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Old 08-10-2008, 19:45   #1
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Batteries Boiled Over - Now What?

The idiot First Mate (that would be me) installed a new Xantrex Freedom Marine 2500 Inverter/Charger. The batteries boiled over - this probably occured over a couple of days. What I'm looking for in this forum is ideas/thoughts about how much battery life I've killed and/or what I might do now to keep those batteries viable. Purchasing new batteries must be delayed.

Background and more info:

The batteries are marine deep-cycle, wet storage, approx 4 1/2 years old.

The system worked until I replaced the inverter. (Old inverter out because it no longer provided 120 VAC from the battery bank, and sending it for repairs was not an option.)

Problem occured after installing the new inverter and when hooked to shore power with solar panels augmenting the system - but there were no negatives apparent with the original inverter running with shore power and solar panels during a two-plus year time frame. (Both when on shore power at various marinas, or on the hook when running the GenSet, or just running from solar panel power only.)

New inverter came with a temperature probe that should have been attached to a battery, but the idiot installer (that would be me) didn't hook it up right away.

Noticing the heat from the battery box I checked & found the batteries apparently bone-dry - It took a bit more than one gallon (US) of water to top up each one. I installed the temp probe and (shazaam!) the inverter stopped trying to over-charge the batteries. I also switched off the solar panels after filling the batteries because hey, why not?

With the temp-probe installed charging appears to be normal.

Batteries appear to be holding a charge (minor DC functions work when shore power & solar panels are switched off) but as yet I've run no difinitive test such as turning on the radar & timing things till the normal expected dead-time occures. (We've experience in that - long story involving alternators that will wait for another time...)

So...Either I'm screwed or somebody has ideas to help us limp along with those batteries for several months. I won't leave the Sea of Cortez until this gets resolved. The Captain (my wife) has so far declined taking a spanner to my thick skull.

Helpful ideas appreciated... (We have limited internet connectivity so it will take awhile before I can reaccess this site. Take some time & think about your answer... please.)

James
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Old 08-10-2008, 19:55   #2
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If they boiled out, you almost certainly did damage; how serious depends on luck. Sometimes batteries can partially recover but you definitely reduced their capacity - how much can be best determined by load-testing. Alternatively, you can get an idea by checking sp gravity once recharged but that isn't as conclusive.

Absolutely check each cell with a hydrometer as one bad cell, which is almost inevitable in this scenario, will kill the entire bank.
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:03   #3
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If you can do the right thing now you'll get the best you can. At 4 1/2 years they were mid life at best. You'll notice when they can't hold a charge and it will be less and less until you know it's time to say goodbye.

Cell by cell checking is a good idea. If one cell goes bad it tricks the regualator into frying the rest too.
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:11   #4
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If you can do the right thing now you'll get the best you can. At 4 1/2 years they were mid life at best. You'll notice when they can't hold a charge and it will be less and less until you know it's time to say goodbye.

Cell by cell checking is a good idea. If one cell goes bad it tricks the regualator into frying the rest too.
Which may be why the whole mess came about. There is a reason the charger boiled all of the water out. That is not normal and the solar panels probably did not do it. You have not said much about your system and if you have regulators, etc. on the panels. Why did this happen?
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:21   #5
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Not having the temp senors isn't bad on it's own. Unless it was excpetionally hot at the time. You do need to back track and figure a few things out before adding new batteries. They cost a WHOLE lot more than 4 1/2 years ago. It's not pretty. Prevent the problem from coming back and not go through this a second time. It;s time to do a little bit of work as Chuck suggests.
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:28   #6
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I have experienced the same thing and traced it down to a dead cell, so the SMART charger with no temp sensor, fried all three batteries in the bank. ouch. replaced the whole bank and two and half years later for no reason fried the start bank. Found charging isolator diodes failed and house charge was going to start bank also.

So now have new charger with a temp sensor installed on house bank and MANUALLY switch who get what according to battery monitor

Cheer
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Old 09-10-2008, 15:52   #7
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Thanks one & all for the responses. I'll buy one of those "turkey baster" battery checkers & report the results (god I hate shopping).

More background info for the curious: Batteries were doing just fine on the original inverter/charger with solar panels augmenting, so probability of one or more battery cells dying co-incidently while I removed/replaced the inverter seems a bit of a stretch. Possible, but not probable. And if one or more cells were already dead then SOME symptoms should have appeared prior to changing out the inverter... none did.

Likewise, ambient air temperature and/or humidity wasn't a factor. Solar panels have their own regulator and that part of the system worked just fine with the old inverter. (BTW... The old inverter was also a Xantrex 2500 and lasted more than 12 years.) The GenSet has a seperate start battery and the AuxDiesel has a separate start battery; the problem is isolated from those batteries and is localized in the house battery bank.

I've a DC Amp meter on the solar panels output, a second on the inverter charge-side output, and another on the DC draw side feeding the "house". Two AC amp meters: one for inverter output and one for inverter ship/shore input. The inverter charge-side output showed higher than expected amps, but that symptom wasn't noted until after the heat/smell of overcharging batteries was noted. (Note to self: Not much sense in buying/installing meters unless you check them at regular intervals. )

So here's my understanding from the comments so far: Nothing else to say until I've checked each battery cell, and if all check good then I'll stress-test them under load & check durability. Any failure means bite-the-bullet and get new batteries. (Did I mention that I hate shopping?) {Did I mention that the Captain was recently eyeing my toolbox and hefting various weight spanners???}

Last thought: I've read nothing about how I might extend the life of those batteries after boiling over, but suspect that also depends on the "turkey baster" testing of all cells.... Add battery acid? How & how much? Dump the liquid contents and add all new?

Again... Thanks for the response, and thanks for thinking about this.

James
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Old 09-10-2008, 16:21   #8
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James,

Much as I hate to say it, 4.5 year old flooded batteries which have been 'boiled dry' are very likely done for. That is, IMHO, it's VERY unlikely that these can be rejeuvenated to any significant degree.

You really need to be looking at replacing ALL those batteries.

However, you also need to be thinking hard about your charging system. The new Xantrex, installed properly, isn't likely to have caused the problem...though it's possible.

Solar panels with inadequate or malfunctioning regulation certainly could have caused the batteries to boil dry.

When you're connected to shore power, I don't know of any reason why you'd want the solar panels adding to the charging mix. They have the potential to "confuse" the Xantrex and, of course, if not properly regulated could cause damage to the batteries. There is the problem, however, of how to shut them down. Cover them?

At anchor it's a very different story. Presumably, you want the maximum kick you can get from the solar panels, and a good regulator/MPPT controller can help do that safely.

Whatever you do, you're going to have to closely monitor voltage to the batteries -- old or new -- for awhile until you're sure everything is working properly. The best way to do that is with a good multimeter making frequent measurements at the batteries to be sure bulk, acceptance, and float voltages are within the desired range.

Also, of course, you'll have to frequently check to be sure the electrolyte level in your batteries is adequate (about 3/8" above the tops of the plates is right for most flooded batteries). NEVER add acid or anything except distilled water. When the tops are open, be sure not to contaminate them with dust or debris. The use of WaterMiser or HydroCaps is also very helpful to reduce the loss of water.

Sorry, my friend, but there's no easy way out of this one. Flooded batteries just don't last that long in cruising service UNLESS you wanna spring for the far more expensive Rolls/Surette batteries which can last a decade or more.

Bill
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Old 09-10-2008, 16:37   #9
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check battery type setting

One last thing to check. Do you have the correct setting on your Xantrex Freedom Marine 2500? The on-line brochure claims settings for Gel / Lead Acid and AGM. The Gel setting may be about 0.6V higher than the “regular” lead acid setting. I run my battery charger with the correct setting for wet cells when I am using city power but use the “Gel” setting for under passage charging from a generator. This just charges everything faster. Of course, if you forget to reset the battery type when you plug in city power, it will eventually fry the batteries --- done it!
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Old 09-10-2008, 16:42   #10
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Hello James

Try this link. It gives you a couple of options.

How to restore and prolong lead-acid batteries

Good luck!
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Old 10-10-2008, 00:13   #11
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To Dave the Canuck... Thanks for the link. For everyone else: thanks for your input.

But hey, people, I've already solved the over-charge problem!

Now let me repeat the original request from the first paragraph of my original post: "What I'm looking for in this forum is ideas/thoughts about how much battery life I've killed and/or what I might do now to keep those batteries viable. Purchasing new batteries must be delayed."

Sorry. Just asking for thoughts & ideas.....
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Old 10-10-2008, 04:02   #12
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IMHO those batteries are toast

if new batteries are beyond the budget at the moment, try to find the local lorry scrapyard and get what you can.
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Old 14-10-2008, 16:12   #13
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Rotten Egg Smell!

I have just had the same thing happen to a 6 month old 8D 200Ah 12 volt battery that is used for 12 v service ( Radio/gen start.)

While focusing on redoing my 24 volt system this battery was covered up and ignored and I used a temp automotive charger, which I left on after the 24-12 DC/DC converter was reconnected.

It completely dried out!

I put 22 litres of distilled water back into this one battery and have been re-charging for the last 4 days.

What gets me is the strong Sulpher-Rotten-egg smell that has been happening when I put a charge on it.

Is that normal?

I have never experienced such a strong smell before when trying to bring a battery back, but then again, have never let it dry out so much.

Any suggestions on whether this battery has gone thru irreparable damage and should be replaced??
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Old 14-10-2008, 17:38   #14
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OK SV, First check each cell to see that you don't have a completely dead one. Assuming at least some charge in each, try this:
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Old 14-10-2008, 19:22   #15
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I have just had the same thing happen to a 6 month old 8D 200Ah 12 volt battery that is used for 12 v service ( Radio/gen start.)...

It completely dried out!

I put 22 litres of distilled water back into this one battery and have been re-charging for the last 4 days.

...

Any suggestions on whether this battery has gone thru irreparable damage and should be replaced??
I had good luck with a Vector smart charger using its recondition mode. Had an old Pro-Mariner ferro-resonant charger cook six 6V golf cart batteries a couple of years ago. Left it charging while away from the boat for two weeks, and came back to almost completely dry batteries. It took a couple weeks at home to run thru all six - charged then reconditioned them each 3 times per pair.

Caveat - my electrical wiring was really bad, but the batteries did seem ok after that (they were all 2001-vintage). I've since replaced them with FullRiver AGMs, but a friend I gave a pair to just raved about how much better these old batteries performed over this past summer than the old marine dual-purpose batteries he had before. He has small demands.
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