Replacing Lead Acid Batteries

Vented Box For Batteries
Vented Box For Batteries

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.

Our Generator
Our Generator

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!).

Peaceful Forest Homestead
Peaceful Forest Homestead

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?

New window and wall
New window and wall

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.

24 Lead Acid Batteries
24 Lead Acid Batteries

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.

Solar Electric Cooking
Solar Electric Cooking

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.

Pallet that held batteries
Pallet that held batteries now holds canning jars

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.

Solar and Wind Charging
Solar and Wind Charging batteries

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!

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

 

 

Solar Electric Cooking

barn solar panels
More solar panels coming!

Summer of 2017 wasn’t much of a summer for us really. Cool most of the time. Very wet and that makes for a very buggy season. Didn’t have much of a garden this year. Pretty busy with the projects on the house so not much time for anything else. Our lead acid batteries were failing fast and we had no way to equalize them and bring them back. I saw many YouTube videos on how to do that, but being off the grid, we had no power source to use to do the process. Finally we were able to purchase two Battle Born LiFePO4 deep cycle batteries. They are lithium iron phosphate batteries. With just TWO, we are able to run our whole house (granted our house is not the norm) with computers on all day with no generator. I was so happy not to hear the generator fired up every morning. Because that is what we had to do once the old lead acid batteries started failing and were not be able to hold a charge.

electric lawnmower
Our electric lawnmower

I will write more about these particular batteries in a future post. But for now, I want to just say they were worth every penny. Not having used the generator since the day they were hooked up has saved us close to $100. a month in gasoline. My husband mows our lawn with an electric lawn mower so no gasoline bought for that either. Now the only thing will be the chainsaw. Hopefully in the future, we will be buying an electric one for that also. Eliminating fuels is our top priority. Next one……..propane!

Solar Electric Cooking
Solar Electric Cooking

How to get rid of propane for cooking? Especially in the summer? We could cook on an outside fire and we did. Not as often as I’d like though. Now with more batteries and more solar panels, which are not all hooked up yet, we can use electrical cooking appliances. Not a big electric stove, but I am using an Instant Pot. Has been working great when we are charging from the sun. Actually I like it much better than the solar oven. The solar oven is awkward to set up. Carry outside and then keep moving it around. My thought on that is something I have seen online, setting up the solar oven in your kitchen, but so it is powered directly by the sun. You access it completely in your kitchen! Yes, that would work great for me. Would take a bit of remodeling in the kitchen to do it, but it could be done.

Cooking in the Dutch oven
Cooking in the Dutch oven

As we get ready for winter here, I will be using the wood stoves for most of the cooking. I don’t mind doing that since the firewood is burning for heat anyway. By next summer though, I figure we will have added more batteries and that will increase our cooking capabilities with electrical appliances. I have a brand new induction burner waiting to be experienced with. If we can use that, then I know we can get rid of the propane. It is just the oven in the summer that would be a problem. Just learning new ways of cooking foods that usually were cooked in the oven. I enjoy this new learning curve!

katlupe

Text and Photographs Copyright © Kathleen G. Lupole 2017

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.