Silicon Dioxide Battery Excellent Performance in Extreme Cold Conditions!

Many places in North America are experiencing cold snaps this time of year. Extreme temperatures can decrease performance or cause damage and failure to most batteries.

If you are using batteries for off-grid, RV or backup power, or are planning to start, it is important to know what batteries can withstand extreme temperatures. Azimuth Solar’s Ultra Long-Life Silicon Dioxide (Lead Crystal) batteries provide outstanding performance in extreme hot and cold weather conditions, faster charging and over 10 year lifespans, at lower lifetime costs.

Silicon Dioxide batteries (aka SiO2, Lead Crystal, or just Crystal batteries) are built to last in rough conditions. These batteries can be discharged deeper, cycled more often (even in extreme temperatures), charge faster and have longer lifespans. They recover to full-rated capacity. They do not require maintenance, special ventilation or cooling, and can be stored up to 2 years without recharge.

Extreme Cold Performance

Lead Acid batteries will freeze at -25C/-13F at 50% charge. The more you power you take from the battery, the easier it is to freeze and damage. Once a battery has frozen, you cannot use it until it is slowly defrosted and checked. This usually kills the battery. Lead Acid batteries can have lower freezing temperature ratings, but that is only helpful if you don’t plan on using them. The freezing point of Lead Acid batteries rises as their charge level drops. If you need a battery during an ice storm or winter blackout, you may not be able to use your Lead Acid batteries when you need them the most.

SiO2 batteries do not suffer from freezing damage and retain more available power at lower temperatures.

A Lead Acid battery at -30C/-22F has only 50% available capacity and you can access only 40% of that before it freezes. For example, a 100Ah battery becomes a 50Ah battery at -30C/-22F. You can only use 40% (20Ah) of that capacity before it freezes. At this temperature your available power is 20Ah if the battery is fully charged to begin with.

Lead Crystal Capacity and Temperature Charge

SiO2 batteries will have reduced capacity at low temperatures, but not the freezing limitations. You can use up to 100% of the available capacity of a SiO2 Battery. For example, at -30C/-22F, a 100Ah SiO2 battery retains 60% capacity, so will have 60Ah of available power (3x power vs. Lead Acid).

SiO2 batteries also outperform most batteries at high temperatures. They are rated to +65C/149F vs, 45-50C/113-122F for Lead Acid. Lead Acid batteries off-gas Hydrogen and Oxygen at high temperatures, an explosive mix that needs to be vented. Flooded batteries require fluid replacement.

Unique Chemistry

The SiO2 technology is unique. Standard Lead Acid batteries suffer from freezing, poor low & high temperature performance, sulfation/corrosion, water loss, off-gassing, transport safety issues and short life cycles. The non-corrosive electrolyte in SiO2 batteries forms crystalline salts when charged/discharged. SiO2 batteries use 95% less sulphuric acid than Lead Acid batteries. They are essentially a “dry-cell” battery with no liquid to freeze, spill or off-gas. Eliminating most of the acid, means that the lead plates last longer and weigh less. Sulphation does not build-up and reduce capacity over time. With the crystalline structure, they can also be used in any orientation.

Longer Lasting

SiO2 Batteries last 2-5X as long as Lead Acid batteries. Deep-cycle Lead Acid batteries are rated from 500 charge/discharge cycles (discount batteries) to 1200 cycles for premium batteries, at 50% depth of discharge levels (DoD). The SiO2 batteries offer a much higher cycle life of 2800 cycles at 50% DoD. Their lifetime cost per cycle averages 1/2 to 1/3 of most deep-cycle batteries.

High Current Discharge Ability

SiO2 batteries have excellent high-current discharge ability and will not suffer any capacity loss when discharged to 100%. The Ultra Long-Life batteries have a rapid charging time in comparison to conventional alternatives. At 25C a 100Ah battery can be charged at 25A per hour resulting in a 4 hour charge time (20-40% faster than AGM and Lead Acid batteries, which typically charge at 15-20C which is 5-7 hours for a 100Ah battery). In practical terms, if you are using a fuel generator to recharge your batteries, you will need to run it 20-40% less with SiO2 batteries, than with Lead Acid batteries.

Environmentally Friendly

Because the SiO2 batteries have less Acid, no cadmium, no antimony, the batteries are up to 99% recyclable and are classified as non-hazardous goods for transport. These batteries are a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, less-toxic option using about ¼ of the resources of regular Lead Acid batteries.

Wide Range of Uses

ULL Batteries come in a variety of sizes for many applications!

They have almost no off-gassing and are well suited for marine use and in enclosed spaces, such as RVs and campers. They are widely used by Telecoms due to their long life span, and extreme temperature resilience. SiO2 batteries are available in a wide range of sizes and voltages, even up to 270Ah 12V 8D batteries and do not require a Battery Management System.

Battery Basics – Difference between a Starter and Deep-cycle Battery

News regarding solar energy generally focuses on solar panels, but without a battery to store the power collected from solar panels, much of the energy collected is fed into the grid for others to use. If the system is off-grid, that excess energy is wasted and there is no power to draw on when the sun goes down. A battery bank allows you to maximize the efficiency of your system and to have power to draw from 24-7.

Batteries come in two broad classifications: Starter and Deep-cycle Batteries.

Starter Batteries output large amounts of power for a short period of time.  These batteries are commonly utilized in starting vehicles or motors, with each use only discharging a large burst of current for a very short time. It is then recharged by the alternator for the next engine start. The emphasis of starter batteries is on power, not storage capacity. A serious weakness of starter batteries is that they aren’t built to endure deep-discharge or prolonged use. This will quickly shorten the battery life. Starter batteries have a very low internal resistance, which gives them the ability to crank out a high power load for a second or two. This low internal resistance is achieved by using very thin, sponge-like lead plates inside the battery for maximum surface area. The very thin plates are damaged or destroyed if subjected to steady continuous discharge. Generally, starter batteries are less expensive than deep-cycle batteries, but they are not interchangeable, despite the temptation.

Deep-Cycle Batteries (aka Marine Batteries) are essentially the opposite of starting batteries; they provide a consistent flow of current over long periods of time. They are optimized for capacity rather than short bursts of power. They have sturdy, thick lead plates that can better stand up to repeated discharges and recharges. Their ability to deeply discharge and to re-charge efficiently is needed for stable power supply to run equipment, appliances and act as utility-grade power. Deep-cycle batteries can be charged from a variety of sources. They charge using DC power from solar, hydroelectric or wind power or from an AC source; plug-in grid power or a gas fueled generator, that is then converted to DC charging power.

Important things to note in deep-cycle batteries are the Capacity, measured in Amp Hours (Ah) and the Cycle Life, which is the number of times the battery can be charged and discharged before it looses significant capacity.  The Cycle Life is depends on how deeply the battery is discharged on average. This is called the Depth of Discharge (DoD). Standard DoD for comparing deep-cycle batteries is the cycle life at 50% DoD.

It should also be noted that the warranties on most starter batteries are voided if you use them for deep-cycle use and that the warranties on most deep-cycle batteries are voided or substantially reduced if they are used as starter batteries. There are also some larger, heavier specialty deep-cycle batteries that are made to be used as both starter and deep-cycle batteries.

Deep-cycle batteries are used in home energy storage to store solar, hydro, and wind power, RVs and marine use for boondocking and power away from shore, off-grid homes, cabins and cottages, to run equipment, and to support mobile and portable power needs.

There are many different chemistries and points of comparison between different types of deep-cycle batteries which we explore in upcoming blogs.

How much Solar Power & Battery Storage do I Need for my RV / Cabin / Cottage / Tiny Home?

This question can be broken down into steps that give us the information we need to make a decision.

1. How much power do I need?

Residential homes use 900 – 5000kWh a month (30-166kWh per day). To generate this much power with solar / wind and to store it, you will need a lot of space and a large budget. It is unrealistic to generate that much power with portable power or when space is at a premium. Instead, power conservation and realistic expectations should drop your power needs by prioritizing what equipment and appliances are essential.

Something we rarely do when we are on the grid, but must be much more aware of when off-grid, is adding up the power usage from all sources.Continue reading

Solar Power 101: An Introduction

150W Briefcase Mini Solar Generator System.

As concern over the increasing cost of energy grows, many people are looking into alternative sources of power, like solar. There are four main components in a basic solar setup: Solar Panels, Charge Controller, Batteries and Inverter. All components and the wiring connecting them need to be carefully chosen and sized appropriately to work together. Use this guide to demystify the terminology behind solar, and kick-start your journey to energy independence!Continue reading

The Boler Turns 50!

Matt & Shari’s Green Egg!

August 15th kicks off the beginning of a four-day event to celebrate the iconic Boler trailer’s 50th anniversary! Boler enthusiasts are set to travel from as far as Southern California all the way to Winnipeg’s Red River Exhibition park to attend the event.Continue reading

Help Us Donate Solar Power to Hurricane Irma & Maria Victims

UPDATE: Our campaign to donate solar power to the Caribbean is live! Click here to visit: https://igg.me/at/t6Zysws-3V8

Azimuth Solar Products Inc. has a long-term solution to help restore power to island communities who have sustained damage from recent hurricanes with our Portable Solar Generator Systems, but we need your help.  We want to donate as many of our 360W portable solar generator systems as possible to on-the-ground emergency relief aid in the Barbuda and Puerto Rico.

We are hoping to meet their goal of $7,000 CAD to send two systems and as many power management components as possible. But the amount and nature of items ultimately donated depends on how much we raise. Along with our portable solar generator systems it’s also crucial to send batteries and power management components necessary to effectively store and use the energy generated by the Caribbean sun.Continue reading

Why Many People with Solar Panels Still Don’t Have Power After a Hurricane

There has been a lot written about installing solar power at home, but unless you have specifically set-up your system for emergency backup or disaster response, then it won’t automatically provide off-grid power.

There are several reasons why your system doesn’t work after the storm passes.

  • If you have a grid-tie system (solar power on your home that feeds into the grid when you have an excess of power to improve your electrical bill)and it is not set-up with a backflow stop for when the grid shuts down, then you will not have power during a blackout. If the grid is down, then all your power will flow into the “empty” grid leaving you with none. This flow could also put a charge into lines that are being worked on and inadvertently electrocute utility workers or others around downed lines, so for safety reasons, your system automatically shuts down when the grid shuts down.
  • Many on-grid systems use a type of inverter that synchronizes with the incoming power from the grid. If there is no power coming in, then there is nothing to sync to and your inverter won’t work.
  • Hurricanes and tornadoes involve high winds and flying debris. Most people have photovoltaic solar panels on their roof or on post stands. When a major storm comes in, the panels are either ripped off their mountings completely or damaged by blowing debris. A damaged panel or one that is partially shaded will shut itself off completely and produce no power. Even a broken corner will result in most solar panels not working at all.

There are solutions. If you have a grid-tie system, make sure you have battery backup and a way to isolate your power from the grid. This may involve a hardwired switch to isolate your house from the grid or may need you to physically disconnect your battery bank from your house power.  Make sure that your inverter can either synchronize the AC power to your battery power or create its own sine wave. Some more expensive systems like the Tesla power wall have this capacity built in already.

If you have back up battery power and have physically disconnected the batteries from the house power, then you need to have an inverter (to create AC power) and extension cords to run power from the batteries to your essential equipment and appliances.  To run most home appliances with a motor, you will need a pure sine wave inverter. Wire your outside solar panels to the battery bank, but make sure you have a charge controller between the panels and the batteries to control the power flow to the batteries.

The solution to the problem of wind damaging or destroying your panels is an easy one. Take the panels down before the storm hits and store them out of the wind. Then when the storm passes, put the panels back up. Make sure your electronics are either waterproof or stored in waterproof cases. Off-grid portable systems makes this easy with quick set-up and take down. Alternatively, some lightweight panels also have additional protection that the rest of the solar panel still functions if one cell is damaged.

If you are in a hurricane or tornado prone area, and you have lost your solar panels to the recent storms, consider replacing them or offsetting them with portable panels and/or making your system emergency backup ready.

solar tracking alignment sight

Harnessing the Sun Track Alignment Sight

solar tracking alignment sight

Prototype for Sun Track Alignment Sight, 2015

The most important part of any solar system is the sun, and how you harness the most power out of it can be one of the biggest challenges. If you take a quick look around the web, one of the regular questions out there revolves around how to get the most out of your system. How do you harness the most power? How do you figure out just what way to turn your panels to get the highest energy output?

For most people the answer comes from a series of calculations. There are websites, books, and entire forums dedicated to the formulas and mathematics behind panel positioning. Global positioning, time of day, and season all have to be accounted for.Continue reading

portable solar generator

Our Debut

We are extremely excited to be debuting our products at the BC Interior Sportsman Show this weekend in Kelowna, BC! Come see us at Booth 34 from April 7th to 9th at the Capital News Centre. Tickets are available at the door and our own Matthew Longman will be speaking on Saturday the 8th at noon.

Matthew’s Speech – Portable Solar Generators: Solar Power for your RV, Cabin and EmergenciesContinue reading