Battery troubles are a common complaint among those solar power users who also have a battery bank. Several potential problems can cause a battery to stop charging or interrupt the flow of power to or from the battery. If one or more of your batteries is giving you trouble, try these troubleshooting tips.
Perform a Physical Inspection
The first step to pinpointing a lousy battery is to look at it simply. Often you can spot physical damage that would interfere with your battery’s performance. Here are a few things to look for:
- Crack or rupture in plastic casing
- Excessive leaking (depending on battery type)
- Discoloration anywhere on the battery
- Bulging in the battery casing
- Broken or loose terminals
Broken and loose terminals can cause a short circuit, and you might notice some burning or melting on the battery as well. Short circuits are dangerous and can even cause a battery to explode. If the battery looks intact, but there’s a bulge or bump on it, it’s probably been overcharged. Other external damage to the battery’s casing is usually a sign of mishandling and won’t often interfere with the battery’s performance. However, they can be a safety issue and should still be removed from use. Finally, even one battery cell’s discoloration can render an entire battery useless, and it should be replaced.
If you use flooded batteries, you’ll need to check water levels too. Top them off if they’re getting low on distilled water. If they’ve been dry for a long time, sulfation can build up on the plates—and sulfation is the top cause of early battery failure.
Check the Voltage
Taking a voltage reading is an excellent way to check your battery’s state of charge, and it can help you pinpoint the issue. A reading of 0 volts usually indicates a short circuit. If the battery can’t get above 10.5 volts while you’re charging it, the battery probably has a dead cell. If the battery says it’s fully charged, but the voltage is 12.4 or lower, sulfation is perhaps the problem.
Perform a Load Test
Finally, trying performing a load test on your battery using a voltmeter. The expected readout will vary depending on the battery size. If you have a 12-volt battery, a healthy reading would be between 9.5 and 10.5 volts, and it should be able to hold that range under the load for 30 seconds. If the voltage drops, then there’s a problem with the battery. It could be a sulfation problem or a manufacturing flaw. Either way, the battery isn’t usable.
It’s essential to inspect all of your solar equipment, from your batteries to your Victron Energy inverter, and ensure all parts are in safe operating condition.