How a Solar Battery Works and How to Check Its State of Charge


The Workings of Different Solar Batteries

A battery is made of three parts, which are the electrode, electrolyte, and the separator. A single battery always contains a minimum of two electrodes, one negative terminal and one positive terminal. The negative terminal is known as the anode, whereas a positive terminal is called a cathode. An electrolyte is the liquid in which the electrodes or terminals are placed. The electrolyte permits the charge to flow between the two terminals. Now the separator, which is the third part of the battery, basically keeps the cathode and anode from being linked directly to one another. So for completing the electrochemical reaction, the electrons have to flow through the whole wire. That is the core working of almost all kinds of battery. Now let us put this information according to different types of solar batteries to get an idea about them.

Solar batteries are lead-acid, lithium-ion, or even flow cells. The lead-acid batteries composed of a series of lead plates, also known as electrodes, in a dilute sulfuric acid solution, also called electrolyte. When this battery discharges, the hydrogen atoms from sulfuric acid in the electrolyte react with the oxygen atoms from the lead oxide in the positive plate. This reaction produces water in the battery. Meanwhile, it produces the lead sulfate at the anode and cathode. In short, it means that during the process of discharging, the sulfate ions leave the electrolyte and makes water.

However, during the charging process, the overall reaction goes in the opposite direction as it results in the production of lead oxide at the cathode. Also, always remember that overcharging such types of batteries can be harmful. When overcharging, hydrogen can be produced, which can create the danger of explosion because the hydrogen gas is flammable. That is why it is always recommended to handle batteries very carefully and take proper precautions while working with them. Extra care is also crucial for maintaining the battery’s long life and ensuring safety.

How to Check the State of Charge of Different Batteries

Talking about the lead-acid battery, the greatest advantage that a flooded lead-acid battery (a type of lead-acid battery) possesses is the ability to quickly and easily determine its state of charge. In renewable power applications, such batteries mostly need to charge daily. This charge is primarily a voltage and current controlled charge that is necessary for feeding the battery. As the solar panels and batteries age from time to time and solar exposure changes, some conditions develop that stop the battery from getting a full and complete charge. That is why it is crucial to always check the state of all kinds of batteries and determine their health. Due to the quick determination of the situation of the battery, a flooded lead-acid battery is considered advantageous.

Most batteries also come with detachable vent caps that permit one to use a hydrometer for measuring a particular gravity of an electrolyte. It is another way of checking the state of charge in different cells. Also, electrolyte specific gravity varies with the charged state of the battery. When a battery is entirely charged, all the obtainable sulfates are held in the sulfuric acid electrolyte which, in turn, raises the electrolyte’s specific gravity. And when a battery is discharged, all the sulfate ions available in the electrolyte go back into the plates, which lowers the electrolyte’s specific gravity. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can check the state of a solar battery.

Step by Step Guide on Checking the State of a Solar Battery

Electronic battery checkers and load testers offer valuable and relevant information, but using a hydrometer can provide the most reliable and authentic information about the state of charge. Using a hydrometer for checking the battery’s state of charge is very simple as compared to other methods. Follow these steps for checking the state of charge of a battery, but first ensure that your battery is entirely charged.

  • Firstly, you have to ensure that you are checking the battery in a properly ventilated area. Also, make sure that you are equipped with all the safety equipment including gloves and eye protection glasses and have taken the necessary safety measures.
  • Use a high-quality battery hydrometer for checking your battery. Most hydrometers are made up of plastic and possess a float with several specific gravity and state of charge readings on them.
  • Once you are in the right place with the necessary equipment, start your process by detaching the vent cup of the battery by following the instructions in the manual or according to manufacturer’s or supplier’s recommendations.
  • Into one of the battery’s cells, insert the hydrometer and draw in some electrolyte. After that, squirt it back inside the cell. The purpose behind doing so is to mix the electrolyte properly for getting a good reading.
  • Now draw in the electrolyte again and permit it a few seconds for settling the hydrometer float. It will help you get a stable reading.
  • Write down the reading that is showing on the hydrometer float. Please correct the reading by using the following three correction factors to obtain the right result:
    • Add 0.004 for every 10⁰F that is exceeding 80⁰F or add 0.005 for every 7⁰C that is exceeding 27⁰C.
    • Subtract 0.004 for every 10⁰F that is below 80⁰F or deduct 0.005 for every 7⁰C that is below 27⁰C.
    • Also remember that some of the hydrometers can automatically correct the temperature, so if you own such a device, there is no need to rectify the reading.
  • Now repeat the complete process with each of the cells of the battery and write the readings down correctly.
  • If you mistakenly spill the electrolyte on the battery, please remember to wipe it with a paper towel carefully.
  • Now put back the vent caps correctly onto the battery.
  • Now check the specifications given by the manufacturer of the battery that you’re using to find out the specific gravity reading of a fully charged battery.

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