If you’re using an inverter set then I’m sure you’re already seeing its benefits. One challenge you’re probably already facing is your battery backup time not lasting as long as you would really like it to. Although I’d highlighted some tips to maximize your inverter setup in my previous post, this will focus on your battery.
You battery bank is measured in AH (with a voltage rating too) and determines how long your inverter can power its current load. Its important you don’t mix this up with your inverter’s kVA rating. To help you understand the difference easily:
Inverter kVA rating determines how many appliances you can power at a time
Battery AH rating determines how long your inverter can sustain your current load (appliances you have on)
How to extend your battery backup time
Unless your batteries are damaged, there are some techniques you could employ to significantly increase your backup time (how long the battery powers your appliances before it goes flat):
Integrate a battery equalizer
Uneven charging and discharging is one reason why you might not be getting the most out of your batteries. When you have batteries connected in series and any charges to 100%, all others stop charging even if they’re just about 70% charged. When discharging, if any goes flat then all others too stop discharging even if they’re still at about 70%.
This uneven charging and discharging is as a result of the batteries not being 100% identical (even if they’re of the same brand and specs) and it builds up over time. This not only cheats you out of battery time but could cause the batteries to wear easily due to over-charging and over-discharging
What a battery equalizer (Battery Management System) does is to ensure that the batteries are charging and discharging at the same rate so you have optimal charging and discharging.
A Battery Equalizer
Know how to read your current battery level
In business, they say “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” The same applies to your battery bank. If you don’t know how to tell what your current battery level is then how do you know when its time to put off heavy appliances to save power? The battery level is hinted on the Inverter’s monitor but you’ll have to wait to see it because lots of other info are displayed at intervals.
Some inverters display battery bars while others only show current battery voltage. For such inverters, you take note of the battery voltage when fully charged (this will be indicated with a Battery Fully Charged message) and when empty (the inverter emits a steady beep to indicate). This way, you know your battery level at any given time and can adjust your usage accordingly.
Switch to energy saving appliances
One way to boost your battery time is to avoid running heavy appliances on the inverter (at least not for long). Your Home Theater system alone could be hogging 360 – 1,200 Watts; that’s huge! Reducing the number of appliances you have on at a time isn’t all, you should go the extra mile to switch to energy saving appliances.
Instead of those 60 – 100 W bulb (that cause your house to feel hot), switch to 3 – 12 W energy saving bulbs. I agree they are more expensive but the extra battery time you’ll get would mean less money spent on Fuel + Generator maintenance over months. When shopping for ceiling fans, ask for very good light coiled fans. Energy saving refrigerators and deep freezers, energy saving everything!
Concentrate activities that require power
Having a routine helps you utilize your battery backup time effectively. From experience, I’ve learnt that I tend to be careless with my power usage when I don’t have a schedule for when the inverter should come on and for how long. For example, you watching your favorite TV show only to realize you had not been charging your phone just when you’re about to power off the inverter. Now, chances are that the fan or other appliances were on while watching TV. Leaving the inverter on just because you want to charge your phone means the fan and some other appliances will stay on longer which translates to more battery consumption.
Upgrade your battery bank
Upgrading your battery bank is another way to extend your battery time. This is a costly approach but sometimes, your battery bank just isn’t enough. You don’t necessarily have to change your entire setup or discard your current batteries, just add more batteries. The number and specs of the batteries you’ll need to buy depends on the specs of your current setup and what you really wish to achieve. I’ll give an example:
Lets say I have a 2.5 kVA; 36V inverter. This means the battery bank must equal 36V no matter how many batteries I connect. Lets say I opt for 12V 100AH batteries. I would need at least 3 connected in series so that it equals 36V (12+12+12).
Now, if I wish to upgrade by battery bank; I’ll have two main options
- Buy another 3 100AH 12V batteries so I have 6 100AH batteries in all
- Discard my 3 100 AH 12V batteries and buy 3 200 AH 12V batteries
As you can see, upgrading my battery bank depends on my preference, I might not want to sell or give away my 100 AH batteries so I buy more and get a 6 battery rack. I might – on the other hand – not like the clutter of many batteries and opt for fewer, more powerful batteries.
Tips to extend the life span of your batteries
Apart from extending your battery backup time, you should also take good care of your batteries so they last longer and here are some tips:
- Ensure to use the rubber battery terminal protectors to avoid dust and rusting of the terminals
- Ensure your inverter setup is in a well ventilated area to prevent heat from damaging the batteries
- Avoid overcharging and deep discharging (using the battery till empty). Go for an inverter that automatically protects your batteries against these
- Avoid leaving the battery idle for a long period of time without any form of charge or discharge activity