In this blog I will break down the different battery types available to use with your Solar Panels. Lead acid batteries have large capacities and are often available in many places around Australia. A lot of people ask me "which lead acid battery should I use with solar panels?" I always recommend using sealed AGM lead acid batteries wherever possible and will describe in this blogs the benefits of using this type of battery with iTechworld portable solar panels.Starter vs. Deep-Cycle Batteries
Starter batteries are designed to deliver short, high-current bursts for starting a vehicle engine, and are designed to discharge only a very small part of their capacity. If you were to use a starter battery as a way of running your caravan/motor home/camper trailer it would corrode very quickly, the plates and the chemistry are designed to stay nearly 100% fully charged most of the time. They cannot handle the discharge and charge needed when running your RV on Solar Power.
For solar charging applications, I always recommend an iTechworld deep cycle battery. Cheap knock off batteries are available via eBay but come with very little warranty and you can never be sure you are getting the correct Amp Hour battery that you have paid for. Typical car batteries can be used but will not be suitable long term. ITechworld Deep cycle batteries are designed with larger plates and different chemistry to avoid the corrosive effect of frequently using the full capacity. They are designed to be charged and discharged by solar and can handle the strain of using most of its capacity.
Flooded, vs. Gel vs AGM
There are a different types of deep cycle batteries available in Australia: flooded, sealed gelled, or fully sealed AGM. For most situations a fully sealed AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) is the safest and best option. ITechworld fully sealed AGM batteries require absolutely no maintenance whatsoever. There is no need for ventilation and they will not spill. You can use flooded batteries and they will cost a lot less, but they require adequate ventilation, maintenance, and also have the potential liability of tipping or spilling. Not ideal when there are kids around and not ideal on bumpy roads.
If iTechworld AGM batteries are maintained properly, they will function at 80-90% efficiency for 7 - 10 years. Most people would agree that its a decent return for a $270 investment. The key to obtaining this life span is to maintain a full charge when ever possible. This simple rule of thumb will extend the battery life and maintain a higher efficiency.
FULLY SEALED MAINTENANCE FREE SOLAR BATTERIES
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You’ve bought an iTechworld inverter generator with built-in 12-volt outlets. But how do you go about charging 12v batteries from your generator? Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.
Let’s get straight to point: Most inverter generators may have a 12-volt output on them, but when it comes to the crunch, they are not designed to fully charge your batteries directly. There are two main reasons why:
First, your generator’s DC outlet is limited to a current of about 8 amps maximum. So any battery will take a while to fully charge.
Secondly, the voltage of the DC output isn’t regulated – it varies according to the generator’s RPM. This is fine if the generator is running a low load, but not if it’s running a medium to high load. Also, the generator won’t cut back the charge when the battery is nearly full, so you can’t risk leaving it charging for too long.
The bottom line: Your DC output on your generator is best for emergency or short term charging, i.e. providing your car battery a trickle charge. Anything more is a potential risk to your batteries.
So what’s the solution?
The best way to charge your battery is to run the iTechworld 20 Amp 240-volt battery charger off the generator’s AC output. This will recharge the battery much faster and accurately. Putting in a hefty 20 Amps. Also, the iTechworld 20 Amp 240-volt battery chargers regulate themselves down, so as charge builds in the battery, the charger won’t be pushing the same amount of amps. It will also cut off when the battery is fully charged.
So as a backup or alternative to your solar set up to charge your camping/caravan/motorhome battery packs, iTechworld Generator Inventors are a great option when they are working with the iTechworld 20 Amp 240-volt battery charger, especially as you can also run your appliances on 240v straight from the generator also.
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How much solar power do you need?
So you want to set your rig up for Solar but you are not sure what size of set up you need? This blog is designed to give you the tools needed to be able to work out exactly what are you are drawing from your rig's batteries and what type of solar set up you need. Knowledge is key when setting up your rig for solar so the more information you have on each and every one of those home comforts devices you plan to take away with you the better. If anyone has a question pop it in the comment section below. I will try my best to answer everyone.
How to work out Watts, Amps and Volts
A larger solar panle will collect more energy in less time, but just how big does the solar panel need to be?
The power consumption of appliances is usually given in Watts. To calculate the energy you will use over time, just multiply the power consumption by the hours of use. For example:
10 watt device used over 3 hours equals 10 x 3 = 30 Watt
How to convert Amps to Watts
The energy in Watts is equal to the electric charge in Amps times the voltage in volts:
Watts = Amps × Volts
If your device doesn’t have the Watts labelled on it, then it should at least have the input Volts i.e. 240V and the Amps AC it draws such as 240V – 1.5A. You can then use the equation Watts Volts x Amps so 240v x 1.5amps = 360 Watts.
How to convert Watts to Amps
The electric charge in Amps is equal to the energy in Watts divided by the voltage in volts (V):
Amps = Watts / Volts
Find the electric charge in Amps when the energy consumption is 300 watts and the voltage is 240 volts.
300 Watts / 240 volts = 1.25 Amps
Do I need a battery?
Solar panels are commonly used to charge a battery – not to charge a device directly. There are a couple of reasons for having batteries. Solar panels might not generate enough wattage to directly power an appliance, but they can build up a higher wattage via a battery. Secondly a battery can regulate the power going in to the appliance at a constant rate. When solar panels are charging a battery it is usually at a varying rate which could harm an appliance if not regulated.
Battery capacity is measured in Amp Hours (e.g. 120Ah). You need to convert this to Watt Hours by multiplying the Ah figure by the battery voltage (e.g. 12V) – see calculations above.
AH refers to amp hours. This rating is usually found on deep cycle batteries. If a battery is rated at 100 amp hours it should deliver 5 amps of power for 20 hours or 20 amps of power for 5 hours.
When choosing a battery, keep in mind the equipment you will be powering and the time in which they will be running. Theoretically a 100Ah battery can deliver 5 amps over a 20 hour period (and so on). Taking into account the average small campsite - with a small 45W fridge running for 6 hours, 3 hours of 15W lighting and 20W of other electronic equipment - the minimum consumption to be expected is 335W. Take this wattage and divide it by the voltage, 12V, gives 28Ah. With the aim of leaving 50% in the battery brings the requirement to 56 Ah per day. A smarter battery setup would be to use an iTECH120 lithium battery. This new type of battery is a fraction of the weight of old style AGM batteries. AGM batteries usually weigh 35kg but and iTECH120 battery weighs just 13kg. You can also use more of the battery capacity in an iTECH120 - 80% which means its usable Amp Hour rating is similar to a 200 Amp Hour AGM. Read more about the iTECH120 HERE
What size solar panel do I need?
Solar Panels power generation is commonly given in Watts e.g. 120 Watts. To calculate the energy it can supply the battery with, divide the Watts by the Voltage of the Solar Panel.
120 Watts / 18v = 6.6 Amps
Please note that Solar Panels are not 12v, I repeat Solar Panels are not 12v. Any one who works out the Amps of a solar panels using 12v as the voltage calculation does not understand solar or has been misinformed. All solar panel voltages should be marked in the item description of our website or on the unit itself.
Check out the iTechworld Solar Panel range HERE
The power inverter converts your storage battery power into the 240 volts AC that runs your appliances. Unless you only run 12 volt DC appliances you will need a power inverter to supply your AC.
There are 2 types of Inverters
Pure sine wave and Modified sine wave.
The Pure Sine Wave matches the power to that of which you get from your Electricity Supplier, its clean and you can run any appliances safely even sensitive equipment.
The Modified sine wave used to be considered a dirty power but some aren't as bad as they used to be, you can use this inverter type for things that don't have sensitive electronics for example fridges, cookers, pumps, You may have to be careful with some appliances such as laptops and TVs so check first.
Check out the iTechworld range of inverters HERE
All Solar Panels 30 watts and above need a Solar Charge Controller/Regulator. A Charge Controller/Regulator is necessary to protect the batteries from over charging and supply them with the proper amount of energy to promote long battery life. If the charge isn’t regulated it can have a damaging effect on the battery being charged.
Check out the iTechworld range of Charge Controllers/Regulators HERE
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