storage system that is tied to a solar installation is typically used every evening when the sun sets and recharged every morning when the sun rises.
Consequently, the batteries do not sit for long without a charge. If you go on holiday, for example, please remember to fully charge them beforehand.
At times you may need to add batteries to your system to accommodate a change in your household’s energy consumption. Maybe you have a newborn or your mother-in-law moves in and, therefore, you need additional energy to power your home.
Sometimes, this may mean needing additional solar panels to increase your system size. But, typically adding a battery to your storage system can solve the issue of extra power.
Other reasons you could require additional battery storage space is the addition of extra appliances, a second refrigerator, freezer or a washing machine. Switching to an electric car or electric heater could also require extra energy storage.
Of course, choosing high efficiency appliances will dramatically decrease the extra energy and storage requirement for your home or business. Find more ways to reduce your energy consumption here.
TYPICAL LENGTH OF BATTERY LIFE
As discussed above, there are many elements that affect the length of a battery’s life. The manufacturer will always provide the expected life years along with the other battery specifications. Though, this value is calculated assuming that regular maintenance is provided.
Depending on the manufacturer you choose, your battery could live anywhere from 5 to 15 years. Generally speaking, you will need to replace your battery pack at least once in your solar system’s 25-30 year life span.
This is where quality becomes very important. While less expensive batteries may look tempting up front, they will surely cause you more time and money in replacement costs further down the line.
As Pur Solar is the oldest solar installation company in Arizona, we can guarantee that the brands we recommend are the best value for your money, high in quality and reliable. Call our experts today for a consultation or to answer any questions you may have.
SIGNS OF NEEDING A REPLACEMENT
Each battery’s life expectancy, as discussed above, is provided by its manufacturer. Being mindful of this information allows you to be watchful for signs of inefficiencies and prepare your budget to buy a new battery pack.
The main sign that your batteries need a replacement is that your appliances will not work at their 100% efficiency. This means, your heating and cooling may seem to struggle. Your refrigerator may not cool, the freezer may not fully freeze, and events of this nature.
On the bright side, if your battery is ready for an update, technology has advanced so greatly in the last few years, your replacement will be quite the upgrade.
Related Articles: Should I Get a Battery for My On-Grid Solar System? And How Much Power Can You Store with Premium Batteries? More than You Think.
CALL PUR SOLAR
As you can gather there is much to learn about batteries and much that can be done to extend their life.
Thankfully, every solar installation purchased from Pur Solar, be it a commercial or residential solar system, comes with free maintenance and a general briefing from one of our technicians on basic battery care.
So if ever you have questions or you suspect your batteries are reaching the end of their life, give us a call at (866) 204-9886 or contact us here and one of our technicians will happily come test them for you to make sure.