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Old 24-09-2017, 14:37   #1
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Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

While on the hard and owner away, contractors installed solar panels and a wind generator on the boat (Amel Super Maramu). Upon returning, after several months away, all cells on all 12 batteries were dry. Never had this issue before and guess that overcharging is the culprit.
Is anyone aware of any circuitry that should be installed that would have prevented this?
The boat isn't mine, but one I've sailed on, so I'm couldn't tell you the manufacturer or make of any of the installed units (solar/wind).
My only thought on this is overcharging causing excessive gassing of the cells.
I've suggested to the owner that after topping off the cells, fully charge the battery bank and have someone do a capacity check on the system. I doubt very much that the battery's will pass but it's worth a shot. Never did a cap check on a battery bank but have done it on individual batteries. Any help or advise would be appreciated.
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Old 24-09-2017, 14:59   #2
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Like yourself, I've only capacity tested individual batteries. The size of the electronic load to test a bank of that size would be enormous.

If they are completely dry they're probably toast. But refill, charge and equalize can't hurt. Also check the settings on the wind and solar controllers, otherwise rinse and repeat. I've had a bad cell in a bank that prevented the charge controllers from ever reaching the absorption set point and the batteries just gassed away at 14.3v, but never went dry.

Good luck.
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Old 24-09-2017, 15:06   #3
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

If the solar and wind were installed correctly it wasnt overcharging it was lack of maintenance that fried the batteries. You need to top up flooded lead acid batteries with distilled water frequently. Leaving them for months without doing this is your cause.
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Old 24-09-2017, 17:22   #4
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

You don't mention that solar and wind charge controllers were installed. If they weren't then certainly the batteries have been overcharged. If they were installed were they correctly set up. Thirdly, when was the last time the battery bank was topped up with deionized water?
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Old 24-09-2017, 18:14   #5
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Likely bank not worth using, was that installed by the same outfit too?

Test output from all new controllers with an inexpensive new but depleted battery, if anything is overcharging a lot, incorrect installation / configuration the installer may share some liability?

How many months?

Were they made aware the owner would be absent so long?

Just FFR the buyer needs to either educate themselves, or make training part of the package, and be there to receive it.

Or have a caretaker take that responsibility.
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Old 24-09-2017, 21:17   #6
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

You can get a "Genuis" chip operated smart charger/reconditioner, it can work wonders on a battery, even bringing screwed up batteries back to life. You can get a 1.1A for as little as $40, would take forever to charge up a bank of that size but batteries like to be charged slow rather than fast, but they do make larger higher amperage chargers. The chip and pulse operation of them can work wonders on a battery that is thought to be dead.

Chances are there is a short in one of the installed components (wind/solar). These should be run through a controller and have an anti-bleed/short diode. Otherwise when it's charging it's delivering power and when not charging it is simply shorting the battery (ie. charging the solar panel). Many panels come prebuilt with diodes but I'm not sure about wind.

I would take the battery bank, run it all in parallel and run it off a smart charger for several weeks and see what the smart charger thinks. If after a couple weeks your not seeing charge, then the batteries are dead.

Make sure you have a sufficient charge controller on the boat controlling the charge from the solar and wind.
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Old 25-09-2017, 08:59   #7
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Depending on the temperature and voltage, wet cell lead acid batteries will give off gas leading to loss of water. For example at 85°F or higher, the gas will begin to develop if the batteries are 13.3V or higher. More gas will develop the higher the voltage or higher the temperature.

If you can adjust the solar regulator to stop charging, say at 13.2V, you will return to wet batteries. In the past, we have successfully limited the solar panel voltage to ~13.2V by shading a portion. But this takes experimentation time at peak sun.

If the wind generator has a controller that stops the blade rotation or diverts the excess energy to resistance when the battery voltage rises to 13.2V, you should return to wet batteries. If you have a three-phase output wind generator, look into the Extractor™ seabournesolutions.com. It will be available next month.
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Old 25-09-2017, 09:39   #8
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

With 850 W solar panels, dual Morningstar controllers and 1,000 Ahr of T105s, I have to add water every sunny week. If the batteries get a little low of water the rate of outgassing increases (I've added up to a third of a gallon of distilled water). The controllers are set for FLA batteries. This does not happen on shore power with a Zantrex controller.
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Old 25-09-2017, 09:57   #9
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Utahsailor

Sounds like the controller is not functioning properly, or your solar array and controller are overpowered for your batteries.

Batteries like to be charged slowly (as much as we want them charged quickly). If you are using an array of 850W solar panels constantly connected to the circuit with the battery you may consider having a dual house/battery system by use of a switch. I can't imagine requiring multiple 850W panels; even at 50% output two panels would be pushing you almost 900W.

You might try putting one panel on a controller for the battery, and the rest of the panels on a switch and running your power load directly off the solar during the day while the battery trickle charges with that much power. If your battery starts getting low because of night time use you can flip the switch and enable the controller to use the power input from the rest of the panels.

If you have a fridge, it doesn't need to be running while you are sleeping. Lights are nice, but you can run those off the battery that is trickle charged by the day esp with LEDs. VHF you would definitely want running off the battery circut in case of emergency, radar and all that other stuff you'll have to figure out how important it is.

Sounds like you are just pounding that battery array with charge, an 850W solar panel is probably pushing up to 25-30A so you are boiling the battery in full sun because you're charging it too fast. Sounds nice except the result is the problem you describe, your cooking it.

If you have access to shore power trickle charging at a more reasonable rate doesn't strain the battery so bad. At sea (probably in sunny weather) you might consider just running your stuff off the array and limiting the charging panels to as low as you can take to keep your emergency equipment (VHF, sounder, plotter) running and keep a charge, run everything else direct off the solar during the day.
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Old 25-09-2017, 10:37   #10
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by mr-canada View Post
Utahsailor

Sounds like the controller is not functioning properly, or your solar array and controller are overpowered for your batteries.

Batteries like to be charged slowly (as much as we want them charged quickly). If you are using an array of 850W solar panels constantly connected to the circuit with the battery you may consider having a dual house/battery system by use of a switch. I can't imagine requiring multiple 850W panels; even at 50% output two panels would be pushing you almost 900W.

You might try putting one panel on a controller for the battery, and the rest of the panels on a switch and running your power load directly off the solar during the day while the battery trickle charges with that much power. If your battery starts getting low because of night time use you can flip the switch and enable the controller to use the power input from the rest of the panels.

If you have a fridge, it doesn't need to be running while you are sleeping. Lights are nice, but you can run those off the battery that is trickle charged by the day esp with LEDs. VHF you would definitely want running off the battery circut in case of emergency, radar and all that other stuff you'll have to figure out how important it is.

Sounds like you are just pounding that battery array with charge, an 850W solar panel is probably pushing up to 25-30A so you are boiling the battery in full sun because you're charging it too fast. Sounds nice except the result is the problem you describe, your cooking it.

If you have access to shore power trickle charging at a more reasonable rate doesn't strain the battery so bad. At sea (probably in sunny weather) you might consider just running your stuff off the array and limiting the charging panels to as low as you can take to keep your emergency equipment (VHF, sounder, plotter) running and keep a charge, run everything else direct off the solar during the day.
Maximum output from 850 watts of solar is about 59 amps. This is not in any way too much current for an 1000 AH battery bank. Not much above a trickle charge really @ .06 C.

Batteries are the determining factor when charging, not the charge source. As long as the voltage is correct - eg 14.4 volts - they will not overcharge.

All flooded batteries use water and need replenishing on a regular basis.
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Old 25-09-2017, 10:39   #11
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Utahsailor View Post
With 850 W solar panels, dual Morningstar controllers and 1,000 Ahr of T105s, I have to add water every sunny week. If the batteries get a little low of water the rate of outgassing increases (I've added up to a third of a gallon of distilled water). The controllers are set for FLA batteries. This does not happen on shore power with a Zantrex controller.
Check the charging voltage of the solar controller. Which solar controller are you using? Trojan T-105 should be bulk charged at 14.8 volts. They will use water at this voltage.
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Old 25-09-2017, 10:52   #12
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bleemus View Post
You need to top up flooded lead acid batteries with distilled water frequently. Leaving them for months without doing this is your cause.
I disagree with "frequently", although it depends on how the batteries are being used. Deep discharges followed by fast charging is going to cost water and need frequent topping up. On the other hand last weekend I topped the bank up with 1 litre across two type 31 batteries for the first time in at least two years. We use little water because we only use 25% of the bank and always charge it gently with solar then maintain the charge with solar.

What we don't know in this instance is how much electrolite was there before the boat was lifted out and the work carried out, I suspect not much.

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Old 25-09-2017, 11:31   #13
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bleemus View Post
If the solar and wind were installed correctly it wasnt overcharging it was lack of maintenance that fried the batteries. You need to top up flooded lead acid batteries with distilled water frequently. Leaving them for months without doing this is your cause.
+1, sound advice
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Old 25-09-2017, 12:31   #14
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

When the real problem (equipment failure, mismatch, or maintenance) is found and addressed, there are two things that can make wet cells less of a chore. The first are catalytic cell caps. You can replace many conventional cell caps (plugs) with the catalytic ones, which recombine hydrogen with air to slow down the electrolyte being cooked off. Pricey and hard to find, but they exist and apparently work.

The second is a kludge job of sorts, there are automatic watering systems which replenish low electrolyte. Pretty much like automatic plant watering systems, some tubing and a siphon type setup.

Neither is perfect or foolproof, but they are "equipment" that you can look into. One extra bit of protection--or complication--that can be added.
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Old 25-09-2017, 12:46   #15
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Re: Battery Bank Dry after Solar and Wind Gen Installation

The owner/skipper takes very good care of his boat and equipment. When I sailed with him we checked the battery bank religiously, topping off with distilled water if necessary. Also did a final check at haul out prior to closing up the boat, I am sure this was done after his last trip. What he did find, though, were some loose connections at a few battery posts. Now, I may be wrong, but if these connections were very loose, I believe that could have been the problem or at least part of the issue. I have him checking several things but without knowing all the details it's hard to troubleshoot from afar! Also, I am not at all familiar with solar and wind generator installations.
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