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The battery stores the power solar panels generate, so we cannot overstate its importance.. When it comes to batteries, there are two popular options, lithium ion and lead acid. Simply put, the many benefits of solar lithium ion batteries outweigh the cons, and for a long term investment, lithium ion batteries make the most sense.
Lithium ion batteries have a low self-discharge rate, stable and Its density is higher compared to lead acid batteries. Hundreds of recharges can be done without performance degradation and they are more efficient.
Still not convinced? Here are some more.
1. Low Maintenance
Lithium ion batteries do not need constant water refilling like lead acid batteries. You just need to install the battery and hook it up to your portable solar power system. Once the battery is connected, you can pretty much leave it there.
Solar power systems have monitors to keep track of battery performance, but there’s not a lot to do on your part. You may wipe dust off the battery once in a while, but cleaning is something you do regularly in an RV or home anyway. The battery itself has no specific maintenance requirements.
Many will point out that solar power systems as a whole are low maintenance. That is true unless you use lead acid, which needs water refills every few weeks. If you switch to lithium ion, your maintenance upkeep goes down even more.
2. Long Lifespan
Lithium ion batteries last for at least 8 years. Some of the better units can last longer, and even standard lithium ion is good for over a decade if used properly. With lithium ion batteries you have to think in the long term. The initial investment may be higher compared to lead acid, but think of how much you will save because each battery can last for 8 years or more.
Solar power, portable or standard, for houses or RVs, is always about the long game. If you want to use solar power, you always have to think long term, as in years. With this approach you won’t get stuck in the present, worrying about the cost without taking into consideration how the battery will pay for itself in the years to come.
Just like all solar batteries however, lithium ion can get damaged from mishandling and misuse. But if you use this battery as indicated for your solar panel, there should be no problems running it. If you rely mostly – or fully – on solar in your camper, a reliable, long lasting battery is a must.
3. No Health Hazards
Lithium ion batteries are safe. They don’t produce noise pollution and there is no risk of acid or the battery bursting into flames. There is no health risk to humans and it is environmentally friendly. You can install a solar lithium ion battery anywhere and feel safe.
Lead acid batteries can pose a lot of risks. They are susceptible to corrosion and rust if not taken care of. Corroded batteries can lead to blindness if contact is made, and there are other health risks associated with it. Lead acid batteries also need to be disposed of properly because they are an environmental hazard.
To be fair, lead acid batteries have taken strides to improve their safety, and most people have used these for years without encountering accidents. But the fact is lithium ion is safer. If you find yourself in places with extreme temperature swings, it makes more sense to use lithium ion batteries. They are not only low maintenance but they are safer too.
4. Quick Charging
Technological advances now allow for faster charging and recharging. A fast recharging battery is important not just for solar but other applications as well. With lithium ion you don’t have to wait as long for the battery to recharge.
Lithium ion batteries can be twice as fast as lead acid. Lead acid gets slower as it nears 100%, and you have to be careful not to overcharge it or the battery will overheat. Charging time speed may not seem much of an issue during the summer, but during cloudy days you’ll want a solar charger that charges quickly and can be used anytime.
5. Superior Depth Discharge
One of the biggest -and for many the most important – difference between lithium ion and lead acid battery is the depth discharge, or the amount you can use before a recharge is needed.
Solar lead acid batteries need a recharge when the level drops to 50%. You only get to use half the capacity even if it’s 100% charged. Using lead acid batteries when it is under 50% could cause damage and shorten its lifespan. You’ll be forced to depend on your solar panels more, and that can be tough during cloudy and rainy days.
Lithium ion batteries can be used up to 80% to 100% capacity. You get more value for your money and you don’t have to keep charging and recharging the battery. You maximize the power of the battery and at the same time extend its lifespans by limiting the recharges.
Depth discharge is a critical but often ignored facet of solar batteries. Knowing a battery’s depth discharge gives you an idea of how much you are getting for your money’s worth. It also helps you figure out much you can use your battery and what solar panel size to get. If your battery has limited depth discharge, you’ll need a larger solar panel to compensate.
Lithium ion batteries are ideal for solar power systems because it is green and environment friendly. These batteries do not produce pollution and provides a healthier alternative to gas and other types of fossil fuels. Lithium ion batteries are useful not just in solar panels but also electric cars, which could pave the way for a greener, cleaner future.
Those who use lithium ion batteries don’t just do it for the convenience. No question, lithium ion batteries offer plenty of advantages for the solar power user. But besides the personal benefits, lithium ion gives you an opportunity to do your part in safeguarding the environment. Those who want to live of the grid do so for personal freedom, and of course you want to make sure that the places you roam and visit are clean and pollution free.
7. Runs in Extreme Temperatures
lithium ion batteries are durable and long lasting. They can be used in very cold and very hot temperatures with little to no effect on performance. Other solar batteries are sensitive to temperature changes, so you cannot use them in severe weather conditions. Lithium ion is designed specifically for adverse conditions.
One of the reasons why some don’t like to work with batteries is they overheat. They also corrode. Who hasn’t seen a battery corrode inside an electronic device? Now imagine that happening to a larger battery that powers your appliances.
Lithium ion batteries can handle high levels of heat or cold. That doesn’t mean you should always run it at those levels, but if there are situations when you have to do it for a time, the battery will deliver. With your solar power system indicator, it will be easy to keep tabs of your battery’s performance.
8. Unlimited Cycle Life
High quality solar lithium ion batteries have a 10,000 cycle life. One cycle life is when you discharge a battery to run your appliances and then recharge it with solar power. All batteries are measured in cycle life, not years. This is similar to vehicles, where mileage, not years, is used as the measurement.
Lead acid batteries have 1,000 to 1,200 life cycles. That sounds like a lot, but you can use up 300 life cycles in a year in an RV. You could use more than that if your home is solar powered. Lithium ion batteries can provide reliable life cycles for ten years or more.
Everything comes down to how much battery power you use. No doubt, many get along fine with lead acid batteries. But if you live in your RV or plan to, lithium ion is the better option. All modern laptops, mobile devices and electronics use lithium ion batteries. It’s also ideal for backpackers and boondockers who need solar power on the go.
9. Consistent Performance
All solar batteries are dependent to an extent on external factors: temperature, charging device, the solar panel, maintenance etc. But lithium ion batteries are less dependent on these external factors compared to lead acid or AGM.
Solar panels determine how much solar energy is captured, but you can only store as much as your battery will allow. During the process, some of the energy is lost, which is inevitable. Lithium ion batteries limit the loss and ensure you get consistent performance even during cloudy days.
10. Superior Storage of Solar Power
Lithium ion does a better job than lead acid batteries in storing solar energy. Lead acid batteries have an 80% efficient rating. If you have a 200 watt solar panel installed, only 160 watts is stored in the battery. The larger your solar panel, the more energy is wasted.
Lithium ion has a 95% efficient rating. Not only do you store more solar power, but it also means fewer charging and recharging and more efficient energy use. With more solar energy, the less you have to depend on the battery or generator if you installed one.
11. Greater Energy Density
Lithium ion batteries are heavier than lead acid, and there is a good reason for that. The extra weight is due to lithium’s superior energy density, that is, a greater energy capacity. The difference is most noticeable in large solar panels.
Installing a 5kW solar power station requires at least 8 lead acid batteries, but a couple of lithium ion batteries will do the job. If you compare the weight of the 8 lead acid batteries to the two lithium ion, the lithium ion batteries are lighter.
12. No Priming Required
Lithium ion does not need priming like other batteries. A single charge is enough and it is ready for use. This is true for solar power use and other electronic devices.
Even before lithium ion became popular among solar power users, the battery was already used in other applications. You can use lithium ion batteries in tools, mobile phones and other devices. Its efficiency and lasting power makes it suitable for heavy duty applications too.
14. Lithium ion Batteries are Recyclable
Lithium ion battery components can be recycled. While not related to its performance, this goes to show how environment friendly the battery is. Even when the battery has served its purpose, it can be recycled and become useful again.
15. No Internal Cooling System Required
When you set up the battery for your solar power system, you can run it as is, without the need for cooling parts.
16. No Memory Effect Problem
The memory effect problem occurs in NiCd batteries, where it gets harder to charge the battery if you don’t fully discharge it first. That is not an issue with lithium ion batteries due to its more robust design.
Lithium Ion Battery Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Long Will Lithium Ion Batteries Last?
The lithium ion batteries used in electronic devices have a 300 to 500 life cycle, good for 3 to 5 years. Lithium ion used for solar panels are more powerful, with unlimited life cycles and a warranty of 5 to 15 years. And with technological advancements, expect the lifespan to get even longer.
How Can I Make My Lithium ion Battery Last Longer?
Lithium ion batteries will last a long time with little maintenance. But there are ways you can extend its lifespan even more. Here are some tips:
- Store the batteries at room temperature: this is 20-25 C / 68-77 F. Lithium ion batteries can run in harsher temperature, but constant exposure to high temperature when fully charged could shorten its life. At room temperature the battery will perform better in the long run.
- Do not perform 100% discharge: meaning, do not let the battery go down to 0% before recharging. This can be done, but it is not healthy for lithium ion or any battery.
- Recharge at 35% or higher: for optimum results, recharge when the level drops to 40% or 35%. Most people do not let it drop to less than 30%. The deeper the discharge, the longer it will take to fully recharge.
- Avoid maximum charges: deep discharge cycles are not needed for lithium ion batteries. You should also avoid 100% full charge. You can recharge the battery at 35% and top off at 80% to 85%.
Do Lithium ion Batteries Lose Charge When Not in Use?
Yes, the battery will discharge slowly when stored or not used. This is a common problem with laptops that are plugged in, as the battery does not get used. This won’t be a problem with solar power systems as the batteries are constantly utilized.
What are the Disadvantages of Lithium ion Batteries?
Cost is the biggest disadvantage of lithium ion batteries. Lead acid is still cheaper which is why a lot of RVers and homeowners prefer it. Lithium ion must also be operated within safe current limits, although that won’t be an issue if there is a charge controller in the system.
Demand for solar lithium ion batteries continue to increase, thanks to its efficiency. Like solar panels, the cost of lithium ion batteries is dropping fast, which means more users in the future. If you live in an RV or just want an easy to use, low maintenance solar battery, lithium ion is the best option.