If you want to invest in a solar energy system, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is variability in the energy source. Many consumers would love to adopt clean solar energy, but solar intermittency puts them off. If there’s no sunlight, you might find it hard to power your home with solar. Luckily, solar energy batteries have solved this problem efficiently.
With Enovatek solar energy batteries, you can now store excess electricity generated by your PV arrays to power your home during peak hours. The batteries enhance the reliability of the solar energy system and you save more money. You don’t have to export the excess energy from your system, and this allows you to maximize the cost benefits of solar.
However, you can only sustain such benefits through proper maintenance of the solar energy batteries. This guide looks at different aspects of solar energy battery maintenance:
Understanding Solar Energy Batteries
To appreciate the need for proper maintenance of solar energy batteries, first understand how the technology works. The two most common batteries on the market are:
- Lead-Acid batteries: This is the traditional battery technology where two electrodes are immersed in a solution of sulfuric acid and water. Lead oxide is used to make the positive electrode, while the negative one is made of pure lead. There’s an electrically insulating membrane which separates the two electrodes.
- Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries: This new battery technology features an anode and a cathode which store lithium-ions. These exist in electrolyte, which carries the ions from one to the other through a separator. When the particles move, they create free electrons in the anode and a charge at the positive current collector.
When a battery discharges, the sulfate ions leave the electrolyte and water is the byproduct. The reverse happens during charging to produce lead oxide at the cathode. When a battery overcharges, there’s a risk of flammable hydrogen being produced and hence a risk of explosion at all times, batteries should be properly handled to prevent such accidents.
Caring and Maintaining Solar Energy Battery
Maintenance of solar energy battery not only guarantees safety in your house but also enhances the performance of the battery and increases its lifespan. You can get more out of your solar energy system with proper maintenance of the battery. Here are some considerations for caring and maintaining your solar energy storage systems:
Prevent Low Charge/Electrolyte Level
A low charge or electrolyte level can cause sulfation, where sulfur crystals form on the battery’s lead plates. The particles prevent chemical reactions from happening which hinders the performance of the battery. You should constantly monitor, maintain and control a low charge or electrolyte level. To do this, use distilled water and a digital voltmeter. This only applies to flooded batteries and not AGM and gel solar energy batteries.
Add distilled water such that there are no visible metal lead surfaces. Check the “fill line” which shows where the electrolyte level should be.
For the charge level/ depth of discharge (DOD), you use the gravity setting and voltage of the battery. To determine the state of charge of your battery, check the specific gravity against the voltage (12V).
For instance, a specific gravity of 1.26 and voltage of 12.7V indicate a 100% state of charge. Zero charge is when the specific gravity is at 1.12 and the voltage is 11.9.
Failure to monitor these factors can lead to sulfation and you might end up overcharging the battery. You should bring the solar energy batteries to a full state-of-charge (SOC) at least every 3 weeks.
Solar Battery Charging
Understanding the battery charging cycle is crucial, especially if you’re completely off-grid. Charging happens in three phases; float, bulk and absorption. To make things easy, use an adjustable charge controller and set the voltages that the battery manufacturer recommends.
Buy a battery terminal cleaner brush and regularly clean the battery using a mixture of baking soda and distilled water. Rinse the terminals with water and check the terminals to ensure they’re tight. For optimal protection, coat the metal parts of the battery with a high temperature grease or commercial sealant.
If you use lead-acid batteries, these produce hydrogen and increase the risk of fire. You can prevent buildup of flammable gases by use of vents to the outside or use of fans in the battery box.
High temperatures are the biggest threat to the performance and life of your solar energy battery. You should protect batteries from extreme temperatures because they also deteriorate faster. Use a thermally stable structure to protect the batteries and avoid direct radiant heat.
Solar energy batteries are at the heart of your home’s electrical system. They require proper maintenance to ensure optimal storage of energy, safety, and reliability. The most advanced batteries such as Lithium-ion (Li-ion) don’t require a lot of maintenance, but it’s good to always monitor the batteries and call in your solar installer in case of any problems.