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Old 15-04-2016, 08:53   #1
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Battery location and orentation

Hey folks, I am new to sailing just bought my first sailboat. In looking it over, I noticed the 12v sealed battery is on its side. I know the old lead/acid batteries have to remain upright, but so far the folks I have asked tell me it's ok for the sealed batteries to be on their side. Any "expurts" here who know for sure one way or the other?

I see the battery originally used to be located in an aft compartment on the starboard side of the cockpit. It currently is sitting in a compartment in the cabin under the port bench. Again, my experience is with lead/acid batteries which should not be kept in a sealed compartment to avoid the buildup of explosive gasses.

Should I move the battery back to the factory location, or not worry because sealed batteries don't produce the HCL gas when being recharged?

Thanks all in advance.
flk k
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Old 15-04-2016, 09:16   #2
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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Originally Posted by liveaboard60 View Post
Hey folks, I am new to sailing just bought my first sailboat. In looking it over, I noticed the 12v sealed battery is on its side. I know the old lead/acid batteries have to remain upright, but so far the folks I have asked tell me it's ok for the sealed batteries to be on their side. Any "expurts" here who know for sure one way or the other?

I see the battery originally used to be located in an aft compartment on the starboard side of the cockpit. It currently is sitting in a compartment in the cabin under the port bench. Again, my experience is with lead/acid batteries which should not be kept in a sealed compartment to avoid the buildup of explosive gasses.

Should I move the battery back to the factory location, or not worry because sealed batteries don't produce the HCL gas when being recharged?

Thanks all in advance.
flk k
Assuming the "sealed battery" is an AGM or gelled cell type, it's OK to install them in any orientation. It's one of their selling points!

No worry about gasses from these batteries. And, even the danger of flooded batteries in sealed compartments is often overstated.

Bill
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Old 15-04-2016, 09:23   #3
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Re: Battery location and orentation

If by sealed you mean an AGM battery, I wouldn't worry about it, it will be fine.
AGM's are usually a valve regulated, recombinent gas, sealed lead acid battery.
Meaning that they do make hydrogen gas, that is normally recombined with O2 and forms water, there is a valve in case for some reason like a dead short or way too high a voltage and excess gas is made, it can vent once pressure build up enough to open the valve, but under normal circumstances, they don't normally vent.
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Old 15-04-2016, 09:41   #4
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Re: Battery location and orentation

I would evaluate why it's there now. Maybe it was a much shorter cable run? etc. Is it your only battery? If so I would add another and a switch so you don't get caught with a flat battery.
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Old 16-04-2016, 11:10   #5
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Re: Battery location and orentation

You've not given any details about the battery so any opinions here are just pie in the sky.

The battery must have a make and model on it. Would it not be a good idea to look up the manufacturer's web site and find out the answer?
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Old 16-04-2016, 13:29   #6
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Re: Battery location and orentation

Plenty of experts here, most of us are either current or retired CEOs and engineers owning high volume battery companies. And not just admitting to it.


Or of course, you can go to the web site of the company that made your battery, and get the solid facts firsthand, from the folks who made it.


AGMs and gels are both still "valve regulated" and will blow off gas or electrolyte if overcharged, so there's usually at least one position that they should not be installed in, since that would put the electrolyte (instead of gas) pushed out the vent first.


And as practical matter, sealed batteries often aren't installed with any concern for gasses being emitted, but yes, if they are overcharged, you might still be happier if they could vent overboard. And certainly happier if they could explode (it can happen) in a "sealed" compartment, without splattering anything else.
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Old 16-04-2016, 18:17   #7
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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Originally Posted by liveaboard60 View Post
Hey folks, I am new to sailing just bought my first sailboat. In looking it over, I noticed the 12v sealed battery is on its side. I know the old lead/acid batteries have to remain upright, but so far the folks I have asked tell me it's ok for the sealed batteries to be on their side. Any "expurts" here who know for sure one way or the other?

I see the battery originally used to be located in an aft compartment on the starboard side of the cockpit. It currently is sitting in a compartment in the cabin under the port bench. Again, my experience is with lead/acid batteries which should not be kept in a sealed compartment to avoid the buildup of explosive gasses.

Should I move the battery back to the factory location, or not worry because sealed batteries don't produce the HCL gas when being recharged?

Thanks all in advance.
flk k
All batteries should be in an upright position and secured in some way to prevent accidental tipping over. Batteries should be in containers or boxes with a secure cover to prevent accidental dropping of tools that could short out the poles. (some cases it is not possible to box in the batteries). Batteries should be in the engine room and not in passenger living space.

Even sealed batteries do have small vents that could potentially emits some explosive gases.
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Old 16-04-2016, 23:36   #8
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Re: Battery location and orentation

If a battery is emitting hydrogen gas, why is the engine room a good place for that? Even in a diesel installation you have a potential ignition source of the alternator. I would think it should be safer to have the ventilation into an more open space with a minimum of electrical equipment.
Hydrogen gas itself is harmless in the low concentrations to be expected from such ventilation and it dissipates very quickly.
I do wonder, however, has anyone ever had first hand experience of any lead-acid battery actually exploding internally? I would think, as long as the vents work there should not be a chance of explosion due to internal pressure or internal hydrogen combustion.
ON the other hand, I think I have seen an old battery whose sides were bulging a bit more than normal. Makes you wonder . . .
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Old 17-04-2016, 00:19   #9
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Re: Battery location and orentation

Oh I forgot to mention the engine room is normally too hot to keep a battery healthy. I saw some manufacturers recommend case temperature 120F max during charging.
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Old 17-04-2016, 08:22   #10
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Re: Battery location and orentation

" first hand experience of any lead-acid battery actually exploding internally?"
Not a lead acid. But I foolishly believe the statistics that some 10,000 people go to emergency rooms every year in the USA alone, as a result of battery explosions. Usually while jump-starting cars incorrectly.


An alternator on a boat is, in theory, a marine grade alternator, which is "ignition protected", btw. Nice theory.
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Old 17-04-2016, 11:41   #11
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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If a battery is emitting hydrogen gas, why is the engine room a good place for that? Even in a diesel installation you have a potential ignition source of the alternator. I would think it should be safer to have the ventilation into an more open space with a minimum of electrical equipment.
In the engine room you have very good ventilation even if it is hot.

Diesel and gasoline motors (for marine use) have starter and alternator that are spark proof... cannot provide spark to ignite other inflammables on board.

A battery that explodes does not do this internally. The ignition is done externally and the flame goes inside the top of the battery and makes an explosion and the top 2 inches or so comes right of the battery. This is common in winter by improperly boosting.
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Old 17-04-2016, 19:30   #12
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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A battery that explodes does not do this internally. The ignition is done externally and the flame goes inside the top of the battery and makes an explosion and the top 2 inches or so comes right of the battery. This is common in winter by improperly boosting.
OK that does answer my question. Yes the spark might be outside, in the presence of hydrogen, and the flame front could travel inside the battery and ignite hydrogen there, which I would indeed call a combustion explosion internal to the battery at that point. It can blow the top off the battery and cause acid to spray around. Not a pleasant outcome. I found other sources which agree with this too.

So it seems the best place for the battery is somewhere outside of engine room to reduce the heat, and inside a compartment which is mostly sealed to contain any acid from a battery explosion, but the compartment must contain venting holes, and it would be ideal if that venting could be directed outside the cabin spaces.
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Old 17-04-2016, 19:47   #13
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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OK that does answer my question. Yes the spark might be outside, in the presence of hydrogen, and the flame front could travel inside the battery and ignite hydrogen there, which I would indeed call a combustion explosion internal to the battery at that point. It can blow the top off the battery and cause acid to spray around. Not a pleasant outcome. I found other sources which agree with this too.

So it seems the best place for the battery is somewhere outside of engine room to reduce the heat, and inside a compartment which is mostly sealed to contain any acid from a battery explosion, but the compartment must contain venting holes, and it would be ideal if that venting could be directed outside the cabin spaces.
I mentioned that the batteries should be in the engine room. Yes, preferably, have them in a box. Or at least have a cover over them. If you keep the batteries very low in the engine room, they will be cool enough. The heat will rise and fresh air will go to the bottom of the engine room where the batteries are. The venting can be in the engine room no problem. In the tugboat that I operate we have the batteries in a steel box and rubber pad insulation all around and the bottom and with a steel cover. All is good, the heat does not penetrate the steel box and the batteries are always cool. We have seven batteries this way. Yes it is a concern and that is the way we took care of the problem.
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Old 20-04-2016, 00:36   #14
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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Originally Posted by seabreez View Post
All batteries should be in an upright position and secured in some way to prevent accidental tipping over. Batteries should be in containers or boxes with a secure cover to prevent accidental dropping of tools that could short out the poles. (some cases it is not possible to box in the batteries). Batteries should be in the engine room and not in passenger living space.

Even sealed batteries do have small vents that could potentially emits some explosive gases.
These are very generalised comments and as such are not helpful, except batteries should be firmly tied down!

AGMs do not apply to your rules - and no batteries should be in an engine compartment because they can easily get to very high temperatures. Consider outside air temperatures of 45C - here in the Med - the engine compartment will be 65C+. When the boat stops the engine acts like a radiator and the engine compartment will rise even higher with no ventilation.

For every 10C rise in temperature above about 25C battery life is cut by about half.
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Old 20-04-2016, 04:48   #15
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Re: Battery location and orentation

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and no batteries should be in an engine compartment...
This ^

Compartment for most cruising boats, engine compartment and preferably a battery compartment.

I have been on deck when a spanking new gas proof battery box blew up in a engine room from hydrogen build up.
It was a military approved stainless steel box meant to be able to withstand a battery blowing up, had proper ventilation, a new charging system that was supposed to prevent over charging, and a approved isolation switch outside the box.
This was in port on shore power so the person in the engine room heard something, suspected over charging, hit the switch outside the box and the top of the gas proof ss box flew off from the explosion, broke his jaw bone, both collar bones and he got acid all over his face.

Also witnessed a battery blowing up from a internal short once, at a boat yard someone dropped a battery from about 2 feet to the ground, picked it back up, hoisted it into the runabout, connected it and as he hit the starter it blew up, the person in the boat was not hurt, a change of clothes and a quick shower was all that was needed.
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