Lead-acid battery technology is one of the oldest rechargeable energy storage technologies still widely used around the world. From vehicles to power backup devices to portable lights, lead acid batteries are preferably built and used as a relatively cheaper source of power. These batteries have different types and chemical structures and each of them have their own advantages. Sealed lead acid batteries (SLA batteries) also known as valve regulated lead acid batteries (VRLA batteries), Maintenance-free (MF) lead acid batteries including gel and AGM type, and flooded (wet) batteries are few larger categories of these batteries which chiefly use lead along with sulfuric acid as an electrolyte.
Lead acid batteries are general purpose energy reservoirs and readily available in different sizes, voltage and capacities. These batteries come in wide range of variety to fulfill different kind of electrical power requirements. Such batteries can be as small as the size of a human finger or as large as the size of large refrigerator or even bigger. Solar power systems and uninterruptible power supply systems can not even work without such batteries. So, you can understand the importance and usability of these batteries. Despite of all the advantages, people often suffer from shortened battery backup which leads to further troubles like increased expense on backup generators when UPS gives up, torches dim while performing tasks in dark, or engine of vehicle may not start because battery didn’t have enough juice to power the starter motor. All such problems can be fixed or at least minimized if some measures are applied. I have mentioned few tips and techniques which can be helpful to get most out of the lead-acid batteries.
1- Cars, vans, trucks and buses use lead acid batteries to power their starter motor, lights, windows, GPS and other electrical parts. While a vehicle is parked, make sure that you do not keep the head lights on at night time as these consume too much battery power and drain the battery faster. Keep fancy lights, stereo and LCDs off if not needed while engine is switched off. While igniting the car engine, you may need to turn the head lights and other electronic devices off if battery is not properly charged or has very little charge left.
2- If car alternator is bad, get a quality replacement alternator installed which should supply enough current to batteries and also cut off charging when battery is full. A poor quality alternator having low power or voltage will not properly charge the battery resulting into partial charging, reduced backup and premature failure of battery.
3- Keep the terminals of batteries rust free. Vehicle battery terminals often gets rusty due to humidity in air and travelling in rain or if electrolyte leaks out and corrode the terminals and battery posts. Corroded battery terminals do not let the current flow through batteries smoothly and even healthy batteries will not provide proper backup. Also, such batteries will not get properly charged resulting into reduced battery backup.
4- In cold weather, cold outside might affect the working capability of not only the engine of parked vehicle but also the battery of a vehicle. Battery may lose charge if it is extremely cold outside. If you are living in cold countries like Canada, Russia or Alaska, get the batteries which are especially designed to retain charge in extremely cold weather.
Learn why battery terminals corrode and how to deal with such corrosion issues here.
UPS, Inverter and Solar Power System Batteries
1- Always buy quality backup devices. If you want to go for an uninterrupted power supply unit, buy one which has multi-step battery charger. 2 step or 3 step charger charges batteries in steps and maintains actual storage capacity of a battery over a longer duration. If you observe the reduced battery backup, you should change the batteries to increase the backup of a UPS. The faulty charger can also be responsible for poor performance of batteries. Getting it repaired or replaced will help extending the battery run time.
2- Lead acid batteries connected with solar power systems constantly remain in use. Such batteries wear out faster over time. If you observe reduced battery backup, that’s because battery has lost its actual capacity. Also check to make sure that charge controller is working efficiently and charging batteries fully. You may change the batteries to extend the backup.
3- Always buy quality batteries as good quality batteries will not only last longer but also carry the correct capacity as mentioned on the label. You can enjoy longer backups with such quality lead acid batteries.
4- If an uninterruptible power supply unit or solar power unit is not in use for a longer period of time, you should disconnect the batteries to prevent leakage of stored charge. Charge not in use batteries regularly to maintain the actual capacity of batteries over a longer period of time. Never let them go fully empty as then these might die prematurely or permanently lose the designed capacity.
5- Use energy saving devices with UPS and solar power units to extend the batteries backup. Excessive power consuming devices won’t let you have the longer backup. Energy saving lamps and LED lights should be the preferred choices.
6- These days, power inverters designed for use in homes and offices are commonly available in markets which are capable of using different size batteries. These power inverters can be used as UPS. If you want longer backup according to your needs, buy larger lead acid batteries. Larger batteries have more storage capacity and therefore provide longer backup.
7- Choose SLA batteries over flooded batteries for use with power inverters and solar power units. SLA batteries are designed to tolerate extended float charging which is necessary to keep the battery always full for longer backups. Flooded lead acid batteries start losing electrolyte faster and may lose designed capacity if used with such electronic backup devices.
Learn how to connect batteries in series or parallel before connecting them with backup devices or other machines here.
Few Tips to Extend Battery Backup
1- Flooded lead acid batteries regularly require topping up of water to maintain the level of electrolyte. Always use distilled water to top up the battery cells. Using regular tap water will not only decrease the capacity and backup of batteries but also shorten their life span. Never let the flooded batteries dry. Buy good quality electrolyte to fill into individual battery cells for the first time. Never pour the electrolyte again as this will increase the concentration of electrolyte and affect the working capability of batteries. To get rid of such hassle, buy maintenance free batteries.
2- Use quality battery chargers to charge the batteries. Poor quality direct current will not properly charge the batteries and you won’t get the expected backup. Multi step chargers are recommended choice.
3- Use quality cable and terminals with lead acid batteries. Low quality cables will heat up and resist the flowing current resulting into increased power consumption and shorter battery backup. Check the prescribed gauge before buying the cables. Also make it sure that wiring or circuitry does not have any fault which is constantly drawing current out of batteries.
4- If you are observing a reduced backup of torches, emergency lights, electric lanterns or portable battery fans, either batteries are worn out or there may be fault in charger. Mostly, battery is the culprit as it wears out over the period of time. Change it to increase the working time of these devices.
5- Lead acid batteries can tolerate higher temperatures but may lose capacity if placed at extremely hot place. Same is true in case of extremely low temperature. Place batteries at moderate temperature especially those which are connected to backup devices to get the maximum output.
6- Choose the lead acid batteries that suit your needs best. Maintenance free gel batteries are always handy, beneficial and safer to use. Battery manufacturers manufacture batteries according to the temperature conditions of a region. So, choose such batteries from your local markets or if you want to buy online, confirm whether these will work efficiently in weather conditions of your country. Since, lead acid batteries are easily available in different shapes, capacities and voltages, carefully observe your needs before buying them. Usually capacity on batteries is mentioned in Ah. Higher the Ah is more the storage capacity is and better the backup you will get. Choose higher capacity battery to get extended backup and more work out of a device.