The Failing or the Filling of Your Battery Bank Water Cells

Leaf Running-rabbit

image of a waterfill log for a solar battery storage system

© Leaf Running-rabbit

One cell, two cells, three cells filled I fill my batteries with water distilled…

Or I don’t, and they fail.

Yes, it is that time of the month again for all of us off-grid battery bank dwellers to do our mandatory once-amonth water level check on our off-grid solar system’s ever-so-important battery bank water cells. And if you are like me, this is not something you look forward to, and regularly put off and procrastinate on, which is a bad idea.

For an off-grid solar battery bank to live a long, healthy, and sustainable life, one needs to take great care of their batteries and be a responsible and active steward in their “healthcare plan”.

In the same way that I must provide my own earthly body with good food to eat, clean water to drink, yoga and exercise for increased strength and flexibility, and positive and loving thoughts and actions for continued and vibrant vitality for a life long-lived, the same must be done for my solar system’s battery bank. A healthy and vibrant battery bank will have its own safe and warm home for shelter; it will have its own venting system to allow escape of its self-produced gases; it will have clean and tight terminal connections free from acid build-up; they will be routinely “equalized” through an intentionally intense over-charging; they will have their own “heart” monitoring system so that one can see their volt and charge levels etc.; and they will have water cells full of clean distilled water so that they can accept, hold, and put out the necessary energy required to keep my off-grid home soundly running with power from the sun.

Thus, once a month, it is my duty to open the cells to each and every battery, look inside to see how empty or full they are, and replenish the water in every cell, as needed. My battery bank, as an example, is 16 batteries strong, each battery having 3 water cells capped off with a rubber-gasketed screw-on cap, making for a total of 48 cells to check and fill. And because of the tightly spaced storage box I have my batteries housed in, this is not the easiest of tasks. Nor is it fun. And as a result, I tend to procrastinate: sometimes I get it done once every two or three months; sometimes every four to six months; and sometimes I am too embarrassed and ashamed to mention how long it takes me, which is where the lesson, the very hard lesson, comes in.

 

image of solar energy storage system
© Leaf Running-rabbit

 

With the previous battery bank I had before my current one, I had let nearly a year go by without checking the water levels in the battery cells. BIG MISTAKE. Once I finally got around to deciding it was overdue and got myself into the battery storage box and got all 48 caps unscrewed, I discovered the huge disappointment of having no water in the cells. It had all evaporated and/or boiled away with the intense charging of long Colorado summer days. I could see the metal “fins,” kind of radiator-like metal objects inside of the batteries that are typically and supposed to be covered in water, completely exposed to air, bone dry, with mineral deposits starting to build up on their edges. This was bad. I immediately started filling up every cell until the metal fins were all covered again in water. I tilted each battery to make sure water was filling in every space possible. I turned on my generator and gave them a good and heavy and solid charge. I prayed and prayed and waited for a day or two to see how well the batteries would take and hold a charge.

I had failed.

The batteries would not hold a charge and the generator was needed daily in order to keep my house running with power. It was a disaster — financial disaster mainly, but a disaster just the same.

Deep cycle solar batteries such as mine cost around $300-$350.00 each, plus an experienced electrician’s time to disassemble the old batteries, install the new batteries, and then properly dispose of the old and bad batteries in a conscientious and earth-friendly manner. We are talking $5K-$6K minimum by the time it was said and done, and that is not to mention the time I had to go without power while new batteries were being ordered and delivered. Bad deal. All because I procrastinated and waited too long.

So, one cell, two cells, three cells filled, I fill my batteries with water distilled.

With only 45 more cells to go…