Replacing lead acid batteries is inevitable in all off the grid systems. Our battery bank of 24 lead acid batteries were used when we got them. In fact, they were used when the person we got them from bought them from the railroad. Even so, they were in excellent shape. Very clean with no build up inside at all. We depended on them for many years. At least ten or more. Last year they started failing. By the end of the winter we were running our generator daily and they still did not hold a charge.
My husband, Larry, started researching lithium ion phosphate batteries after hearing good things about them from our off the grid friends who had them. In particular, the LiFePO4, which I mentioned in a previous post here. That led him to Battle Born batteries. They were pricey. But so was constant gasoline usage for the generator. Not counting the smell, noise, the wear on the generator, as well as many times having to work on it when it would not start immediately (especially in cold freezing weather!).
We could only afford two unless we took out a loan to buy more. If we had replaced the lead acid batteries, they would have been expensive too, just not as much as the LiFePO4 ones. We would have had to replace all of them. So in the long run, this was the way to go. We knew that eventually we wanted to switch over to the lithium ion ones anyway, so why not do it now? See what happens. Life is a gamble anyway, isn’t it?
The batteries arrived very quickly. Battle Born contacted Larry back immediately after he placed the order. The best customer service of any company we had bought from! When they arrived, Larry was in the middle of replacing the window and wall along the hearth so he couldn’t install the new batteries immediately. When he finally got around to it, first he had to remove the lead acid ones and move them out of the battery box. Did I mention these batteries are VERY heavy? Very much so.
He had moved them from the living room to the cellar only recently, about a couple of months before. Yes, I do know they should have NEVER been in the living room to begin with. They were there for years and I was nervous about them being there, but it was beyond my control so I lived with it. Now in the cellar they were in a special vented battery box built especially for them. They were moved to a pallet for that time.
Just two lithium ion batteries changed our power use immediately. It was like having unlimited power, though we still turn our system off every evening. The only things we use once the power is shut off is the refrigerator and DC lights. We have a strip of blue lights around the top of the hearth that turn on automatically when it gets dark. Since then we have added more lights around the house and even in the shed. These batteries are powerful, considering we are only using two 100 amp hours, 12 volt deep cycle batteries now. I can even use electric for cooking which I never could before. Just wait until we add more to our system.
Next I had to figure out what to do with those old 24 lead acid batteries. I wanted them out of the cellar quickly. They possibly could have been brought back by equalizing them with grid power. I thought about selling them, but didn’t know what they were worth since I didn’t know for sure if they could be brought back. I Googled “what to do with old lead acid batteries” and found they could be recycled and should be. In fact, they can be sold to your local scrap yard. We sold them the next day! Probably got more than if I had tried to sell them on craigslist.
So when a friend of mine implied lithium ion batteries were not powerful enough to run her home, I really had to laugh. These batteries are more powerful than she will ever know. These batteries are basically trouble free with nothing to do but hook them up. They have a built in battery management system (BMS) which controls the charge going in and going out to maintain their balance. Our new batteries can be discharged up to 100% with no damage. Charging so much faster than lead acid ones. I realize being new and expensive right now even solar installers may not be that knowledgeable about them. They will be though as they learn more about them. Did I mention they take up less room as well as being lightweight? These batteries are truly the way of the future!
Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole