Battery

new-testing-reveals-photo-640x427I've always wondered whether Firefly batteries really do charge faster than conventional lead-acid batteries, as the Firefly people tell us. There is oodles of information on the discharge characteristics in the Firefly blurb, but nothing much regarding this high-speed charging phenomenon. Well, now I know.

But let's first look at Lithium batteries because nothing can currently compare to their spectacular charging capabilities in their many forms.

These types of battery have the ability to suck in practically whatever amps the charging source can deliver, all the way through from start to finish, and such is their thirst that we really don't yet have charging sources powerful enough to satisfy their craving. Lithium batteries have an addiction: they're hooked on amps and all they want is more!

Those familiar with the now-standard 3-step Lead Acid charging routine of Bulk, Acceptance, and then Float stages will appreciate that, because Lithium batteries do not have to suffer through the painfully long, drawn-out Acceptance stage, they will recharge in a fraction of the time of Lead Acid equivalents.

Because of this, charging sources for Lithium batteries, especially alternators, need to be specially adapted and/or controlled in anticipation of them being forced to deliver their maximum amps output for the entire length of time of the charge. Ignoring this little nugget may well end in a debilitating melt-down, and I mean that quite literally!

Apart from the zippy charging, lithium battery systems will also last several thousands of cycles longer than conventional Lead Acid batteries, do not have to be fully recharged each cycle, can be discharged to deep levels, and are about half the weight. But they are also expensive, complicated, can't be charged when temperatures are at/below freezing, and for some they carry a scarily high fear-factor.

But wait a minute .... the Firefly is not a conventional Lead Acid battery, so let's compare its attributes to Lithium.

firefly-oasis-g31-psoc-agm-batteryWhat's so special about this pesky Firefly Oasis battery that I'm tripping over everywhere I go?

The word seems to be out about the Firefly Oasis battery. So much so, in fact, that we seem incapable of keeping them in stock, and the manufacturer is so swamped that they can’t produce enough of them!

What is it about this battery that has stirred up so much interest? Maybe it has the same sort of allure that the Ford Model T did back in the day. With a choice of just one size, it can be ordered in any color as long as it’s a rather fetching green and blue, something that wouldn’t look out of place on the mantelpiece at Christmas.

Or maybe some folk are keeping them as pets, showing them off to fellow boaters in between feeding them freshly charged volts and cleaning up their discharge.  No, there must be more to it ….

It’s a Group 31 AGM battery - Nothing ground-breaking there. It’s a  VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid), AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat), PSOC (Partial State Of Charge) battery, for all you AL’s (acronym lovers) out there. It’s a nominal 12 volt battery containing lead and acid and is no lightweight, weighing in at 75 pounds. It has comparable capacity to other Group 31 batteries and has similar charging requirements. No super-acidic acid; no extra heavy lead; no kryptonite or unobtainium. Pretty boring so far, so what’s the big deal?

dead-batteryWe spend considerable time and effort trying to help boat operators understand how to look after their batteries, but we still hear of way too many premature deaths. So in an effort to get the message across from a different angle, we offer the following advice on how to inflict serious harm and punishment on expensive batteries without really trying.

Simply put, there are three main types of abuse you can employ to kill or maim your batteries:

  • Excessive heat
  • Physical damage (including vibration), and
  • Poor charging routines

The first two I hope to be self explanatory, but the third requires some detailed explanation.

Flooded lead acid batteries, including AGM's, don't like being left for extended periods in a partially charged state. Doing so allows some of the lead sulfate crystals that form naturally on the negative plate during the discharge process to harden to the point where they can't then be dissolved the next time the battery is charged. This is known as sulfation which leads to an increasing loss of useable capacity as more and more crystals harden.

SPS-M215B BlueBatteryA customer recently purchased four Meridian SPS215B AGM batteries from us for his yacht's house bank. He asked these basic, good questions:

How low can the voltage drop before starting to recharge?

Answer: Recharging when the battery gets no lower than 50% State of Charge (SOC) will result in a reasonable cycle life. For the Meridian battery, this is around 12.2 volts. Recharging at a lower SOC is possible, but will shorten the cycle life of the battery.

How fast can the battery be charged - how many amp/hours is the charger allowed to charge without damage to the batteries?

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