Episode-1039- Steven Harris on Battery Back Up Systems Part 1 of 2 — 35 Comments

  1. There was a bug when the show was published. It has been corrected and the audio should work for everyone now.

  2. Quick question for Steve. (Hopefully I get this to come out right)
    I have an older lister-petter engine. It’s something like 3-4 hp 800-3,600 rpm, if I remember correctly. It was on a road construction sign board trailer. I want to set it up like the one you had in your truck to charge a couple golf cart batteries.
    I already have a 100 amp large body alternator from a mid 80’s ford p/u. I know guys have used larger tractor trailer alt. and the wind guys like to permanent magnet alt.
    So, the question is, Should I just use what I have for zero dollars?
    Should I check wrecking yards for a large truck alt for $100-$200?
    Or should I drop the $300 or so for a PM conversion?
    I’m looking for the best bang for the buck. I believe the PM kit should make the best power, there’s no losses to power the field, but is the increased efficiency worth $300. Or in other words, How many hour do you think a permanent magnet alternator was to run in order to $300 worth of diesel compared to a standard alternator?
    Thanks for all the great info, I’m looking forward to listening to this show.

  3. In areas where they have night rates and day time rates, it might be interesting if you could justify a battery backup by charging at night at the low rate, when your water heater is running, etc. and then use some of that charge for minor day time stuff. During the winter , at least your getting some extra heat from the charging and discharging of the battery.

  4. Listen to the podcast, then join Steven on channel (The Survival Podcast Network) 8pm EASTERN time for a special live guest Q&A session.

  5. Good stuff Steve, can’t wait for part 2. Definetly going to order the videos, not only to support your efforts, but to have the magic of video. Kudo’s to Jack for bringing this information to us. Keep up the good work.

  6. Steve great show as usual!…I have a Honda eu3000is how efficient is this generator for charging deep cycle batteries?

    • I have 2000i, the 12v output is only 7 or 8amps. Yours is probably about the same. You will still need a good chargger to plug into a 120v outlet on your genset.

      • Exactly it is far more a function of the charger then the generator. A 2000 or 3000 watt honda both have way more horsepower then needed to run a charger. The charger does the charging all the genny provides is the power to do so. If you are using either to run a typical 30amp smart charger it won’t even increase the load on the generators. They will purr like a kitten at that load.

        • So am i correct in thinking it Being an inverter generator it converts 12v to 110 then the charger would convert it back to 12v to charge the battery?….funny but it makes sense!

      • You can use the 12v tap from the EU2000i to charge your battery bank. I do it thru the charge controller in my PV system.

        Tip for everyone: you only get 8 amps if you turn the Eco-throttle off, otherwise you only get about 2. Honestly this is not the most efficient way to charge but I only need to do it every so often.

  7. Steve was talking about the choice of AGM vs FLA batteries being safety alone and of course it was obvious AGM are no maintenance batteries. But for many of us no maintenance might outweigh even safety in importance. I’m a trucker for example and I’m not around very often maybe once in 3 or 4 weeks. Sometimes gone longer.

  8. Thanks Steve and Jack for a great show today. The expectation of the live call-in convinced me to join zello. I am especially excited about the opportunities of future live call-ins on zello. I was out in the pasture feeding horses and my gassification wood boiler while listening to the zello call-in. It worked so well I was able to call in a question I had from the show today while doing my work. The breadth of the questions while I was listening really opened my mind to the possibilities.

  9. Steve this is a breakthrough on how to provide power and keep a low profile during the night. Using your method with a Honda inverter gen is the best combo of battery, charger, gen, or vehicle. If this gets really proven over time, wonder if it could be the way new homes are built. I wonder if this tech could be rolled into mortgages, create more value for said homes, and reduce (?) insurance rates. This could easily be a business

  10. Building a battery bank at home is great. Ive been using one that I built from spare inverters since 2008. I can run the sump, pellet stove, and other refrigeration devices. Im running a 24 volt system using 4 55 amp hour deep cycle batteries. Ive never run them down to a point where I had to shut the rig off. Powers always come back in time.

  11. Steve is right about those car jump packs, used to jump start your car not lasting. I put my inverter on my jump pack from harbor freight. It only powered a desk lamp with a 13 watt compact florescent for 40 minutes until the inverter alarm started screaming. Disappointing. Glad I found out before I needed it. Car battery with an extension cord works much better.

  12. Hi Steve, I have a few questions. First you mentioned your friend with three different inverters on the same system. This made me wonder if using a larger inverter than is required for the job will be significantly less efficient? (Example 2000w for a refrigerator VS. the 800w you recomend) The second question is, I have read that if I were to want to purchase some batteries for long term storage for later use then the best choice is to purchase wet cell batteries without the acid installed and store the acid seperately until use. I think this makes sense but I wonder if there are any other good options. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and thank you for your service to our community.

    • Michael,
      I know that 30 years ago you could purchase the battery dry, as that is how they are or were shipped to the distributor. In addition, you can or could buy the acid pack seperately. You probably won’t find this option at the big box stores, but most cities have an Interstate battery dealer. So I would suggest you call an acutual battery store in your area and inquire.

    • I know Sams had some golf cart batteries (6V) that were “dry” and had a packet of acid with them. This was a year or so ago, but I’m sure the dry batteries are still available. Might want to check with a golf cart shop or a battery distributor in your area.

  13. If you are not interested in the Schumacher series of chargers there is another option. I have had some reliability issues from them, but Ctek makes some amazing products.

    I have a 24V 1296 amp hour battery bank consisting of 24 2V batteries. I had to keep these batteries in storage for a year before installing them in my house. Since these batteries are 648 AH (amp hours) each I had to get a charger that could charge this level of amp hours efficiently. I had to wire 6 batteries in series to charge them. Granted this situation doesn’t apply to this podcast, but there may be some folks out there that may want to use some higher amp hour batteries. A quality charger with a 25 amp charging capacity will fill this role. I am using a Ctek multi us 25000.

    Like you Jack, I am sitting at that 95% level. The melding of my automotive experience and the installation of a solar panel system on my house has a gap that I feel will be filled by this podcast series. I don’t like rechecks and I want to get this right the first time. I am glad that Steve is offering a video. I intend to show my appreciation for his efforts by purchasing one.

  14. for things like the Power Dome EX. should we be worried that the battery has ‘sulfated’ and is now bad? or more important if it has been sitting in the car for 6months?

    • Personally I find Steve to be too hard on things like this, we have one in each car, they are great. You can jump a car with them, run a few small items, listen to the radio.

      They should be used and charged from time to time though. 6 months sitting with no use isn’t a good idea. Break it up, try it, and charge it up.

  15. “Brent In PEI”
    Just finished listening to Part 1. I know most of this stuff already, except for the reserve minutes conversion. But here is a question for Jack/Steve:

    When they say a flooded or SLA battery is recyclable; what is the ‘consumable’ that effectively ‘gets used up’. Since the lead is recycled, the plastic case (in theory), it is the acid mixture that gets old/depleted?. So once again, what is the consumable in the typical acid battery?

    • Oh, and the Hydrogen part. That was the biggest surprise. I have my six Surrettes S430’s in an outdoor box

  16. I think Steve might be wrong (perhaps not wrong, but he dismisses this issue entirely which I don’t think is right) about the hydrogen issue on flooded lead acid batteries.

    The reference materials I checked show that you need quite a bit of fresh air to properly vent them. Honestly the safety factors are very high so as to insure that there is little to no risk of explosion. These safety factors take into consideration exceptions to the norm.

    A couple batteries in a toolbox are not likely to cause trouble IMO. But someone somewhere will fill a waterproof box with batteries and not realize that there is likely hydrogen gas present. Something to keep in mind but probably not obsess over.

    • @Gomer, how about this, rather then what someone says can you point to one place where it ever happened?

      • I cannot which is why I would not obsess over it ;).

        I can only point to engineering materials on the subject (which are written to keep the sheep safe). For example:

        The IEEE 484 says:
        ” 5.4 Ventilation
        The battery area shall be ventilated, either by a natural or mechanical ventilation system, to prevent accumulation of
        hydrogen. The ventilation system shall limit hydrogen accumulation to less than 2% of the total volume of the battery area.”

        The 2% value was selected because 4% is the lower explosive limit (LEL) for H. A FLA battery produces H just sitting there unused, more during charge and discharge, and a lot more under some fault conditions.

        Without exception they all these guys (IEEE, NFPA, FM) have recommendations about how to deal with gassing of FLA batteries (which produce 50X the amount of H compared to AGM’s BTW).

        Just wanted to point this out so folks can take into consideration when picking out enclosures. If you pick out a nice gasketed box and plan to house FLA’s you might want to put a vent in there….if you use a truck box or job box the gaps in the box are probably enough.

        • Yes see I know we live in a word where we have tons of useless codes and rules and specs and other nonsense. So I do totally write something off unless it has happened for real at least once.

          Now if you have 400 batteries in a telecom system with out proper venting bad things could happen, but 4-6 batteries in a closet? You are more likely to win the lottery without buying a ticket then to get a hydrogen explosion.

      • This can happen in more than just a telecom room with 400 batteries. I was going to work up the math for you, but theres’s an app note already written on the subject:

        In this example a bank of two 6v 100AH batteries would produce .044 SCFM during the last 20% of the charge time. Thats 2.64 cubic feet of H produced in a one hour period. In order to keep the H concentration to 2% you would need at least a 130 square foot unventilated enclosure. Obviously vents allow H to escape and the size of the enclosure could be reduced.

        All I can offer is engineering data….sorry I realize you want to see real world scenarios but sometimes this is the best you can do.

        Also understand that this is one app note for one type of FLA…others types may produce different numbers.

        I’ll say it again, this is just something to consider but not obsess over. I have a house powered by two walmart deep cycle FLA batteries and I sleep just fine in it.

        • Again IT NEVER HAPPENED, stop looking at papers that assume things like a completely air tight container. How the hell can hydrogen be contained in a home, who has a home that tight?

        • I can only present the engineering data (which supports my concerns BTW) and let other figure out what to do with the info.

          I do get what you are saying about engineers being…how should I put it…..overly cautious when it comes to these things. When it comes to flamable dust and vapors its true that there is a big safety net in a lot of the rules of thumb, regulations, etc. I have a lot of field experience and dealt with enough municipal inspectors to know the real concerns from the imagined ones.

          I’m not trying to scare anyone off from building a backup power box….I want to see everyone with a rack of batteries and inverters in their truck box….just want people to be safe.

  17. Lead is the consumable product in the battery. as the battery charges and discharges minute pieces of lead fall off the plate and go to the base of the cell. after a while these pieces can short or make contact between the plates and make that cell dead. a one time shaking of the battery may make that stuff fall down farther and the cell might work , good luck. the second thing when this happens is you charge each of the other cells with too much voltage and the acid starts boiling in the other cells, that causes acid fumes, this requires the ventilation. 13.8 volts to the 6 well working cells will charge the battery fully without over charging and causing these other problems

  18. Steven mentioned that the system needed to be kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Is the garage acceptable? If it is plugged into the charger all the time, does that help in that regard?

  19. The show says that you shouldn’t mix a bank of old and new deep cycles and draw from them.

    Is there any issue using one charging to keep new and used batteries at the same time charged, providing that you do used the mix bank.

    I ask because I have set of deep cycles I use for trolling motor and plan on getting a dedicated set of deep cycles for the backup system… Would be great if I could keep all of them charged with the same charge controller. (the two I have were bought on different years so I’d be in the same situation with 2 charge controllers)