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  #1  
Old 10-30-2011
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Batteries & Winter Storage

So a boat I am probably bringing home has 2 banks of one battery each. Wired for shore power as well. So I am wondering as it will be soon snowy and cold here, what would be the best way to store the batteries.
  • Leave them in the boat and connect up the shore power and keep them charged.
  • Bring them inside and keep them on a charger in the house.
  • Let them be and charge them in the spring before I put her in the water.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-30-2011
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I charge them with a proper 3 stage charger and remove the grounds over the winter so no parasitic loads can run them down

For example my i have a few things that draw 15 to 50 milliamp and would run the battery down over 4 to 5 months if left connected


In the cold there self discharge is very slow with the ground removed
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Old 10-30-2011
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You didn't say what kind of batteries you have.

Gelled and AGM types have much lower self-discharge rates than do flooded batteries. While you might get away with fully charging the first two types and leaving them over the winter, I wouldn't do that. Much better to keep them on charge, with an appropriate smart charger.

For flooded batteries, you really do want to keep them on a charge, either in the boat or at home. Again, you need a smart charger which will float the batteries at an appropriate voltage level.

Flooded batteries left in a boat over the winter can freeze if they aren't well charged. You don't want that.

Bill
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Old 10-30-2011
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Not sure what kind they are yet. Won't be seeing the boat until next weekend. I am leaning towards pulling them out and putting them on a charger in the basement. Freezing would be bad. And it can get a bit chilly up here.
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Old 10-30-2011
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CB,
I have a similar battery situation as you with 2 - 12V batts, and yes, mine are wet cell Group 27 or 31 batteries. I have been doing as suggested in this thread and keeping the batts on a 3 stage charger in a non-heated garage over the winter in lower NY state. As TomMays mentioned, batteries discharge at a lower rate on colder temps. In MN I'd probably opt for the basement as well.
We had to replace both batteries this summer but they were both 6 - 7 years old which is about an average expected lifespan. A ten year lifespan for a battery bank would be great.
PS - you have wet cell or standard lead acid batteries IF there is a fill cap for putting distilled water inside the cells.
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Last edited by CalebD; 10-30-2011 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 10-30-2011
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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
You didn't say what kind of batteries you have.

Gelled and AGM types have much lower self-discharge rates than do flooded batteries. While you might get away with fully charging the first two types and leaving them over the winter, I wouldn't do that. Much better to keep them on charge, with an appropriate smart charger.

For flooded batteries, you really do want to keep them on a charge, either in the boat or at home. Again, you need a smart charger which will float the batteries at an appropriate voltage level.

Flooded batteries left in a boat over the winter can freeze if they aren't well charged. You don't want that.

Bill
Bill,

My batts have not left the boat in 20 years+. Perhaps because when I was young my folks lived in Alaska and I saw batteries operate at temps than can freeze spit before it lands that I am not inclined to buy into the "dread and fear" of cold storing batts. While they don't have a lot of "capacity" or CA at those temps they do last a good long while.

Cold weather actually benefits and can extend the life of lead acid batteries. It dramatically slows self discharge and can also slow the sulfation process way down as the self discharge is considerably slower in colder temps. While most manufacturers don't recommend storing at temps below 32F when I questioned a few, Crown, US Battery & East Penn they admitted this is because people often attempt to store discharged batteries and then they try to charge them frozen so it is more of a "liability" reason than scientific.

The batteries must obviously be topped up to prevent freezing and if they are they can be good for a couple months in-between charges, if the winter temps stay cold. They should also be completely disconnected so parasitic loads don't kill them. A fully charged battery won't freeze until -72. In the last 20 years we have had winters with down to -30 and my batteries were fine.

Last winter I actually paid attention to this. I charged them to full in early November and purposely did not put a charge on them again until early April just to see the effect cold had on self discharge. The batteries were still at a resting open circuit voltage of 12.68 volts and this was confirmed with an SG test and the same DVM I had used in the fall. Full on this bank is about 12.73V. If they had been in my basement I would have needed to top them up every three to four weeks due to the much higher temps and accelerated self discharge.

I have a bunch of deep cycle marine batteries sitting around my shop. In the summer I need to flip the charger on about once every two to three weeks to keep the batts at full charge. In the winter I rarely flip it on as they just don't self discharge at anywhere near the rate they do in warmer temps. I purposely store them in my unheated shed not in my heated basement or garage..

Like you I do test my batteries, load, calculated discharge, capacitance and pulsed load testing, and get tremendous life out of ordinary cheap "deep cycle" wet cells despite storing them in cold temps and never float or trickle charging them. Leaving them off charge for multiple months last winter I thought for sure I wold see some stratification but the SG tests did not show it. Course I drain & re-fill the hydrometer three times on each cell so that may have a "mixing effect" that helps stir up the electrolyte in each cell? Ideally I think they should be topped up a few times over the winter if for no other reason to get the electrolyte rolling..

I don't trickle or float, other than solar in the summer, and still will likely easily see 7+ years out of a $210.00 375 Ah bank.. Ending year five in a few weeks and performance is still exceptional under all tests. This spring they put up about 98% of new Ah capacity in both a 25A load test to 10.5v and a 20 hour load test to 10.5V... Two days ago the bank put up 2486 CCA as measured with my Argus 500. This was actually within 3 CCA of where it had been in the spring and 3CA higher.. Of course that 3 CCA is well within any margin of error and that is what I expect it is not that the batts got healthier. While I prefer the Midtronics capacitance testers the Argus is very repeatable..

I have become a strong believer that my banks actually have better health because they are cold stored and not constantly floated. Was speaking with an East Penn engineer a few months ago and he said they actually advise against constant trickle charging and sent me this (the bolding is theirs):

"NEVER leave a battery on a trickle charger longer than
48 hours. Serious damage to the battery WILL occur. "

Lifeline Battery also advise against this..

Of course this is an entirely controversial debate in and of itself with no clear conclusion I have been able to decipher.

All I know is that my customers in marina's who charge 24/7 have far worse outcomes, on average, than do my customers who use solar to keep the batts up. As my solar customer base grows perhaps this will even out.. I suspect "proper" float charging is fine but I also suspect most people are not "properly" floating. For example a very small % of the chargers I work on that have temp compensation are actually using it...

In mid October I had to replace a bank of T105's that were only 4.5 seasons old. Very few cycles, guy hardly uses his boat, but when I looked into the cells the plates looked spongy and eaten away. Had been floated with a Xantrex Freedom and the charge profile was "correct" based on what the Xantrex manual states.. This is not an uncommon event I see with my dock side customers who tie up and plug in..

I suspect, like you've found, many of these chargers are floating too low... My Genasun MPPT solar controller floats at 13.8V but only for 4-5 hours per day, if that, depending upon weather.. ... Thoughts??
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 10-30-2011 at 11:22 PM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
Bill,

My batts have not left the boat in 20 years+. Perhaps because ...
snip
... Thoughts??
If I had to guess I'd say that your low Maine temperatures helped to lower the batts discharge rates.
You are making me think of using our solar charger to trickle charge the batteries I keep in a garage rather then the 3 stage Guest, or equivalent unit we are using now.
I wish my last bank of batteries (2) lasted 20 years. Sounds like I am over charging my deep cycle wet cells over the winter which may be giving me a nearly average lifespan of about 6 years per battery.
Not much snow in NYC right now, in fact none.
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Old 10-31-2011
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If I had to guess I'd say that your low Maine temperatures helped to lower the batts discharge rates.
You are making me think of using our solar charger to trickle charge the batteries I keep in a garage rather then the 3 stage Guest, or equivalent unit we are using now.
I wish my last bank of batteries (2) lasted 20 years. Sounds like I am over charging my deep cycle wet cells over the winter which may be giving me a nearly average lifespan of about 6 years per battery.
Not much snow in NYC right now, in fact none.

My banks didn't last 20 years I just stopped killing my back 20 years ago and I still get very good life out of my banks.. If you're getting 6 years that is decent performance unless you're using a "premium" battery then you might not be getting the longest you can. Also what defines "end of life" for me I find is often very different than how most people do it...
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 10-31-2011 at 06:51 AM.
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Maine,

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing your experiences with batteries over winter.

I, too, leave my batteries aboard, and have done so for the past 28 winters. However, in my case the batteries are on float charge 24/7.

I have eight T-105s aboard plus a group 31 Deka starting battery. Six of the eight T-105s are maintained by a Victron MultiPlus inverter/charger. The other two are maintained by an Iota DLS-55/IQ4 smart charger. The start battery is maintained by an EchoCharge. I also have four golf-cart batteries at home in my shop and for my radios. These are maintained by an Iota DLS-45/IQ4.

Here are a few observations on your experiences and mine:

1. "Trickle Charge". This is a non-specific term which says nothing about the type of charger or the voltages involved. No doubt that's why the engineers you talked to are generally wary of them.

2. Float charge. Most modern multi-stage chargers have a float setting of 13.2-13.6VDC. At these voltages a flooded, AGM, or gelled battery can be left on charge 24/7 without damage. Indeed, some batteries live virtually all their life on such charge, e.g., those in industrial and home UPS units. They generally last many years in such service.

3. Sulfation. This, of course, is the big killer of flooded batteries. It begins when the electrolyte is added at the factory, and continues throughout the life of the battery. It is enhanced by less-than-full charges and by warm/hot ambient temperatures. It is retarded -- and to some extent -- reversed by very full charges and by cold weather. However, it continues even at the normal float voltage levels. As I have found, and consistent with the literature, periodic charging at absorption voltage levels and occasional equalization at even higher voltages (15.5-17VDC or so) is required in order to fight back the tendency of flooded batteries to sulfate.

4. Stratification. This occurs when there is little movement/circulation of the electrolyte. Concentrations of sulfuric acid differ by level, and therefore have a different effect on the plates at various electrolyte levels. You probably avoid some of this, as you noted, by your practice when using a hydrometer to measure specific gravity of cells.

5. Battery Longevity. This is a tough one. Identical batteries from the same batch and treated exactly the same way may vary considerably in their longevity. Moreover, what one user considers to be a "good" battery may be very different from what another judges to be "good". Very few users do real capacity tests; you and I are exceptions, not the rule. As a result, statements of the sort, "I got eight years out of my house batteries" generally mean almost nothing.

I would also note that the years of service need to be interpreted differently for those in your situation to those in my situation and, of course, to those in an active cruising situation. I would postulate that your batteries are in use for only half the time as mine, since you lay them up over winter and disconnect them. Mine are always connected, always on charge, and always used to power lights, fans, VHF/HF and AM/FM radios, TV and stereo, bilge pumps, sensors, Espar heater, anchor windlass, electric winch, refrigeration, etc., etc. And, mine are not cycled nearly as often as are those aboard actively cruising boats.

6. Winter Strategy. Depends on where you are, what access you have to your boat during the winter, availability of reliable electrical supply over winter, type of batteries, and other factors. Unless you are knowledgeable and obsessive/compulsive about batteries as are MaineSail and I, my suggestion would be to leave your batteries on charge over winter using a modern multi-stage charger ONLY, either at home or on the boat.

Some marinas don't have power available unless you're present (including one of the largest marinas in the world...if your boat is hauled and you're not physically present, the yard will unplug your boat). In this situation, your best bet is to remove the batteries and store them somewhere under proper charge.

While gels and AGMs have much lower self-discharge rates than do flooded batteries, they still need to maintain a full charge as often as possible in order not to lose capacity. If you have room in your freezer you can cut down on self-discharge :-)

Solar panels MAY be OK, but there's always the problem of sizing them correctly and regulating the voltage they provide to the batteries. If you don't regulate or size them properly you could damage the batteries -- just like "trickle charging".

What can you expect?

IF you treat your batteries right you'll likely get 5-8 years of good service from most mid-priced batteries. You'll get a lot more years from industrial traction batteries and from high-end flooded batteries like the Rolls/Surette, but you'll pay a lot more for them.

If you fail to pay attention, learn something about batteries, and don't treat them properly you may well get only a single season of service....or even less.

Bill

Last edited by btrayfors; 10-31-2011 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 10-31-2011
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Thanks for all the detailed info. It helps, especially for those of us in the northern latitudes who are hauling out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post
...Some marinas don't have power available unless you're present (including one of the largest marinas in the world...if your boat is hauled and you're not physically present, the yard will unplug your boat)...
My boat club has a rule against leaving your boat plugged in while on the hard. The guy who used to be in charge of marina operations actually started cutting the electrical cords of violators. Fortunately he was voted out of his position, but he still wanders around and does crazy stuff like that.

Last year I pulled my battery and put it on float in my basement. This year I think I will leave the battery and disconnect the negative terminal. I'll reconnect and charge a few times to top off while I'm working on the boat.
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