Reconditioning Lead Acid – Deep Cycle Batteries.
The process of refurbishing, restoring or reconditioning used lead acid - deep cycle batteries will be perfect for your Green Energy project and considerably cheaper too!
I’m sorry but we need to digress slightly, firstly to warn you that this article is quite long out of necessity to give you a more complete picture of the process and cover some of the Health and Safety issues inherant with the subjectand and secondly to answer one of the key question. “Are you aiming to live off the grid?” If you are then you should probably read on, if you have no real intention of doing this, then perhaps this article is a waste of your valuable time – you decide.
The usual definition of ‘living off the grid’ is simply that you are going to aim to produce and store electrical energy in chemical form (Storage batteries – which should always be deep cycle batteries), for use when your demand out-strips your supply from either wind turbines, solar panels or a combination of your different types of micro-generation.
You can live ‘Off The Grid’ successfully without deep cycle batteries, but you will need power storage to make life more comfortable with some form of electrical storage. Deep cycle batteries will be the likely facility, but only if you can generate enough electricity of your own to match your demand – in other words what you use or need to run everything in and around your home, from your lights to your washing machine, your freezer to your TV and PC. This will require power storage to be totally successful and lead acid deep cycle batteries are the answer. It’s likely that it will also require a pretty serious commitment from everyone in your household. Simply generating all of your own electrical power isn’t enough – you have to store it in deep cycle batteries for use when your demand is at its highest – evenings and night time.
Your primary goal here will be Total Independence from the normal electrical supply from utility companies. This will be because of either personal choice or necessity, because you live outside of the usual zone of supply where you have that choice anyhow.
Okay so you need deep cycle batteries because you want/need to store your electrical energy for use on demand. The most likely type of batteries that you will be using is what is known as lead acid - deep cycle batteries. For a more information on these battery terms please read another of our associated articles - ‘click’ here.
There are other types of deep cycle batteries that can be used, but this article is primarily about ‘How To’ refurbish/restore/recondition lead acid - deep cycle batteries. To put it in easily understandable terms, it’s the kind of battery you will find in Golf Carts and Fork Lift Trucks and not the normal auto battery found under the hood of your SUV or MPV. Car and truck lead acid batteries have no need to be deep cycle batteries.
Refurbishing deep cycle batteries.
If you want to get into the whole live ‘Off the Grid’ lifestyle then take a couple of minutes out from reading the rest of this article - ”How to Refurbish Lead Acid Deep Cycle Batteries” will be much more useful if you intend to put it to use straight away.
Be amongst the first to get access to this brand new guide. Just ’Click’ this link Recondition Batteries all of the most popular types are covered Lead Acid (Pb H2SO4), Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and even Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) as well as deep cycle batteries.
There are a number of common problems which lead acid batteries can suffer from (whether they are deep cycle batteries or not):
- Lead Sulphate crystal build-up.
- Debris build-up in the battery case sediment tray.
- Electrolyte contamination.
1 – Lead Sulphate is formed when the battery goes through a discharge cycle. Lead from the plates combines with dilute sulphuric acid (which is the major part of the ‘electrolyte’). The process is reversed to some degree during the next charging cycle. If however the battery is deeply discharged or left discharged for long periods (over winter for example) and then recharged there may be some lead sulphate crystal build-up on the lead plates inside your deep cycle batteries.
The build up causes a layer of crystals to act as an insulator which then reduces the deep cycle batteries performance up to a point where it will no longer function at a useful storage capacity. The deeper a standard lead acid battery is allowed to discharge the worse this crystallisation problem becomes. At this point, and in most cases resulting in the battery being discarded.
Lead acid – deep cycle batteries would probably be the ideal battery for you to obtain, probably for zero cost. You can then set about desulphation of the plates of your newly aquired deep cycle batteries (Also referred to as Reconditioning or Electrolyte Stratification).
You basically have a couple of options that will help you to recondition your free battery following a desulphation process.
Option A – You can buy a kit or the electronic components and set about building a Desulphation Pulse Generator, which probably will be way cheaper than buying a proprietary unit – it’s just you have to build and test it.
Option B – You buy a factory produced unit such as a ‘Sulfarid Battery Maximizer’ which is designed to generate Amplitude Modulated Pulses that shatter the lead sulphate crystals that have become attached to the battery plates. The route chosen will be down to your budget, technical abilities, or whether a friend or colleague will build a unit for you.
Option Bwould be my own personal choice for peace of mind.
Increased crystallisation on the battery plates can only be broken down or dissolved back into the electrolyte by increasing the charge voltage significantly, which can be hazardous to you and your deep cycle batteries – an exploding battery could be the result (very hazardous for you). The only real option is to use pulse conditioning – high voltage pulses of short duration.
Once a battery has successfully been reconditioned in this way, you can continue to use the process to minimise or even illuminate the problem completely. The life of your deep cycle batteries can be dramatically increased as much as two or three times, thereby returning the minimal investment cost in the health and safety equipment. You get a double whammy advantageif you reduce the need to recycle lead acid – deep cycle batteries by about two thirds, which will be a real benefit for any of your deep cycle batteries.
Resources for Information on Deep cycle batteries.
*You will find a number of links to some of these useful resources at the end of this article, some with more info about deep cycle batteries.
2 – Debris from the active lead paste that is pressed into the plate lattice frame does become dislodged over a period of time and settles at the bottom of the battery case. ALL lead acid battery cases and not just deep cycle batteries are equipped with sediment trays at the bottom of each cell. The active lead plates do not descend into this space which is provided solely for this sediment to settle into.
At some point this sediment tray for a single cell will become filled with this debris and short out the active plates in that cell, reducing the battery performance by approximately 17% with a stroke (assuming a 6 cell 12 volt battery). How long this sedimentation takes will depend on what sort of treatment the battery has been subjected to during its lifetime.
I have seen high quality automotive batteries fail within 3 years and others that have lasted 7 or 8 years with no issues at all. Just like your favourite shoes – give them some TLC (Tender Loving Care) and your deep cycle batteries will provide years of excellent service.
Failure through sedimentation can very often be identified by careful testing of the battery prior to spending any time or money try to resurrect totally ‘dead’ and useless deep cycle batteries. If your testing of each cell with a hydrometer shows that a single cell has failed then there is a very good chance that sediment is the result.
Assuming that you have identified a set of deep cycle batteries that you feel have a good chance of being restored to good health., you will need to follow some common sense Health and Safety guidelines which are detailed later on in this article. The electrolyte (A mix of Sulphuric acid and distilled water) will need to be emptied out into a suitable acid proof container – a glass vessel is ideal. Be sure that you let the deep cycle batteries fully drain. The electrolyte can either be sealed in a suitable marked container for safe disposal (an old glass wine/beer making demijohn would be ideal, providing that it is clearly marked as hazardous waste) or leave the electrolyte to settle and re-use once your deep cycle batteries have been washed out and left to drain/dry out.
Here is a useful New Post which might be useful to add to your knowledge – Backup Power; Alternative Energy Sources
Note: Deep cycle batteries are seriously heavy.
That means you are going to need adult assistance lifting and inverting (turning them over and holding them up) any decent size deep cycle batteries during the draining process. These things are seriously heavy and you don’t want to be causing yourself any injury…. this task is supposed to be worthwhile, money saving and fun – and Definately Not Painful!
Once you are suitably protected with safety gear (see Health & Safety) and your kids and/or animals are safely out of harm’s way, you can set about carefully washing out each cell, of the deep cycle batteries, with either distilled water or a hose connected to the mains water supply via a fawcett or tap. This process should be completed with caution so no damage to the structure of plates inside the deep cycle batteries. Do not under any circumstances wash this acidic waste down the normal water waste. You will be breaking a long list of regulations. You mat also contaminate the local water supply, as well as doing untold damage to the local environment.
There should be very little acid or debris to worry about if you drain it thoroughly in the first instance, but there is still a minor hazard and it will be better diluted with copious amounts of water. Once washed and again left to drain thoroughly the deep cycle batteries can then be refilled with either your settled and clear electrolyte or a fresh mix.
If you are going for a fresh mix then you will probably obtain this pre-mixed to the correct ratios from an automotive supplier or battery specialist. If you intend buying and mixing your own acid and distilled water you need to take specialist advice before attempting this. There are serious hazards associated with mixing these together incorrectly – frankly its better left to the experts.
Deep cycle batteries have cells marked with a maximum fill indicator either internally or marked on the outside of the semi-transparent case. Fill the cells to this maximum mark – Do Not over fill. Let the deep cycle batteries stand for a while and then check and top up as necessary. Follow the correct polarity when connecting your intelligent charger, with the unit switched off.
Don’t miss out! Just ‘Click’ the following link to get the latest guide on how to Recondition Batteries. All of the most popular types are covered Lead Acid (Pb H2SO4), Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and even Lithium Ion (Li-Ion).
Proceed to charge at the appropriate rate for the size and capacity of deep cycle batteries. If you aren’t sure about this then seek professional advice. Charging should only be carried out in a well ventilated area because of the oxygen/hydrogen gas produced during charging.
This is an explosive hazard. Only ever connect/disconnect the charger or connections with the unit switch off.
Failure to observe these safety protocols could result in a battery exploding in your face – literally!
If the plastic case shrapnel doesn’t get you then the acid surely will.
3 – Electrolyte Contamination is possible although unlikely, if it has occurred it may have been caused by the deep cycle batteries previous owner topping up the cells using tap water (a complete no-no), which possibly means the battery will be beyond help – truly ‘dead’. It might however be a single cell contaminated with dust and debris because a cell cap or top hasn’t been replaced. Proceed in the same way as for cleaning out the battery as described at 2, above.
Deep Cycle Batteries – Health and Safety (H & S).
*You should seek professional advice before attempting anything remotely connected with completing this process. If you don’t know what you are doing 100% safely then you are at serious risk of injury. Don’t be put off however; with a few very simple and sensible precautions you can complete this work safely and gain a very cheap set of deep cycle batteries.
To be fair, the investment in the correct Personal Protective Equipment (P.P.E) will be a good one, especially if you intend running a decent bank of deep cycle batteries for years to come. Also consider the fact that you could perhaps run a DIY refurbishment process for your family, friends and neighbours so that they can benefit from recycled deep cycle batteries.
There are other aspects of this process which need to be considered too – safe and proper waste disposal of the battery electrolyte (The distilled water and sulphuric acid mix). This requires adherence to some pretty serious legislation in most countries and states. You MUST refer to the legislation where you live – no question!
The following list of equipment is a minimum requirement for safely recycling any deep cycle batteries:
- A set of old clothes. That may seem blindingly obvious, but small splashes of electrolyte will at least discolour clothes, at worst result in acid burn holes in your denim jeans.
- A pair of long sleeved heavy duty rubber gloves (sometimes called gauntlets).
Safety face shield (safety glasses don’t give enough protection against splashes).
Rubber boots rather than soft shoes, preferably with safety toe caps.
Rubber apron or at least a heavy duty plastic variety.
This list might seem a bit excessive but the cost will probably be quite minimal as you may have some of these already, or you can borrow them and return them once you’ve finished your reconditioning your newly aquired deep cycle batteries. Follow the basic rule of ‘overkill’ rather than the bare minimum because these are your eyes, face and body we are talking about protecting here. Deep cycle batteries are never as important as your personal wellbeing.
When you are about to set too and get down to the reconditioning task of those deep cycle batteries, make sure that you have another adult on hand and a good water supply in easy reach. If all else fails your assistant will be able to give you a quick hose down! Trust me you probably want to be doing this in the warmer weather just in case. If you have ever visited a chemical plant you will have seen what appear to be outside open showers… these are exactly that, used to wash people in the event of accidental chemical splashes. No fun in warm weather let alone the dead of winter! It’s good safe practise get yourself prepared just in case you have an emergency while refurbishing any lead acid deep cycle batteries….Be Safe!
Investing in some pretty inexpensive safety equipment and technology, plus a little of your own time can pay excellent dividends by allowing you to build up a serious bank of deep cycle batteries that will cost you next to nothing. Truly you will find these batteries will be ‘given away’ for free, or little more than scrap values, whereas they could potentially cost $100’s (£100’s) if you go out and buy them new. Lead acid deep cycle batteries are your best option by far.
If you are ready to make the move and want to live ‘Off the Grid’ and need to know the ‘How-To’ get started with DIY Solar and Wind Energy? Let me make a suggestion where you should start if I may… take a look at this short video by clicking this link – Earth4Energy
By the way here are those links I promised you, with some useful resources.
Building your own DIY desulphation units/kits:
The ‘Sulfarid Battery Maximizer’ can be found here: http://sulfarid.com.my/sulfarid.htm
Only for the serious enthusiast, this last resource will keep you busy for quite a while, there’s more information on rejuvenating deep cycle batteries than you can ‘shake a stick’ at.
Don’t foreget you can find the All New Guide on How To Recondition Batteries all of the most popular types are covered Lead Acid (Pb H2SO4), Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and even Lithium Ion (Li-Ion).
Using recycled deep cycle batteries is a simple and effective method to store electrical energy that has been generated by your solar panels, wind turbine or Tesla generator and at a seriously reduced initial cost.