Solar power is a great investment. Not only is it better for the environment, but it can save you money on utility bills in the long run, easily offsetting the initial up-front cost of your system. However, just like any other battery-powered system, the batteries for solar energy don’t last forever.
In general, most solar batteries will last anywhere between five and 15 years. However, several factors determine just how much life you will get out of your solar battery. Here are a few things you can do to maximize your solar battery’s lifespan.
To understand how quickly a solar battery dies, it’s important to understand what its depth of discharge (DoD) rate is. Basically, a solar battery’s DoD rate is the opposite of its charging rate. The DoD rate indicates how quickly the power is cycled in and out of a battery during one cycle.
Type of Battery
The type of solar battery you have will directly impact how much life you get out of the battery. While some batteries are less expensive than others, you may have to replace them more often. Thus, a cheap battery may end up costing you more. There are three main types of solar batteries: lithium-ion, lead-acid, and saltwater.
Lithium-ion batteries are considered the gold standard because they’re highly efficient. They are the most compact of all the solar battery types, and they have both a higher DoD and longer lifespan than their counterparts.
Although lithium-ion batteries are considered the “best,” they tend to be the most expensive type of solar battery. However. lithium-ion batteries aren’t quite as expensive as they once were because the higher demand for them has led to manufacturers producing more of them. This, in turn, led to them becoming much more attainable — and affordable — than they once were. They remain a sound choice for solar batteries, but they are still probably the priciest choice on the market.
On the other hand, lead-acid batteries are one of the most affordable types of solar batteries. Consequently, they are among the most frequently used ones. They’ve been used in off-grid systems for decades, but they tend to have a shorter lifespan than their lithium-ion counterparts. They have a much shorter DoD rate than lithium-ion batteries, so they aren’t quite as efficient as lithium-ion ones. They’ll cycle more frequently, which will lead to them deteriorating more quickly.
Saltwater batteries are unique from both lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries. Whereas lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries both contain heavy metals, saltwater batteries do not. Instead, they are powered via saltwater electrolytes, hence their name.
Saltwater batteries are more environmentally friendly than both lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, and they’re easier to recycle. They’re considered the safest of all the battery types. However, they aren’t as well tested as the other two types since they’re newer to the market, and while they usually last longer than lead-acid batteries, they usually won’t last as long as lithium-ion ones.
How much power you use affects how long your solar battery lasts. The life expectancy of a solar battery is heavily influenced by its usage cycles. Most solar batteries are deep-cycle ones, which means that they discharge most of their energy (around 80%) before they recharge. The more usage cycles a battery goes through, the more quickly its lifespan will decrease.
Some solar batteries must be manually discharged before you can recharge them. However, there are other types that automatically stop charging when they sense that they’re overcharging. Just like electronic devices such as your computer or phone, overcharging your solar battery can wear it out faster. If you have an off-grid system that uses battery power every day, it won’t last as long as one on a grid-tied system that only uses power primarily as a backup when your main power goes out.
Most manufacturers have a recommended DoD written on their batteries suggesting what optimal usage for the batteries is. Using the manufacturer-recommended DoD can help lengthen the lifespan of your battery. If you continuously push your battery beyond its manufacturer-recommended DoD, then you’ll drain it much more quickly and shorten its lifespan.
The temperature of your solar battery also affects how long it lasts. You don’t want an environment that is too hot or too cold for your solar battery. Exposing the battery to harsh elements puts more wear and tear on it and makes it work harder.
In extremely hot temperatures, the chemical reactions in the batteries happen more quickly to break the battery down. In extremely cold temperatures, the electrons in the battery will slow down, and the chemicals won’t last as long as they otherwise would. This leads to the battery draining much more quickly than it otherwise would.
The summers in Marshfield, Massachusetts are generally warm and humid with average temperatures around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The winters can be a bit harsher with average lows around 24 degrees Fahrenheit, so you might want to have your solar battery installed indoors if you live in this area.
The ideal temperature for batteries based on type is as follows:
- Lithium ion: 0–140 degrees Fahrenheit
- Lead acid: 40–80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Saltwater: 23–104 degrees Fahrenheit
You can store your batteries indoors or outdoors, but the best place is generally in a garage or basement that’s somewhat climate-controlled and out of the elements.
Just like with anything else, how well you maintain your solar battery will directly affect how long it lasts. If you never perform maintenance on your battery, you’ll probably cut years off its expected lifespan. However, if you get a professional to inspect your unit annually and perform routine maintenance on it, you’ll be kept apprised of any minor issues that arise so that you can address them before they morph into major ones. Maintaining a solar system typically costs $150–$300 per year, whereas repairs to a damaged solar system can cost well up into the thousands.
Contact the Professionals
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