Solar-Powered Rechargeable Batteries and Battery Chargers
With the rise of solar-powered devices, solar rechargeable batteries have become a staple nowadays. From powering solar lights, phones, tablets to RVs and boats, solar rechargeable batteries have proved to be today’s lifesaver.
Well, to enjoy the functionality of solar-powered rechargeable batteries, they must be frequently topped up. This is where solar battery chargers come in.
Impressively, solar battery chargers can be used anywhere as long as there’s sunlight. Who wouldn’t like this kind of convenience?
Want to learn more about solar-powered rechargeable batteries and battery chargers? This is the ideal information resource for you.
What is a Solar-Powered Rechargeable Battery and How Does It Work?
A Solar-powered rechargeable battery is an electric battery that stores the energy harnessed by a solar panel to be used afterward. These batteries can be charged, used then recharged several times before they die.
The basic components of these batteries are the:
- Cathode (positive electrode)
- Anode (negative electrode),
- An electrolyte (the medium where electrons flow).
Charging occurs at the anode, while discharge occurs at the cathode.
For larger rechargeable solar batteries charged with a series of solar panels, a circuit breaker such as a fuse may be built-in to prevent overcharging.
Despite a high initial cost, solar rechargeable batteries are cost-effective since they serve you for a long.
Here are some common terms used in the scope of solar rechargeable batteries:
Voltage- This is the sum of oxidation and reduction potential of the battery or simply the potential for energy stored in the battery.
Charging cycles- This is the maximum number of times a solar rechargeable battery can be recharged.
Lifespan/ shelf life- Time a solar rechargeable battery can stay without losing its full capacity.
Charging time- The time it takes to charge a solar rechargeable battery fully.
Depth of discharge- The fraction of capacity removed from a fully charged battery during a discharge.
Self-discharge- The reduction of a battery’s stored charge without an external connection. Usually happens due to chemical reactions in the battery.
Amp-hour- This is a rating showing the amount of energy a solar rechargeable battery can store. The higher the rating, the longer the battery will run on a single charge.
Aging- This is the continuous reduction in the capacity and power capabilities of batteries as they approach the end of their useful life.
What is a Solar Battery Charger and How Does It Work?
A solar battery charger is a type of charger specifically made for charging solar rechargeable batteries.
The charger is usually integrated with a solar panel (mainly on the top lid) that collects solar energy and converts it to power used to charge a solar rechargeable battery. A typical charger has wires to connect the solar panel to the battery.
To prevent the reverse flow of power, solar battery chargers have an inbuilt blocking diode. Some models will, in addition to this pack in a charge controller. A built-in meter is the commonly used display component for these chargers.
Features to look for in a solar battery charger:
- It should be versatile (charge a number of solar-powered rechargeable batteries)
- Preferably small and lightweight for portability
- The solar panel should be adjustable for optimum collection of sunlight
- Compact build and satisfactorily durable
People often think that solar batteries chargers are not as powerful as conventional ones. However, you should know that the production technology has been highly advanced and the models produced today are as good as the conventional ones.
Solar Battery Charger Vs. Solar Battery Maintainer
A solar battery charger is often confused with a solar battery maintainer, but here is what you should know about these two devices:
- A solar battery charger charges at a constant rate and will take a constant period of time to charge a battery of a given capacity. Solar battery maintainers have a circuit that detects the battery’s charge level and charges it variably according to demand.
- The maintainer turns off when the battery is fully charged, but a charger must be unplugged to prevent overcharging when the battery is full.
- Solar battery maintainers charge at a pretty faster rate compared to solar battery chargers.
- Solar battery maintainers are suitable for large capacity rechargeable batteries connected to a PV system, while battery chargers are perfect for smaller batteries.
Solar Rechargeable Batteries vs. Non-Rechargeable Batteries
The main difference between these two is that solar rechargeable batteries can be recharged and reused several times. In contrast, non-rechargeable batteries are sold fully charged and are discarded after use.
The size and voltages of these two types of batteries are, in most cases, similar, so they can be used interchangeably.
However, non-rechargeable batteries are less preferred since they cost more in the long despite their lower initial price. Additionally, they have the potential to pollute the environment since they’re disposed of after a certain period.
What will happen if you charge non-rechargeable batteries with solar chargers?
The battery seal will overheat, and the battery will eventually explode. Definitely, on explosion, the chemicals (usually the electrolyte) will spill. In some cases, the battery may produce harmful gas.
These are serious health hazards, so please don’t even think of experimenting with this.
Types of Solar Rechargeable Batteries
Here is a table showing the common types of solar rechargeable batteries and some crucial factors you should consider when buying them.
|Battery Type||Average cost/Voltage/ Charging frequency||Charging cycles||Depth of discharge||Lifespan||Special features|
|Nickel-cadmium (NiCd)||$1 for a 1.2V AA 600mAH||1000 cycles||80%||5 years||Low self-discharge|
|Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)||$1.5 for a 1.2V AA 800mAH||1000 cycles||60-90%||5 years||Fewer toxic metals|
|Nickel Iron (NiFE)||$100 for a 1.2V, 400AH||5000 cycles||65-80%||10-15 years||Relatively long life|
|Sodium Nickel Chloride battery||$90 12V 100AH||1000-4000|
|85%||10-15 years||Very eco-friendly|
|Lithium-ion||$200 for a 12V 100AH||5000-6000 cycles||80-90%||15 years||Long lifespan|
|Lead-acid||$50 for a 12V 18AH||500-1200 cycles||60%||5 years||Cheaper at their capacity|
|Flow batteries (Zinc and Bromide)||$1500 for a 48V 115AH||4000cycles||100%||10-15 years||100% depth of discharge|
As evident from the table above, there’re various types and ‘sizes’ of solar rechargeable batteries and you can choose the one that’ll fulfill your specific power needs:
- The small 1.2V AA batteries can be used in series to power small devices.
- A 12V battery can be used on a car, boat, or RV.
- The large 48V 100+AH battery can, for example, serve your entire home.
Choosing the best Solar Batteries Chargers
When choosing a solar battery charger, you should ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. What equipment or battery do I need to charge?
There’re solar battery chargers for cars, boats, RVs, small devices such as cell phones and tablets, etc.
If, for example, the charger is for a boat, it should be waterproof. Solar battery chargers for small devices should be portable since they will frequently be moved from one place to another.
2. Do I need a multifunctional charger?
You heard it right-some solar chargers can charge multiple devices or several types of batteries even at a go.
So, if you have several solar-powered devices and equipment in your home, you can definitely acquire a multifunctional one and enjoy the convenience it comes with.
3. What is the cost of the solar battery charger?
Solar battery chargers’ cost averages below the $100 mark, but this may vary according to the solar battery charger’s use, model, and capability.
Here are example costs of solar battery chargers for various uses:
- Cars battery charger $50
- Boat charger $150
- RVs charger $70
- Charger for small devices such as cell phones and tablets $70
Guided by the type of battery charger for solar batteries you want, get several quotes, compare prices and settle for the best deal.
How to Charge Solar-Powered Rechargeable Batteries?
To charge rechargeable batteries, you need:
- Your solar rechargeable batteries
- A battery rack if you want to charge multiple small-sized batteries
- A solar battery charger
Here’s the standard charging procedure
1. Set up the battery charger in a place where its solar panel can harness enough energy from the sun
2. Put your batteries in a battery rack if you’re using smaller ones. For the larger one, just bring it to a distance where the charger’s terminal wires can reach its terminals
3. Connect the positive terminal of the solar charger’s wires to the positive metal terminal of the battery or battery rack
4. Leave the set up to charge the batteries until they are full. You’ll know that the battery is fully charged by checking the reading on the charger’s meter
It should take around 2 hours to charge a couple of AA batteries with a standard solar charger and approximately 5-8 hours to charge a 12V solar rechargeable battery.
If you have large rechargeable batteries connected to the grid equipped with a maintainer, you may leave them attached overnight.
How long do solar power batteries last after a full charge?
On a full charge, a solar-powered rechargeable battery should last for 1-5 days or 24-100hours depending on model and form of usage. If the battery is subject to heavy use, it’ll definitely run for a shorter period.
If you notice your solar rechargeable batteries dying fast than expected, its controller is probably faulty. Keeping the battery fully discharged for long may also cause it to drain too fast when it’s eventually charged.
Most solar rechargeable batteries can be charged at least 1000 times.
Lifespan and Maintenance of Solar Rechargeable Batteries and Battery Chargers
The average life of a solar rechargeable battery is 5-15 years (check the table provided above).
Lithium-ion solar batteries are the most durable, so you can consider them for your next purchase. For a solar battery charger, expect it to power your battery for around 500 cycles.
The ready-to-use solar rechargeable batteries can be kept sitting for up to a year without losing charge.
The aging of solar rechargeable batteries will depend on how you maintain them. Here are some maintenance tips you should consider:
- Use a battery terminal cleaner brush and a mixture of water and baking soda to clean the battery terminals
- Apply a non-hardening sealant to the battery terminals to prevent corrosion
- Tighten any loose battery connections
- Wipe the batteries with a clean cloth to remove any dirt that may be accumulating
For the charger, the integrated panel is the component that’s likely to get damaged, so clean it regularly.
Pros and Cons of Solar-Powered Rechargeable Batteries and Battery Chargers
- They help you save extra electricity is connected to a PV system
- They save you money in the long run
- Batteries can be used on the move to power devices (Very convenient)
- Chargers can be used anywhere there’s sunlight
- They tap into a cleaner source of energy
- They can help you decrease your carbon footprint
- Great efficiency and performance
- Many have embraced smart technology, thus minimizing energy wastage
- Low maintenance
- High initial cost
- Low capacity for the batteries
- Chargers for solar rechargeable batteries need to be replaced after around 500 cycles
Can solar batteries be charged from the plug?
Solar technology is different from the technology employed for conventional batteries, so it’s not suitable to charge solar batteries from the grid. Use a solar batteries charger instead.
Investing in solar rechargeable batteries and a solar battery charger is one of the brilliant decisions you can make right now.
You’ll save money ultimately, have the power to charge your devices even when there’s an outage, and enjoy the performance and great efficiency with highly user-friendly solar batteries and a charger.
Simply put, it’s an investment that’ll make your life easy, now more than ever.
Don’t forget that this technology is earth-friendly, and it’ll actually reduce your carbon footprint!