Lead Acid batteries and the circle of life

I have 12 8D batteries rated at 200 amp hours each.  They are heavy duty, deep cycle industrial type batteries.  Value….?  New?  Maybe as much as $3600.  I have configured them in three sets of 4.  Four times 12 = 48 volts and that is the system I have, a 48 volt system.  But, when you put four together to make 48 volts, you do not increase your amp hours so I have 3 groups of four to achieve 600 amp hours (3 times 200 amp hours).

For those of you numbing over from boredom already, that information is almost NOT important.  600 ah at 48 volts = 28,800 watts.  You can get 28,800 watts with a 24 volt system (1200 amp hours) or 28,800 watts with a 12 volt system (2400 amp hours).  It all translates to watts and all the watts get ‘inverted’ to 120 volts AC by way of the (duh) inverter.

“We know all this.  You have bored us before with it!”

I know.  And you also know Elon Musk is developing another type of hang-on-the-wall battery that is made from Lithium Ion technology.  It promises to be better.  Someday.

AND more expensive.  Of course.  At least twice.  Maybe more.

My lead acid batteries are ‘rated’ to last as long as 7 years if I am a perfect caretaker.  I am not.  I try.  But I fail.  So, I expect five years and, if I get more, I am ecstatic.  Do the math.  That’s about $1.50 a day in battery depreciation.  Give or take.

I have had these batteries pushing five years already.  So, I am starting to look for batteries again.  My friend, Mike, is in the business.  “Get those Discovery batteries.  I’ll bring them in for ya.”

“Never heard of them!”

“They’ve been around.  Head office in Vancouver.  No idea where they are made but they are the best lead acid batteries available right now.”

“You mean, after Surrette.”

“I think they are comparable.  Maybe a bit cheaper, too.”

“How can that be?”

“Different technology.  Different electrolyte.  Different plates.  But still lead acid.  Best part is that you can draw them down further.  They are deeper cycle.  And they have at least two to three times more cycles in them than do your 8Ds.  That means probably 15 years or more from them.”

So, what is the point?  Well, as you know, we built to the thirty year rule but that was ten years ago.  So, I only have to worry about batteries for twenty more years.  If I get the Discovery batteries in a few years, I may be able to get them to stretch out for the duration.  To hell with Elon Musk.

But, more to the point, folks are out there trying to improve the technology.  It’s about time. Batteries have been the product that was not broke so no one fixed it.  But nowadays we are expecting way more from batteries and so some folks went and fixed it.  I am almost 100% sure that Discovery batteries are a step up.  I am equally as sure that, in five years, there will be a bigger step up.  I will stretch this current batch as far as I can and then ‘make the leap’.

Solar panels got cheaper.  Around $1.25 a watt.  I am thinking of adding three more. Batteries are getting better.  Inverters are already great. Charge controllers are also getting better.  It is only NOW that using solar in even a cul de sac house is starting to make sense.  Almost.  When batteries get a bit better than the Discovery or Surrette models and if they address ‘connectors’ and bits and pieces next, it will definitely be time to consider doing it even if you are NOT off the grid.

I predict that it WILL make enough financial sense to do it in five years if it isn’t already a good idea simply to have ‘black-out’ back-up.



5 thoughts on “Lead Acid batteries and the circle of life

  1. I was reading the other day that solar power company Sun Edison is looking kinda sketchy.
    Their financials are a mess and if they go down it could be the largest financial meltdown since the Bear Stearns fiasco of 2008
    ie $11 billion….
    It seems even a good idea can be corrupted by Wall St and a lot of hype.
    I’m wondering when Elon Musk will get his Battery “mega factories” up
    and running.
    The technology definitely seems to be there it just seems to be the cost of the widgets produced holding these guys back…..until the Chinese start mass producing it. 🙂


  2. Last summer we replaced and increased the number of batteries in our 12-volt system. We did lots of research but decided to stay with the 6-volt golf cart battery style. Except for a few batteries that had to be replaced earlier, the majority in our system lasted ten years. Wayne is good about checking them and adding water as needed. This winter we only ran the generator twice to top off the system charge, a huge change. I know they will decrease in capacity over time, but for now we are living large with a lot of electrons. – Margy


    • No question…climate change is workin’ for us regarding our ‘charge’. The genset on maybe twice in the last thirty days?
      Scary, tho. Not enough rain to keep a rainforest happy.


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