Off-Grid Battery Care and Maintenance

Torjan L-16 Battery

by Sequoya Cross on June 26, 2014

Battery care is your main responsibility with home made electricity. This component is the one part of your power system likely to be harmed by neglect or misuse. Lead-acid batteries, the standard in home energy, should not be discharged more than 50%. Ideally, they should be recharged to 100% promptly. They can be damaged by undercharging, continued overcharging, or contamination.

Common causes of battery failure are sulfate buildup, loss of electrolyte, undercharging, and old age. As batteries discharge, lead sulfate forms on a battery’s positive plate. In principle, recharging converts the lead sulfate back to its component material – lead, lead dioxide, and sulfuric acid. However as batteries age, recharging has a more difficult time converting lead sulfate and it can crystallize. This buildup is accelerated by temperatures over 70 degrees; discharging a 2 volt battery cell below 1.75 volts; and extended storage or use without a 100% recharge.

Water Miser Battery Cap - Off-Grid Power - Backwoods Solar

Water Miser Battery Cap

Loss of water within the electrolyte solution is a natural process which occurs during the recharging process and if not corrected can lead to plate exposure and oxidation. Repeated undercharging causes lead sulfate to harden and crystallize on the positive plates. And as batteries age, plate material sheds and falls to the bottom of the battery eventually shorting the plates. This shedding is accelerated by sulfate buildup.

Trimetric Battery Monitor Kit - Solar Panel kits - Backwoods Solar

Trimetric Battery Monitor Kit

On a daily basis, Backwoods Solar discusses the state of charge of a battery bank with our customers. On many occasions we hear that a battery meter such as the Trimetric Battery Monitor indicates a battery bank is almost full but loads on that bank are behaving as though the battery state of charge is low. We ask if the Trimetric’s reading has been confirmed with an hydrometer which measures the specific gravity of the battery’s electrolyte, and almost universally it has not. This mistake can have an irreversible and negative affect on a battery bank if not detected within a few short weeks.

Please realize that these meters are only as good as the programming which gets entered into them and it is critical that an hydrometer is used in conjunction with a Trimetric meter for the first several months to confirm that the Trimetric is accurately programmed. As the Trimetric and hydrometer readings are compared, the Trimetric’s parameters can be tweaked to insure that what it is telling you is reliable. The Trimetric is a great visual aid and once programmed properly can be relied on for weeks at a time but you should always return to the hydrometer every few months to guarantee that something hasn’t gone wrong.

The vast majority of the batteries that Backwoods Solar sells are the Trojan flooded lead acid batteries. Trojan has some informative and extremely helpful articles and webinars on their website when it comes to battery care. We also carry a full line of Deka and Rolls Surrette Flooded and sealed batteries.

Trojan L-16 Flooded Battery - Solar Panels - Backwoods Solar

Trojan L-16 Flooded Battery

Rolls/Surrette S530 - Solar Panels - Backwoods Solar

Rolls/Surrette S530

Deka L16 Battery - Solar Panels - Backwoods Solar

Deka L16 Battery


REMEMBER: Do not store batteries without periodic recharging. Continual self discharge when not in use can ruin even a brand new set of batteries.

To facilitate the care of your battery bank, Backwoods Solar carries many products designed to extend the lift of your battery and to aid in battery maintenance. You can find many of these items on our website, along with helpful tools on how to maintain your battery bank.

Battery Life-Saver - Off-Grid Power - Backwoods Solar

Battery Life-Saver

Battery Goop - Off-Grid Power - Backwoods Solar

Battery Goop

HydroVolt Meter - Solar Panels for Home - Backwoods Solar

HydroVolt Meter


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