Batteries used for energy storage are necessary for any off-grid homestead or cabin. For experienced off-grid homesteaders, managing power storage from renewable energy sources is something they become good at, and over the years, the choice of batteries for experienced homesteaders like Allan Sindelar, a licensed electrician, and homesteader who has been living off-grid for more than 25 years, he still prefers deep-cycle flooded lead-acid batteries (FLA) for the job. “Few off-grid installers have been selecting, installing, and maintaining batteries long enough to learn from entire battery life cycles,” said Sindelar in his article The Best Batteries For Your Off-Grid Battery Bank that was published in Mother Earth News. “Without much long-term data, we tend to use what has worked previously, rather than trying new and possibly expensive approaches.”
Sindelar recalls when early homesteaders were using two car batteries 30 years ago, but once the FLA batteries became more affordable, off-grid homesteaders settled on using the L16 FLA batteries for their performance and reliability. “These are well-sized for small-to-medium systems and are available at a relatively low cost.” Sindelar also says in his article that experienced homesteaders are often better at performing routine maintenance which can lead to FLA batteries lasting greater than six years or more.
With other battery types trickling into the off-grid industry, Sindelar believes the data isn’t there to determine if they are a better solution over the long-run. “While tremendous advances are taking place in battery development, most are based around increasing a battery’s performance and energy density per pound, that is, lightweight, high-capacity batteries for electric vehicles and portable applications,” says Sindelar. “In homestead systems, weight isn’t a key factor. For most homesteaders, conventional flooded lead-acid batteries still fit this bill best.”
The appeal of batteries with no maintenance is big among new homesteaders, but Sindelar believes there are drawbacks. “Sealed batteries are substantially more expensive and more susceptible to damage from overcharging,” says Sindelar. “They’re well-suited to homeowners who don’t want to perform their own battery maintenance, as the charge for professional service several times each year adds up. This group might include many newcomers to off-grid living, who value the benefits but don’t desire the DIY involvement of earlier generations.”
As battery technology increases Sindelar believes it’s a good idea to use tried-and-true flooded lead-acid batteries until the various choices of batter types become clear in this form of use. “Homesteaders may want to consider waiting through one more set of batteries before trying lithium or other emerging technologies. Superior technologies are coming, and prices will drop as PV module prices have dropped in recent years, but we’re not there quite yet.”