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Experienced Off-Grid Homesteaders Believe Flooded Lead Acid Batteries Are Still The Best Choice For Renewable Energy Systems

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.”

Camper Van Equipped With Solar And Battery Storage

Traveling Troy outfitted his Astro Van with a solar system and U.S. Battery AGM batteries for energy storage

Not many of us can pack up our van and head out onto the open road for extended periods, but Traveling Troy is a blogger who converted his Chevrolet Astro Van into a camper and is now enjoying the van life. “From the beginning of the build, I knew I wanted to be unplugged from the grid as much as possible,” says Troy. “I knew solar would be my main source of power, but we (my Dad and I) also installed the ability to use stored power and a battery isolator for those rainy days.”

Troy had no idea how many solar cells and batteries he would need, so he began listing all of the electronic components and how often he would use them. “To determine how many watts of solar and the battery size needed, I listed all the power consuming items I planned to use while traveling,” says Troy. “This included my laptop, cellphone, gadgets, fridge, and others.”  U.S. Battery has an Interactive Energy Chart that helps determine battery storage requirements on the U.S. Battery websites. “We took the estimated watt usage from each of these items and determined how many hours or minutes a day I would use them,” he says. “This gave us an idea of maximum daily consumption.”

camper van power center Realizing how much power he was going to need, Troy says he figured to utilize as much of the van’s rooftop for solar panels. “It was decided that we would go as big as we could go with the limited space,” says Troy.  “That ended up being 300 watts of solar panels on the roof of the van and two 6 volt batteries with 210 amp hours inside the van.”

Troy decided to use U.S. Battery AGM deep-cycle batteries because of their compact size and because he wanted something maintenance-free. “We knew space was going to be limited in the small Astro van and every inch mattered,” says Troy. “The battery compartment was no exception.  We chose U.S. Battery AGMs because we wanted a deep cycle battery that was reliable, maintenance free and spill proof.  The plan was to install the batteries in the back corner of the van and build around them.  The area above the batteries and around the batteries was valuable build space.  Two years later, and the U.S. Battery AGM batteries are still going strong.”

The solar system installed in his camper van is a custom build, but many of the pieces are readily available. “Our solar systems consist of Three Renogy 100 watt Monocrystalline solar panels run in parallel to a Renogy PMW solar controller which charges two 6-volt AGM 2000 batteries from U.S. Battery,” says Troy. “All the components are neatly packed into our ‘Power Center’ which uses what would normally be wasted space around the back passenger wheel well of the van.  Some of the components include a 200-watt inverter, 12-volt cigarette plug, shore power breaker and shore power battery charger.”

power center 2 (1)So far, the system has worked well and Troy has had enough power to live out of the van and explore the country. “I’m in the third week of a 3-month road trip and it has been really amazing being on the road full-time and living out of the van, off the grid,” says Troy. “My plan is to explore Arizona and visit the Grand Canyon for my birthday.  Then I’ll be exploring Southern Utah and the Mighty Five National Parks.  Finally, I’m hoping to meet up with my dad and step-mom in Colorado while they’re on a road trip.”

Troy chronicles his trips and the continuous build-up of his camper van on his social media pages, travelingtroy.com. Additional information and videos on the camper van build are on Troy’s YouTube page. www.youtube.com/c/Travelingtroy.

 

 

 

Selecting The Right Combination of Batteries For An Energy Storage System

Having backup power or being completely off-grid involves having batteries to store energy from your solar array. Most of the difficulty in doing this is determining the amount of energy use and storage capacity you will need. This step-by-step guide and interactive calculator can make it easy to determine your energy requirements and how to build your battery storage system accordingly.

U.S. Battery makes it incredibly easy to determine your energy needs with an Interactive Battery Calculator. The calculator has a variety of typical lighting, electronic devices, and appliances listed on the chart. Simply add in the number of these items and the percentage of time the items will be used. The chart applies your input to determine the total power load in Watts.

USBattery-Calculator

 

After the calculator gives you your total power in Watts, input that number into the U.S. Battery, Battery Sizing Chart. This interactive chart allows you to plug in your nominal voltage (which is usually based on the inverter of the system) and expected load operating hours. The tool will automatically calculate your System Amp-hour capacity while also determining your Required Battery Amp-hour Capacity. The chart also gives you an idea of the most efficient number of batteries required for your system.