Many households that want to reduce their electric use or ultimately rely on natural energy have turned to solar power. It’s also a great source of backup power in the case of blackouts. Whatever your reason is, we at Davis & Green Services believe that having an excellent solar battery will make your investment worth the while. That being said, if you’re considering solar power, you’re probably wondering how long a solar battery lasts.
Generally, within the lifespan of your solar system, you may need to replace your battery at least once. Most solar batteries will last between five and 15 years. That being said, five to 15 years is a pretty big range, so let’s look at what goes into determining that expectation.
What Determines Your Battery’s Lifespan?
Manufacturers typically assume that you’ll maintain your home’s battery, getting it serviced regularly and making sure it’s not exposed to harsh weather. Along with that, there are three main factors that can impact your solar battery’s life expectancy.
1. Type of Battery
Not all types of batteries function the same, and that holds true for solar batteries as well. There are three major types of solar batteries available for home use: lead-acid, saltwater, and lithium-ion.
Lead-acid batteries are some of the most common solar batteries, given that they’re relatively inexpensive compared to the other options and have been in use for a longer period of time. Lead-acid batteries tend to require more maintenance than other types, and they have a lower depth of discharge (DoD), which we’ll cover below.
Saltwater batteries are newer to the market than their lead-acid counterparts and tend to be more expensive. Where lead-acid batteries use acid, as you might assume, these batteries use salt water to conduct electricity and store it. They usually have more capacity than lead-acid batteries, which often gives them a longer life expectancy.
The third major type of solar battery is lithium-ion, which you might already be familiar with; most portable devices, from gaming handhelds to cellphones, use Li-ion batteries. When it comes to solar batteries, lithium-ion ones are typically smaller and lighter than saltwater or lead-acid batteries, and they’re often sturdier and have a higher DoD. This gives them a longer lifespan than their counterparts, but that tends to come at a higher up-front cost.
Like other types of batteries, your solar battery’s lifespan will differ depending on how you use it. This is where the depth of discharge (DoD) we mentioned earlier comes in. At its simplest, the maximum DoD refers to the charge percentage you should keep your battery at or above. For example, if a battery manufacturer specifies a DoD of 40%, it means that, ideally, the battery charge shouldn’t fall below 40%.
You won’t quite damage your battery if you let its charge go lower than the specified DoD, but over time, it will contribute to degradation and shorten its overall lifespan. In most cases, you’ll find that lead-acid batteries have a lower DoD, meaning that they need to be kept closer to their max capacity. Lithium-ion batteries tend to have the highest DoD, with saltwater batteries falling somewhere in the middle.
It’s important to make sure you check your battery’s documentation for the DoD, and it’s just as necessary to be aware of the manufacturer’s warranty terms. Most manufacturers state the length of period or number of cycles that they guarantee the battery will last, but after that, any fault in the system will not be their fault. It is crucial that you keep the warranty documents safe and use the battery as required. If any problem arises within the specified time, you need to return the battery for a replacement.
3. Storage Environment
Most manufacturers recommend storing solar batteries in a cool and dry environment. However, each battery has its limit of temperatures that it can tolerate. Extreme heat causes the chemicals to overwork and wears out the battery faster than usual. On the other hand, cold environments make it slow down and drain more quickly.
You should ensure lead-acid batteries remain at a temperature between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Saltwater batteries usually perform best between 23 and 104 degrees, and lithium-ion units tolerate 0 to 140 degrees.
If you’re installing a solar battery array for the first time, your technician will be able to help you find the best place to store it. It’ll usually be in a temperature-controlled room where the battery can connect to your solar panels without being exposed to the elements, but you’ll need to work with your professional to figure out what suits your home best.
How to Ensure Your Battery Will Last
Though your battery’s life will vary, as mentioned above, there are a variety of things you can do to help keep yours in tip-top shape. Talk with your technician to determine how many batteries you need for your home; they’ll be able to advise you on what the ideal number is and what is too many. Otherwise, there are a few things you can do.
Rotate Your Batteries
In most cases, you’ll have an array that contains multiple solar batteries. Be sure to rotate them regularly to ensure that they charge evenly; think of it like rotating the tires on your car, as batteries can charge and discharge unevenly, similar to how the tires on a car can wear down differently depending on their position.
Keep Them Charged
Don’t let your batteries sit empty for long periods of time. As we mentioned above, it’s usually best to keep your battery’s DoD in mind when using it. The longer a battery sits empty, the less capacity it will have overall.
Many battery additives claim to lengthen the life of the battery and help it work better overall. In general, though, batteries are made and tested without any of these additives. It’s safest to use the battery as directed by the manufacturer.
Equalize Your Batteries
“Equalizing,” in the context of batteries, refers to a specific overcharging process done in a controlled manner. This can help keep all of your batteries in shape and maintain them together so that they don’t have uneven capacities. Talk with your technician to determine the right equalization plan for you.
Hire a Professional
The long and short of it is that your solar battery can last anywhere from five years to 15 years. Ultimately, you’ll want to take care of your batteries to make sure they last as long as possible. Start by hiring a professional to install your solar power system and its batteries so you can rest easy knowing it’s done right. At Davis & Green Services, we’ve been serving the Richmond area since 1984 and have the know-how to get the job done well.
We also provide a variety of heating, cooling, and plumbing services. In addition, we offer a full range of electrical services and strive to treat everyone the way we would want to be treated ourselves. Reach out to us today to get started on your solar power journey!