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Batteries

Batteries

 

Today, boats use more energy, not only within their own systems, but also for those brought on board - smart phones, ipads, laptops, hair dryers, steros, the list goes on and on. All this means more battery power is required. And the space for more power is less and less available. So, get more batteries with a smaller size, but lots of amps.

RELiON Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)
Safe, reliable, lightweight solution for your marine, solar, RV, or other applications needing power storage. Multiple safety features protect from overcharge, high or low voltage, over-temperature, excessive charge or discharge current. PSOC tolerant with a long shelf life, maintenance free, and non-hazardous.

Specifications:

Group 24 12vGroup 31 24v
Group 27 12v Group 8D 24vGroup 8D 24v
Group 31 12v 
Group 8D 200Ah 12v100Ah 48v
Group 8D 300Ah 12v300Ah 48v

 

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A True Balancing Act

battery-tight-rope-walkingNow that we have the option to install true non-sulfating Partial State of Charge (PSOC) AGM batteries like the Firefly and the Blue Plus range from Meridian/Northstar, we are faced with a new dilemma. These batteries could be at risk of failure due to voltage imbalances when connected as multiple units in a series configuration.

Read the specs of any lithium ion battery and you will see that the individual series-connected cells employ some sort of voltage balancing mechanism. Without this balancing act, some cells would end up working at different voltages and be charged at different rates, and if this situation gets too far out of whack with lithium ion batteries, well .... you know he rest.

Cells in AGM batteries work in a different way to lithium ion cells. Small imbalances between the individual 2v lead-acid cells (six of them in a 12 v battery) do not create any real inherent danger, but stringing together numbers of unbalanced 12v batteries in a series connection to raise the voltage does present the real possibility of premature battery death. The same potential exists also with 6 volt batteries connected in series, but the imbalances should in theory be much smaller, so for simplicity we'll consider only 12 volt batteries here.

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A Re-Volting Thought

disgusted face

How’s everyone been out there? Hopefully, all are well and still kicking and screaming. I’m still lying low and pretty much operating under the radar, but I’ve been badgered lately to get fingers tapping on the keyboard again.

With winter approaching, and with the thought of storms and power outages energizing my little gray cells, I got to wondering just how long I could power up some essentials in the house using my Chevy Volt sitting in the driveway as a power plant.

Oh yes, it’s totally possible, there are tales from those who have done so on the internet, and there are even kits available.

power tower and elecric carMy Volt has a 17 kW-hr, 300v traction battery along with its DC generator plus a 12v battery for all the other normal loads. This 12v battery is charged by a DC-DC converter between the two batteries, so if I were to hook up an inverter to this battery I could supply 110v AC mains power to my household essentials during a power cut, or maybe power up an outdoor event, or fire up a blender and mini-fridge at a beach romp.

Possible? Yes, but for how long?

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What's so Special about this Battery?

firefly-oasis-g31-psoc-agm-batteryWhat's so special about this pesky Firefly Oasis battery that I'm tripping over everywhere I go?

The word seems to be out about the Firefly Oasis battery. So much so, in fact, that we seem incapable of keeping them in stock, and the manufacturer is so swamped that they can’t produce enough of them!

What is it about this battery that has stirred up so much interest? Maybe it has the same sort of allure that the Ford Model T did back in the day. With a choice of just one size, it can be ordered in any color as long as it’s a rather fetching green and blue, something that wouldn’t look out of place on the mantelpiece at Christmas.

Or maybe some folk are keeping them as pets, showing them off to fellow boaters in between feeding them freshly charged volts and cleaning up their discharge.  No, there must be more to it ….

It’s a Group 31 AGM battery - Nothing ground-breaking there. It’s a  VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid), AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat), PSOC (Partial State Of Charge) battery, for all you AL’s (acronym lovers) out there. It’s a nominal 12 volt battery containing lead and acid and is no lightweight, weighing in at 75 pounds. It has comparable capacity to other Group 31 batteries and has similar charging requirements. No super-acidic acid; no extra heavy lead; no kryptonite or unobtainium. Pretty boring so far, so what’s the big deal?

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Time is Now for Lithium Batteries on Your Boat

Relion battery on deck woman

Challenge your Limits

Are you ready to consider Lithium-Iron-Phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) for your boat or RV? Do you want to make a long-term smart investment for cruising enjoyment, giving you one less thing to worry about – dead batteries or not enough battery power for your DC load, i.e. power hungry equipment on board like a microwave, air conditioning, or electric engine?

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Thermal Runaway in AGM Batteries

In Defense of Lithium Ion Batteries
Yes, it's true; thermal runaway can and does happen in Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VLRA) Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries, and is not a new phenomenon afflicting Lithium Ion batteries alone. A Google search of "Thermal Runaway in AGM Batteries" will reveal enough technical papers on the subject to keep even the most techno-savvy occupied for a long while, and will save me trying to explain the why's and wherefore's here. The simple fact is that, given the right conditions, an AGM battery can, and will, start a self-perpetuating internal heating process (thermal runaway) that can end in catastrophic failure with the possibility of fire and explosion. So why is there so much negative publicity and bad karma surrounding Lithium Ion batteries, when AGM's are prone to much the same maladies?

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Shining Some Light on Lithium Battery Systems

pink floyd darkside of the moon 1200x600
Early pioneers of marine lithium battery systems used individual cells in a rectangular format, and some still do. These types of cells are referred to as “prismatic”, which by definition means having the form of a prism, which is hardly a representative description unless you imagine two prisms joined together to make a rectangle. A more accurate description would be: “a right rectangular prism”, as opposed to a “wrong” or a “left” rectangular prism, one supposes. But I digress …

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Power Basement

Prepare for those inconvenient power outages, or for the trending living-off-the-grid

thunderstorm lightening coastal town
We sell a fabulous battery – Firefly’s 2v/4v model, which has all the advantages of their popular Group 31, but in a different format. Here's where I intend to use them in a future project.

With the increasing frequency of heavy storms and threats of power outages, I’ve been reviewing the emergency battery back-up system I have set up in my basement. This currently consists of 8x 185 amp/hr AGM batteries with an Inverter-Charger, plus a mains/generator Transfer Switch with generator plug-in access. There is also a Transfer Box that has six mains/inverter transfer switches with associated breakers and balancing meters which supply six circuits: the fridge, kitchen outlets, sump pump, basement outlets, front room outlets, and the oil-fired furnace.

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Parallel Thinking Blown Sky High

battery charge checkingI saw some communications in a trade journal the other day discussing the common practice of wiring batteries in parallel to increase capacity. Specifically, one writer was warning of the possibility of a cell shorting in one of the batteries, resulting in the other batteries all discharging at a high rate of current into the short circuited cell leading to an apocalyptic event below decks. Is he/she correct? Well, yes and no.

Yes, this is very much a possibility, but is dependent on battery type. An old timer, like yours truly, will probably adhere to the notion that the likelihood of a shorted cell is real, but that’s because our heads are still stuck in “the good old days”, and we are not being practical.

Let’s think about this. How can a cell, one of six in a 12 volt lead acid battery, become short circuited?

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Mummy, the batteries have melted!

Dave tilting hat with grin

OK, that’s not something you’ll hear every day, but it is very much a possibility, where thermal runaway can destroy Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VLRA) batteries like AGM’s (Absorbed Glass Mat). A Google search of “Thermal Runaway in AGM Batteries” will reveal enough technical papers on the subject to keep even the most techno-savvy occupied for a long while and will save me trying to explain the why’s and wherefore’s here.

The simple fact is that, given the right conditions, an AGM battery can, and will, start a self-perpetuating internal heating process (thermal runaway) which can end in catastrophic failure along with the possibility of fire and explosion, or at the very least leave you with a very sad-looking molten battery case.

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Making the Most of Bank Charges

electrifying dreamstime xl 20820417 800xWe’re still on the electrical trail this week, but I promise I’ll have some more entertaining stuff for you soon. Mind you, electricity can get quite entertaining if you don’t do things correctly, just ask this guy!

A conundrum cropped up while helping customers plan the change-over from lead-acid batteries to a RELiON lithium battery bank, and we’ll get to that soon. But first let’s review current practices for charging multiple battery banks.

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Introducing RELiON Lithium batteries

Introducing RELiON Lithium batteries


We are proud to offer RELiON Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, dedicated to high performance energy solutions for serious yacht and RV owners. They are available in standard industry sizes. Custom sizes available upon request.

These batteries are Safe, Powerful, Versatile, and Practical. Watch our video below and then Go Here to learn more.

 

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How to Kill a Battery

dead-batteryWe spend considerable time and effort trying to help boat operators understand how to look after their batteries, but we still hear of way too many premature deaths. So in an effort to get the message across from a different angle, we offer the following advice on how to inflict serious harm and punishment on expensive batteries without really trying.

Simply put, there are three main types of abuse you can employ to kill or maim your batteries:

  • Excessive heat
  • Physical damage (including vibration), and
  • Poor charging routines

The first two I hope to be self explanatory, but the third requires some detailed explanation.

Flooded lead acid batteries, including AGM's, don't like being left for extended periods in a partially charged state. Doing so allows some of the lead sulfate crystals that form naturally on the negative plate during the discharge process to harden to the point where they can't then be dissolved the next time the battery is charged. This is known as sulfation which leads to an increasing loss of useable capacity as more and more crystals harden.

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Firefly Batteries: New Testing Reveals...

new-testing-reveals-photo-640x427
I've always wondered whether Firefly batteries really do charge faster than conventional lead-acid batteries, as the Firefly people tell us. There is oodles of information on the discharge characteristics in the Firefly blurb, but nothing much regarding this high-speed charging phenomenon. Well, now I know.

But let's first look at Lithium batteries because nothing can currently compare to their spectacular charging capabilities in their many forms.

These types of battery have the ability to suck in practically whatever amps the charging source can deliver, all the way through from start to finish, and such is their thirst that we really don't yet have charging sources powerful enough to satisfy their craving. Lithium batteries have an addiction: they're hooked on amps and all they want is more!

Those familiar with the now-standard 3-step Lead Acid charging routine of Bulk, Acceptance, and then Float stages will appreciate that, because Lithium batteries do not have to suffer through the painfully long, drawn-out Acceptance stage, they will recharge in a fraction of the time of Lead Acid equivalents.

Because of this, charging sources for Lithium batteries, especially alternators, need to be specially adapted and/or controlled in anticipation of them being forced to deliver their maximum amps output for the entire length of time of the charge. Ignoring this little nugget may well end in a debilitating melt-down, and I mean that quite literally!

Apart from the zippy charging, lithium battery systems will also last several thousands of cycles longer than conventional Lead Acid batteries, do not have to be fully recharged each cycle, can be discharged to deep levels, and are about half the weight. But they are also expensive, complicated, can't be charged when temperatures are at/below freezing, and for some they carry a scarily high fear-factor.

But wait a minute .... the Firefly is not a conventional Lead Acid battery, so let's compare its attributes to Lithium.

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Firefly AGM Battery Testimonial - Nigel Calder

Firefly AGM Battery Testimonial - Nigel Calder


We now offer Firefly Oasis Group 31 battery with award-winning Firefly Microcell™ Technology with Carbon Foam plates to ensure longer battery life in deep discharge PSOC applications.

Nigel Calder tested this battery in real-world conditions. Here is what he thinks:

"In preliminary testing I worked the Firefly batteries hard in a real-world (onboard, while cruising off the west coast of Scotland) partial state of charge operation. The goal was to minimize engine run times and optimize electrical system performance in an 'off-the-grid' situation with limited recharging opportunities. The kind of operating regime I followed spells death for most lead-acid batteries. In contrast, after two months of intensive cycling, the Firefly batteries tested out with 100% of the capacity with which they started. These are encouraging results which, if substantiated over longer periods of time, represent a 'game changer' in terms of lead-acid technology and boat electrical systems design. I look forward to collecting more data."

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Fill 'er Up

gas tank filling dreamstime xxl 55387059 691x405It’s a simple and common task for anyone owning or operating a vehicle with a gas tank. You pull up to the pump, stick the nozzle in the filler, pull the trigger, and then wait for either the auto-stop mechanism to operate, or you get a boot-full of gas. The math is simple: Since the last time you filled up you have used x gallons of gas, and now you add exactly x gallons to the tank to bring it back up to the level it was previously. There are no losses other than the boot-full you might have got thanks to the faulty nozzle.

Refilling batteries is a very different kettle of fish.

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Dead Cool Battery Banks

piggy bank being charged
We received an inquiry recently from a customer who is contemplating installing a large 12v (volt) AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery bank, and he asked a pertinent question: Which would be better; several 12v batteries wired in parallel to multiply capacity, or large capacity 2v, 4v, or 6v cell groups wired in series to produce a high capacity 12v bank? Good question.

This customer estimates he needs around an 800 A/hr (Amp/hours at the 20 hour rate) 12v battery bank to achieve the holy grail of running his air conditioning overnight from batteries through an inverter in addition to supplying the regular daily house loads. This is a popular dream of boat owners these days, and highly achievable with the equipment we have available, and there are several battery configurations to consider. Typically it will all come down to what will fit where, so first let’s look at space constraints and then focus on the technicalities. Cost will not be considered in this article as you can’t put a price on creature comforts, now can you?

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Current Affairs - Making the Right Connections

girls jumping togetherContinuing on the theme of the previous blog, regarding wiring individual batteries in parallel to make a higher capacity bank, now we can look at the best way to wire them up.

I included a teaser graphic in that last blog that showed two batteries wired in parallel and with the two main cables, one positive and one negative, both connected to one battery. I expected a flurry of comments on this, but to my surprise received only one. Mr. D said that the configuration shown would result in uneven current draw from each battery, resulting in greatly reduced cycle-life of the first battery in line. Is that so?

And if so, what is the best configuration? What are the alternatives?

Yipee! Time to put on the testing hat once again.

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Charging the Meridian Northstar AGM batteries

SPS-M215B BlueBatteryA customer recently purchased four Meridian SPS215B AGM batteries from us for his yacht's house bank. He asked these basic, good questions:

How low can the voltage drop before starting to recharge?

Answer: Recharging when the battery gets no lower than 50% State of Charge (SOC) will result in a reasonable cycle life. For the Meridian battery, this is around 12.2 volts. Recharging at a lower SOC is possible, but will shorten the cycle life of the battery.

How fast can the battery be charged - how many amp/hours is the charger allowed to charge without damage to the batteries?

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Charge of the Lightweight Brigade

Relion coverIf you haven’t heard on the grape-vine by now, or seen it on our web site, Coastal Climate Control is very pleased to announce that it’s now offering Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries from RELiON. These are great products from a great company, and Coastal is stocking the most popular sizes, ready for immediate sale.

Many of you will no doubt be aware of the enormous advantages of LiFePO4 batteries, and there is a whole bunch of information regarding RELiON batteries on our web site here.

We’ve been asked how to charge a lithium battery bank when the boat has been set up for Flooded, GEL, or AGM lead-acid batteries, so let’s look at some of the characteristics of LiFePO4 batteries.

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Phone: (301) 352-5738
Email: info@CoastalClimateControl.com
Office | Warehouse:
4831 Tesla Dr., Suite H
Bowie, Maryland 20715
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Office | Warehouse:
Coastal Climate Control
4831 Tesla Drive
Suite H
Bowie, Maryland 20715
Phone: (301) 352-5738

Request Information
Click here for directions.