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Old 27-01-2013, 22:54   #1
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How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

I would be most interested to hear how long your gel cells have lasted and what is york charging regimen ? I read on the ample power site that someone has got 17 years out of one set of batteries by keeping a good charge volts. Mine are about nine years old and are going strong, Shore power or my solar panels keep the float charge going all the time.
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Old 28-01-2013, 02:29   #2
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

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Originally Posted by bazzer View Post
I would be most interested to hear how long your gel cells have lasted and what is york charging regimen ? I read on the ample power site that someone has got 17 years out of one set of batteries by keeping a good charge volts. Mine are about nine years old and are going strong, Shore power or my solar panels keep the float charge going all the time.
All bats life expectancy depend On Charge Cycle/depth of dis-charge V. charge cycle.

Float, or Deep Cycle

How many cycles.

And to what DOD?

Balanced with Charge Cycle, how often charged, and to what % of SOC.

Lloyd
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Old 28-01-2013, 02:46   #3
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

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I would be most interested to hear how long your gel cells have lasted and what is york charging regimen ? I read on the ample power site that someone has got 17 years out of one set of batteries by keeping a good charge volts. Mine are about nine years old and are going strong, Shore power or my solar panels keep the float charge going all the time.
Mine are still going strong after five years starting on six. Good to hear that you have gotten nine years out of yours so far. Like you mine are connected to solar panels too that help keep them topped up with a solar controller profile set for charging gels. I'm usually on a mooring or at anchor but, do use a Honda generator to charge my 48 volt AGM propulsion bank (also has solar & wind turbines for charging) usually I also charge my house gels at the same time using the AC chargers. So far so good.
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Old 28-01-2013, 03:03   #4
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

7 years, solar wind and marina charging.
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Old 28-01-2013, 03:16   #5
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

Good gel batteries can have a very long life.

I got about 17 years out of some Sonnenshein batteries on one boat (cruised for about 4 months of the year)

My current boat had some of the same Sonnenshein batteries. The PO discharged them fairly heavily (generator and no solar panels) and they died after about 10 years for one house bank bank and 12 years for the other.
The start/winch batteries are also Sonnenshein and are now 15 years old, but are on their last legs and will probably be replaced shortly.

A word of warning batteries can fail rapidly and their life is difficult to predict. A capacity test tells you a lot, but it also shortens the life of the batteries.

It's also important to realise that batteries can be expensive in out of the way places. Shipping costs are very high because they are heavy and often classified as dangerous goods.

17 years is an exceptionally good life and is not typical. If the batteries are 9 years old and you are planning to cruise where batteries will be more expensive, I would suggest a capacity test.

Batteries on near permanent charge can appear to fine, with OK voltages, but may actually have very little capacity left
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Old 28-01-2013, 05:54   #6
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

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Originally Posted by bazzer View Post
I would be most interested to hear how long your gel cells have lasted and what is york charging regimen ? I read on the ample power site that someone has got 17 years out of one set of batteries by keeping a good charge volts. Mine are about nine years old and are going strong, Shore power or my solar panels keep the float charge going all the time.
Nine years old for GEL is not out of the ordinary. I have a few customers well beyond 10 years. I have one with GEL's installed in 1998 that still pass both the Midtroncs and Argus analyzers and come in at about 90% of new CCA/MCA...

Proper charging of GEL's is critical and I've seen them destroyed in as little as three months. When properly set up, cycled to no more than 50% DOD, temp sensed and charged properly 6-12 years is not uncommon..
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Old 28-01-2013, 07:00   #7
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

I found this and thought it's a good write up and should be read by all. Sorry don't remember where I found this so if its yours.. Thank You!

""" This was written by John Harries of Morgan's Cloud. Thanks a good write-up

Commonly Known Stuff

The first three rules are known by most live-aboard voyagers. But if they are-all you do, as most did prior to this project, you will actually go through a lot of batteries, just like some did. Still, they bear repeating:
1. Don’t regularly discharge your batteries over 50% of rated capacity.
Breaking this rule occasionally is no big deal, but if you break it regularly be prepared to replace your batteries often… really often.
2. Charge your batteries back to at least 80%+ of capacity after every discharge cycle.
It’s also important that you do this sooner rather than later. On no account should batteries sit for more than a day or so in a “deeply discharged state”. Your typical AGM battery banks will be close to this 80% status when the charge current (amperage) starts to drop below the maximum that a well regulated alternator or AC charger can supply at the proper acceptance voltage (typically about 14.4 volts).
3. Charge your batteries to “100%” as often as you can.
Now we are getting to the hard stuff. Note: Many battery manufacturers really want you to charge your batteries to 100% after every discharge. But that is simply not practical for the live-aboard voyagers because, although you can honor Rule #2 in an hour or so with good charging equipment, getting it to 100% typically takes another five to eight hours! Still, do it as often as you can—read on for how.
The New Stuff That is Saving Our Batteries
4. Make sure you have access to shore power for at least a week after installing new batteries.
The reason here is, that batteries when shipped from the factory are not “fully finished” and it takes several discharges, followed by charges all the way to 100% even to bring them up to 100% capacity.
By the way, you do not need to “form” new batteries by fully discharging them and then recharging them as some “pundits” will tell you.
5. Don’t leave a shore power charger on for long periods.
There are some AC chargers that are smart enough not to damage your batteries by being left on for long periods, but very few. And that indictment includes most of those that claim to be three stage, all singing, all dancing, etc.
*More on how to tell how smart your charger really is, or more likely, is not.
6. Only buy batteries that can be equalized.
Remember rule #3 that none of us live-aboards can really follow? Regular equalization is the next best thing.
7. Equalize your batteries once a month or so. Like clockwork.
Make yourself a document chart in your maintenance book, to record all your events so you have a good record of what, when and where.
8. Install a “user-programmable alternator voltage regulator” and reprogram it to actually fully charge your batteries.
For most of the live-aboard voyagers, or at least those like us who are way to0 cheap to spend a lot of time in marinas, the one and only time we will get to fully charge our batteries will be when doing a longer passage under power. The bad news is that most alternator voltage regulators and yes even the expensive three stage ones, won’t do the job unless it’s reprogrammed.
9. Install a smart measurement system and use it.
Contrary to what many manufacturers will tell you, this stuff is generally anything but “fully automatic”. You need to skipper your charging system, just like you skipper your boat, and to do that you need to know what’s going on.
Minimum acceptable measurement capabilities:
A. Volts at the battery (requires a wire going to the battery positive post).
B. Amps going into the battery (requires a shunt).
C. Amp hours going in and out of the battery (requires a shunt).
10. Install an alternator regulator and AC charger(s) that have temperature measurement probes on the batteries.

The reason is that the proper voltage to charge and equalize batteries varies with temperature. This feature is particularly important for sealed batteries like wet, gell’s and AGMs.
11. Know how your batteries should be charged and how to tell they are full.
There is more inaccurate information about this out there than just about any area of cruising knowledge. And yes, to really understand the real facts, you’re going to need to read all that mind numbing detail that’s mentioned—sorry. But here is the short version:
1. Batteries like to be charged hard until they are fully charged.
2. Batteries are fully charged when the current (amps) they are accepting at their specified acceptance voltage—typically about 14.4 volts at 70f or (20c), but check with the manufacturer—has dropped to 1-2% of their total capacity measured in amp-hours. This is the only practical way to know that they are 100% charged.
3. At that point, and at that point only, the charge voltage should be dropped to the float level, typically about 13.4 volts.
Summary
Sure, there are a lot more things you can do to improve battery life: wind and solar power (if used correctly), and complex and expensive fully automated systems, to name just two.
But these eleven steps are all you really need to do to get a dramatically improved battery performance that we would all desire…


What’s changed?
- With the previous two sets of house batteries that failed prematurely, we had done all the usual things that conventional wisdom dictates, including installing a three stage alternator regulator and battery charger, and never discharging below 50%.
- This time we took a much more active approach including reprogramming our alternator regulator from the factory defaults, equalizing our batteries once a month where possible, and manually managing our shore-power and alternator charging.
Conclusions!
This has been an interesting and rewarding process that we have drawn the following conclusions from:
** The standard wisdom about battery care is flawed and, on a sailboat that spends most of her time far from shore power, will result in premature failure.
** Most charging equipment, including the fancy three-stage stuff, that claims to automatically take care of your batteries, won’t.
** There is a huge amount of absolute rubbish published and rumored about battery care, and the so called “professionals” are often the worst offenders in this regard.
** Most staff in boat yards are almost totally ignorant about proper battery care, but that does not stop them having opinions. However, there are shining exceptions to the last two points, but distressingly few.
** You don’t need a lot of highly expensive or complex gear to take care of your batteries properly.
** If you follow the relatively simple “Eleven Steps to Better Battery Life” you will do fine.
** The single most important of the eleven steps is monthly equalization.
** Batteries that can’t be equalized have no place on a cruising sailboat far from shore-power.
** The testing seems to indicate that good AGM batteries that can be equalized can last just as long as liquid-filled, although the latter can probably take more abuse since fluid that has been lost can be replaced.

Safe Winds.. Linda
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Old 28-01-2013, 07:12   #8
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

I believe the above cut & paste was written by John Harries of Morgan's Cloud and he should have been give credit for it.

Here is a link to their site:

Morgan's Cloud / Attainable Adventure Cruising
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Old 28-01-2013, 07:48   #9
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

I have 8 seasons on my Lifeline 4d's and starting Group 24. I thought at the beginning of last season I might need to replace, but they picked back up and did fine all season. I use the generator continuously when away for the dock so we can keep the salon and living area conditioned, so I rarely run down the batteries. My guess is that they have only been discharged a couple of times below 50%. that is when the weather was moderate and we didn't run HVAC, so we could run everything else on the inverter. During this period we have spent around 575 days on board. The inverter/charger continuously charges when on shore or generator power as needed.

I might add, the battery costs for Lifeline was $750 for all three in 05, in Fall of 11 they were around $1,250.

I winterize for three months, and each 30 days, go to the boat and recharge for several hours until the voltage is back up. They have been trouble free. I use a Link 200 to monitor both banks. I do have to reset the Link each season for some reason. I just unplug the fuses and it resets and is good to go.
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Old 28-01-2013, 10:59   #10
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

I've had the boat fourteen years, replaced the battery three times, the longest lived is the one I have now going on four years. The shortest was one year, I think. I never discharge it fully and keep it on the solar charger all the time.

The short lived one was on the boat before the solar charger.

Fair winds.
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Old 28-01-2013, 12:43   #11
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

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Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
I believe the above cut & paste was written by John Harries of Morgan's Cloud and he should have been give credit for it.

Here is a link to their site:

Morgan's Cloud / Attainable Adventure Cruising
This is an amazing site with a huge amount of good feedback in their "Electrical" section. Be sure to read through the comments at the end of each article.
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Old 28-01-2013, 15:31   #12
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

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This is an amazing site with a huge amount of good feedback in their "Electrical" section. Be sure to read through the comments at the end of each article.
John and I were commiserating about this many years ago in Falmouth Maine, well before he wrote any of that. Also ahd a great discussion with him about anchors and furling gear.

Like me, he learned the hard way about the trials and tribulations of AGM batteries... I've read and followed it all since the beginning and he is spot on. I have been talking about these issues with AGM's since the late 90's. Well before anyone would listen to me or believe these problems existed.

All it took was a few mooring sailed boats and a couple of cruising customers for the problems to pop up. Of course at the time, even Lifeline and East Penn had no answers. I had batteries dying with less than 100 cycles.

Back then they were still claiming more cycles and flooded & gel, 80% DOD, no sulfation and no equalization/maintenance necessary... Things have changed since the bogus promises that were made when AGM's first entered the marine market...

GEL batteries are a different story. They DO LAST, if charged correctly, and have very long service lives even on cruised and mooring sailed boats..
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Old 28-01-2013, 20:45   #13
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Re: How long have your Gel Batteries lasted?

Sorry if this is a bit off topic. Since sulfation is a physical thing, would it be possible to open up a battery, pull the plates out of the acid, take them apart, and physically clean them? This is more of a theoretical question since I'm pretty sure I'm not going to try it. Thanks.
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