What is the best way to store my batteries?

battery recycling

Batteries are containers that store energy. This energy self discharges as time goes on. The longer the battery sits unused, the more energy that is lost. It does not have to be hooked up for this to happen and it has to be offset by putting more energy back in.

Typically in a car the alternator puts this energy back in as you drive. Depending on the size of the battery and the strength of the alternator is how long it takes. The RPM of the motor typically has to be up around 2000RPM for the alternator to deliver the amperage the battery needs to charge. This can take up to 30 minutes. This is why it is recommended to drive at higher speeds for longer, to give everything a chance to do the best it can.

Just starting the car up once a month for 10 minutes will eventually lead to battery failure. By starting it you have drained more energy from the battery. Now at idle speed the alternator is expected to not only put back the energy it just used to start the car, it has to put back what self discharged energy was lost while it was sitting. The alternator can not do this at those RPM’s for that length of time, leaving the battery to continue to be in a weaker state, eventually leading to failure.

A battery charger is the way to combat this. If you were to put a decent quality battery charger on the battery once a month overnight, it can put that lost energy back into the battery much better, and it will keep your battery at it’s maximum lifespan.

There is a difference between a battery charger and a battery maintainer. Much like it sounds, a battery maintainer only keeps the battery at it’s current state of charge. If the battery is charged up to 100% when the maintainer is put on, it keeps the battery at 100%. If the battery maintainer is put on at 80% state of charge, it is not typically strong enough to bring it up to 100%, it usually only maintains it at 80%. While this is a good thing, it is not as good as keeping the battery at 100%.

A good way to get the most you can from a stored battery is to use a decent battery charger that switches from charging to maintaining automatically. Something like the Genius 5 from Noco will do just that.

For motorcycle and quad batteries, they are much smaller than a car battery, and need less strength from a charger. While your car battery will appreciate 5 amps of charge/maintainer, your smaller battery will be happy with less than 1 amp. You can put the maintainer on in the off season and just leave it on and it will keep your smaller battery charged all winter. You don’t have to leave it on, you can unplug it for a week and then put it back on for a night, and do that for the entire off season, whichever way works better for you.

When it comes to deep cycle batteries like in your RV it is the same system but higher power going in. It takes about 15 to 20 amps of charge to give a lot of energy back to the battery. Most RV’s have a built in chargers at something like 30 or 40 amps. If you can plug in for a night every couple of weeks in the off season this is ideal. You can leave it plugged in all winter, the only danger is if your built in charger malfunctions and continues to charge the batteries when they are full, it can lead to destroying the batteries.

If you can’t plug in then an alternate method must be used. You can use an independent battery charger of sufficient strength plugged into a generator. This isn’t ideal, but is better than nothing. The last 20% of charging takes a long time and uses a lot of gas, so it’s generally best to shut it off at the 80% mark and then when you can plug in, do so. Also if the generator has a built in DC port they typically aren’t that great. You are better off to plug a decent battery charger into the AC outlet.

Solar is another option. It doesn’t work very well in the winter, and even in the summer you need enough watts to give it an actual deep charge, but anything is better than nothing. To get 20 amps of charge from solar you would need about 400 watts of panels. This is for one pair of six volt batteries.
Batteries do not like cold, and they do not like heat. It does help to have solar even in the winter as any current going through the batteries will help keep them from freezing.

Wheelchairs and mobility scooters and electric mopeds are also things that have batteries not in use year round. They too need to have their batteries kept in good condition by charging them up. For these ones plugging the charger that comes with them in once a week or even once a month is a good idea. When the green light comes on saying that they are charged up, unplug it, and then plug it back in periodically to keep them topped up.

There is a distinct difference in the type of battery you have and how long it takes to charge. A starting battery like in your car does not take as long to charge because it is typically not as drained as “deep” as a deep cycle battery. Same for motorcycle and quad batteries.

On the other hand applications with deep cycle batteries in them like your RV, or wheelchair, or electric scooter will indeed take longer as they are drained more “deeply” than the starting type. Another big factor is how many amps the charger you are using has. If it is a small amp charger it will take a lot longer than a big amp charger.

No matter what batteries you have, car, truck, quad, scooter or lead acid or AGM, they all lose energy when stored, and even more when there is a small drain from say the cars computer, all of them need to have that energy put back in or the batteries health will deteriorate.

Here at Pacific Batteries we can explain to you all of your options to keep your batteries healthy and happy.

Battery Recycling

battery recycling

Pacific Batteries cares about having a green planet. To help this we are a designated recycling center designed to keep batteries out of landfills. We collect the dead batteries and send them for processing to recover the lead, plastic, and battery acid to be reused. The end result is more batteries can be made without using more of the earth’s resources, and it keeps harmful pollutants from getting into the earth.

We recycle lead acid and AGM and GEL car and truck and RV and boat and motorcycle batteries. We will also take household amounts of AA type batteries for proper disposal.

As part of our efforts to encourage reducing waste we will PAY you for any scrap batteries you bring to us for recycling. The price depends on the size of the battery and global demand for recycled lead. If you have a large amount of scrap batteries we can arrange to come and get them and transport them with fully licensed staff and trucks to do so.

We care about a green earth and as proud members of the CBA and Call2Recycle we are always doing our part to help.

battery recycling
battery recycling
battery recycling

What deep cycle battery should I use?

battery blog

Deep cycle batteries are meant to be drained down and charged back up repeatedly. They have thicker lead plates inside them that can withstand this. The size and what they are made of dictate how far down you can drain them, and how often. Each time a battery is drained down and then recharged is one cycle. The deep part of deep cycle refers to them being deeply drained and then deeply charged back up.

All deep cycle batteries get stronger as they break in, so don’t be afraid to work them to get them to their peak performance.

A regular car battery is NOT a deep cycle, they are meant to be slightly discharged by starting the car, and then topped back up by the alternator. A starting battery will not last long if used as a deep cycle.

It typically starts with a 12 volt Group 24 deep cycle battery. This is about the size of a typical car battery. The group number refers to the size of the battery. All manufacturer’s have to follow the exact measurements when they make the battery for physical dimensions for it to be called a Group 24. They are all rated in amp hours, meaning how many hours will they last at a one amp draw. Some companies use reserve minutes or reserve capacity, this is the same thing, just a different rating system.

The three most common 12 volt deep cycle battery sizes are:

Group 24 is about 10 inch length x 7 inch width x 9 inch height and 80 amp hours
Group 27 is about 12 inch length x 7 inch width x 9 inch height and 90 amp hours
Group 31 is about 13 inch length x 7 inch width x 9 inch height and 100 amp hours.

Only the length is different and all have round posts as well as studs on each battery to connect to.

All lead acid batteries should only be drained down 50% for the health of the battery. This means when calculating how long the battery will last in the above examples the Group 24 has 40 available amp hours, the Group 27 has 45 available amp hours,and the Group 31 has 50 available amp hours.

If I was going camping and I wanted to know how long my battery would last, I would have to know how many amps the things I want to use will take from the battery. For example a radio might say 200 watts on it. This converts to about 2 amps. This is per hour.

So if I had a Group 24 deep cycle, I would know it would last 20 hours using that radio. (40 available hours divided by the 2 amps the radio uses per hour.) If that was the only thing I would be using, and I only listened to the radio 2 hours a day, I would know I could go 10 straight days (20 hours use) before my lead acid Group 24 deep cycle battery would be half drained and need to be charged back up.

The second part is how many times the battery can do this over it’s lifespan. This is where cost comes into play. An inexpensive Group 24 or 27 or 31 likely has somewhere around 100 cycles for it’s lifespan. If you were to use it every second weekend for that radio, it would conceivably last you about 4 years.

For the price this is actually not bad. For perspective on the other end of the spectrum is lithium 12 volt 100AH batteries with an insane 3500 cycle count. A lithium battery can be drained 100%. In theory you could use this battery for that radio for 50 straight hours, recharge it, and do this for 20 years non stop. These batteries cost up to ten times more than a regular lead acid.

So if you have a lighter amp draw, and don’t go out all that often, a 12 volt deep cycle battery works just fine.

If you have a higher amp draw, and want to stay out camping longer between charges, the most common way to go is with a pair of 6 volt batteries referred to as golf cart batteries with a 225 amp hour rating and about 350 cycles. The radio example above would have this pair of batteries last 56 hours. (225AH divided by 2 = 112 available amp hours. Divide this by the 2 amps per hour the radio is using = 56 hours of radio use)

At 2 hours a day of radio use the pair of 6 volt lead acid batteries would go 28 straight days before they reached 50% down and time to recharge.

A pair of 6 volt lead acid batteries weigh about 120 pounds. This is a lot of lead, and the more lead, the longer they can store energy.

A lot of considerations come into play. If you really are just using LED lights and a radio, just about any battery can handle it. On the other hand if you are using a fridge, microwave, heater, fan, coffee maker, toaster and so on, not only will the lighter duty 12 volt batteries not last long between charges, they can’t handle high amps being pulled out like a pair of 6 volts can, and will have a shorter lifespan.

They are made as 6 volts because it is difficult to move 120 pounds of lead around. This way it only takes one cable to join the two 60 pound 6 volts and turn them into 12 volts and is very simple to do and they are easier to manhandle.

So basically a 12 volt deep cycle lead acid is best suited for lighter loads, and a relatively shorter lifespan for less cost. A pair of 6 volt lead acid batteries are more suited for a longer time between charges, and/or a heavier load being drawn out at once.

The cost per 6 volt battery can be as little as about the same as a Group 31, or twice as much depending on how robust they are built. The two 6 volts have the edge on two 12 volts with equal amp hours, as they are built more sturdy in general.

There is another type of battery, available in 12 volts or 6 volts, and these are called AGM batteries. These have additional ingredients including a matting that absorbs the water and acid making them spill proof. They also can not produce any gas when charging making them much safer to be inside the van or camper with you. They are completely maintenance free. This type of battery can be drained down 70% and cost about twice as much as a regular lead acid battery, depending on their amp hour rating.

If you are a van dweller, or need to stretch your time between charging, or don’t want to have to check the water and top the batteries up, or need it to be spill proof, then these are the way to go. Same as the lead acid, they come in 12 volt or 6 volt and various amp hour ratings.

So in a nutshell, the 12 volt deep cycle lead acid is the least expensive and does a decent job for lighter use and shorter times between charges. The pair of lead acid deep cycle 6 volts bumps this up to heavier loads and longer times between charges. The AGM 12 volts increase available time out, and the 6 volt AGM’s even more. They both are safer and less hassle to maintain than their lead acid counterparts. The lithium’s are top of the line, and do everything as good as it gets. Now comes how to charge any of these batteries back up. Most RV’s have built in chargers. They are usually rated somewhere around 30 to 40 amps of charge. The better ones do it in stages, which is the healthiest for the battery. When you are plugged in, the charger takes care of charging the batteries, and the higher amp charging rate allows to battery or batteries to be deeply charged. If you were only to use a trickle charger of say 2 amps, while this would eventually top the batteries back up, but it isn’t that good for the health of the battery to only receive this small of a charge rate.

You can also plug a battery charger into a generator. It isn’t the most efficient but it will work. You should use a minimum of a 5 amp charger for the smaller 12 volt deep cycles, and a minimum of 15 amp charger for the pair of 6 volts.

A vehicle alternator can be used to charge them while you drive, but this is very low amperage charge and eventually will lead to early battery failure. 

Solar does work too, but generally they are best for topping up the batteries to stay out longer. It depends on how many watts of solar panels you have. If you have 100 watts and a single 12 volt Group 24 deep cycle, the 5 amps the panel puts out in the bright sun is enough of a charge rate for good health of the battery. The same panel for a pair of 6 volt batteries does not produce enough amperage for long term battery health, this would require more like 400 watts of panels. 

In an ideal world you would charge the battery up before you go camping, drain it as you use it, use the solar/genny/alternator to put some of that energy back in, then charge it back up with higher amps when you get home by plugging the RV in or using a higher amp battery charger, then do it all again.

Asking a battery specialist what is the best way to go for your particular use is always a good idea, and here at Pacific Batteries, we are always happy to help you sort it out.

What is the best car battery to buy?

Car batteries come in a variety of construction for a variety of applications.

The original ones were lead acid, called flooded batteries, and you could take the caps off to check the water level and use a hydrometer to see how each battery cell was doing. In fact, the term battery comes from a “battery” of cells, or a collection of cells. A car battery has 6 cells, each one at 2.14 volts or close to it. Hence the loose term 12 volt battery.

This style of car battery was useful to determine with a hydrometer which cell was bad, or if the battery just needed more charging. These types of battery let small amounts of gas out as they charge. This meant you needed to replace the water that vented out periodically.

As times changed it became less popular to have to check the water and Maintenance Free car batteries were born. They put a small built in hydrometer right in the battery with an eye for you to see the colour of the eye to know if it was good or not. Typically green meant good, white meant needs charging, and back meant dead.

The issue with this is the eye only reads one cell. So it could display green, making it seem like the battery was good, but if the cell beside it was bad, the eye wouldn’t know it. Maintenance Free car batteries have regulators that return the water back to the battery negating the need to check the water.

It is actually pretty rare for a good battery to be defective. And the convenience of not having to take the hold down bar off, and lifting the lids to check the water level in their car battery, outweighs for the average consumer the need to have to keep checking the water. The Maintenance Free batteries never need checking, the water stays in them, and not being able to determine which cell was bad, isn’t typically worth having the old style with caps.

You never ever ever put more acid in a battery. The ratio of acid to water is just right for the battery, and only water is ever lost from a battery, so only water ever goes back in it.

From there GEL batteries came along. Instead of loose sloshing water and acid, the liquid was put in a gel state. This allowed for different mounting options, lower discharge capabilities, no gassing off, and generally longer life IF it was in the right application. They work great in applications that are deep cycling, especially with a low draw and a low recharge rate. They are not suitable for a starting battery for a car.

Next was AGM batteries. Similar to GEL in that the water is absorbed by glass matting (AGM) and can handle vibration better, can be mounted inside the car (very very little gassing off when charging) as well as having many more starts to them than a typical lead acid car battery. Some specialty AGM batteries have insane cold cranking abilities, and even the typical ones can handle what a battery needs to do so much better. AGM car batteries have many more cycles (how many times it will work and recharge) than a lead acid car battery does. They also recharge faster than a lead acid.

EFB has come along now too, it stands for Enhanced Flooded Battery. This a regular lead acid flooded battery on steroids. It fits somewhere between lead acid and AGM. Vehicles with stop/start technology need them because the vehicle turns off and on so many times, the battery has to be able to handle it. Some require AGM for start/stop, it depends on what the manufacturer designed for the car.

As a rule of thumb you should replace your car battery with the type the manufacturer designed to go in it in the first place. It won’t be long before every new car sold will have start/stop technology. This means the battery has to be able to handle it. The more heavy duty a battery is, the more it costs to make.

Regardless of type of battery, it costs a certain amount to make them a certain way. More expensive ingredients in order to provide for higher demand are required. One simple thing to make a cheaper battery is to use less lead in it. If there is less lead there is less power. If there is less power, there is shorter life span. There can be lead, lead paste, antimony, calcium, sulphuric acid, lead dioxide, silica, sponge lead, tin, selenium, and so on in your car battery.

There are some things that any battery, just can’t keep up with:

  1. Short, infrequent trips. (alternator never charges it fully, decreasing life span)
  2. Listing to tunes with the car off for long. (battery isn’t meant to be drained that low)
  3. Very hot weather for a long time. (hot is actually worse than cold on a battery)
  4. Letting them sit not in use, hooked up or not. (they self discharge on their own)
  5. Hooking up high power stereos, winches, extra lights. (they just weren’t built for it)

Manufacturer’s build the batteries to meet certain specifications. If you were to order 1000 batteries and demand they cost you $100 each, then the manufacturer will simply make the battery cheaper. (weaker) If you were to order 1000 batteries and say I want them to be as good as they can be made, you tell me the cost, then they will be made much better. There aren’t a lot of manufacturer’s compared to battery stores, so a lot of them are a very similar battery with a different sticker. One thing we do here at Pacific Batteries, is to load test the batteries before we buy them no matter who makes them, to verify what they will hold up to.

They all have pro’s and con’s, and at the end of the day it is best to ask a battery specialist what is the best overall value battery for your car.

Should I buy an AGM battery?

AGM stands for Absorbed Glass Mat. These mats are inside the battery absorbing the acid, making them spill proof and can be mounted upside down if you like that sort of thing.

Some vehicles require AGM batteries by the engineers that built the car. These need to be replaced with AGM batteries as the charging system of the car is set for them.

Should you put an AGM battery in a car that only requires a regular lead acid battery? There aren’t a lot of cases where this is worth the extra cost. If it’s just a regular car, and not an off road truck with a winch, or a built up motor, or other special applications, replacing a lead acid with a lead acid is the way to go. If you do have a special application that requires extra cranking power or the battery gets drained down more than it should, then yes, in some cases it’s worth it.

Can you put a regular lead acid battery in a car that calls for an AGM? You can, but expect a decreased lifespan of the battery. Something like a year, instead of 4 or 5 years.

AGM batteries have some advantages. In an RV for example they do not emit any gas when being charged and you can have them inside with you. They can also be safely drained down lower than a regular acid giving you more time between charges.

Most brands of lead acid batteries will recover from neglect better than an AGM, so if you know you aren’t going to keep an eye on them, it will cost you more to ruin the batteries.

AGM batteries are a great choice for RV’s, off grid, trolling motors, motorcycles, and vehicles that were designed for them. Otherwise regular lead acid batteries still do a good job in most applications at a lower cost.

Give us a call to ask about what your best choice would be.