Yes, tis the season when mother nature puts our batteries through its endurance test. And my Surrettes are failing terribly. Not only are they failing, the good folks over at Surrette/Rolls refuse to honor their warranty! Mine are of the "S" series and as far as I am concerned they are not worth their weight in lead.
So as of this week I will no longer be offering Surrette Batteries at my website and I have to admit that this was my first and last personal experience with these batteries. In fact I had stopped selling the "S" series for off-grid a few years back because of problems some of my customers plus myself had had with the Surrette Batteries and them not honoring the warranty. Well now mine are completely dead, oh they will hold a charge for about four hours or less.
Okay, this posting is not to be entirely about warning you to stay away from Surrette/Rolls Batteries, that is a decision that you will have to make on your own. However if you own or owned some yourself, I would like to hear your story, good or bad. I want to move on to battery maintenance.
Batteries are the backbone of our off-grid solar energy systems. Batteries are expensive and they need to be replaced from time to time. Most off-grid solar storage batteries have a 1000 to 2000 cycle life. So if you cycle your batteries say to 65% every four days or so, your batteries would last you approximately 8 to 9 years. If you cycle them less you will get more years out of them and of course if they are cycled more you will get less. So remember, more is less and less is more!!!
Now besides how many times your batteries are cycled, maintenance of your batteries is also very, very important. One of the main problems your batteries will have is the build up of sulfates on their lead plates. Batteries tend to sulfate when they are not charged to full. One way to help sulfate from building up on your batteries plates is to equalize them regularly. Check with the battery manufacture for the amount of time and voltage that they recommend. Equalization can only be done on liquid lead acid type of batteries, never attempt to equalize a sealed battery!!! And always check your battery's water level after performing an equalization, as the whole purpose of doing this is to force the batteries to boil. Thus evaporation of your batteries water levels. Never ever allow the lead plates to be exposed to air, always keep the water level above the plates!
I recommend checking the water levels at least twice a month. If they need filling that often I would recommend that you replace the battery caps with Water Miser Battery Caps or by using an Automatic Watering System. The Water Miser's will give you some assurance of prolonging the water evaporation. An Automatic Water System will keep the battery water levels always at the proper level.
Only use distilled water in your batteries, do not use acid. Batteries make their own acid and adding acid is like throwing good money in a fire, never to be seen again.
Another item which seems to work well is a Battery Sulfator which uses electric current to isolate the batteries to help remove sulfate from the plates. I think these work but there are various feelings on the subject. Again most people usually wait until it is too late to purchase one of these.
Use a Hydrometer to check the battery's acid levels. This will tell you which batteries are strong and which are not. It also will let you know if one of your batteries has a bad cell. Plus if your reading is really low you will know that your batteries can no longer hold a charge.
Try to keep your batteries warm this time of the year. Coldness will help shorten your battery's life.
Well just some things to think about. All the above links will take you to Solar-Catalog.com where you can go to the contents to find the page or product you want. There is also a lot more information about battery care and maintenance on the site.
Have a safe and warm winter and a Happy New Year.
Terry R. Wolff