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What SV Otter 2 says about his house battery

When we returned to sailing after a 30 year absence, we purchased a boat with flooded T105 batteries. It took us a while to figure out that just monitoring battery voltage and water wasn’t enough. We also had to monitor battery specific gravity. As is often the case, those batteries weren’t in easily accessed places, so battery maintenance was another chore on the list. In addition, we left the boat on the coast while we visited home several consecutive months out of the year. So the batteries were neglected during those periods, causing early battery aging. 

We sold that boat after a year because I needed dual knee replacement and we weren’t sure when I would be sufficiently recovered to return to sailing.  

I was physically fit for clambering about a sailboat after a year of recovery, so we purchased another sailboat. This time we decided that we preferred no-maintenance AGM batteries. So we purchased two 8D batteries (510Ah total) and 690w of solar to recharge them. The first few months were great, but we eventually noticed that we were not getting 50% (255Ah) per day out of them, even though they were showing “fully charged” by sundown on most days. We routinely using only 125-150Ah before seeing the dreaded 50% voltage. It seemed like a mere hour after charge was removed that the AGM battery voltage was down to 12.6v and often below 12.2v the following morning. 

I learned that our battery manufacturer (Lifeline) allowed equalizing the batteries, so we implemented a schedule to equalize every 3 weeks. That seemed to help a bit. Instead of sagging to 12.6v shortly after charge was removed, the battery would sag to 12.7v… but it still ended up around 12.2 or lower most mornings. 

While the AGM batteries were easier to maintain than flooded batteries, we were still disappointed with their performance. So we started talking to mooring ball neighbors at Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida. One of those neighbors was Jim Delane. 

Jim patiently explained LiFePO4 technology to us. After a year of thinking about the pro’s and con’s, we decided to dive in. Jim was starting a Lithium Battery business, so we decided to purchase his brand of battery from his startup company, 800Ah worth. There were lots of benefits right from the start: • The two 400 Ah batteries (800 Ah total) were the same form factor as our 8D AGMs, so it was a simple swap-out decision since no additional space was required. • I didn’t need to replace any of our charge controllers. It was a simple matter of reprogramming them for LiFePO4. (Outback PowerFlex solar controller, Balmar 100A alternator and ARS III regulator, Magna Sine Magnum charger/inverter) • Our Xantrex LinkPRO battery monitor worked the same as before. There were a few parameters that I adjusted to make it more LiFePO4 compatible, but it still easily monitored our battery usage and battery state. (Jim Delane helped me identify which parameters to change.) • We didn’t wake up each morning wondering if we would need to run our generator. December and January are months in Marathon when the sun is lowest in the sky and clouds are frequent. One morning, we woke to find that we were down 300Ah out of our 800Ah but, amazingly enough, the voltage was still sitting at 13.1v. Some might have been tempted to run the generator to top off the battery, but we were interested in seeing what would happened as we 

approached 50% or more discharge of our 800Ah. We still haven’t found out. The days got longer, the sun rose higher, the sky became less cloudy, and our 690w solar panels managed to fully recharge the battery! We achieve full recharge several times a week, depending on weather. We’ve been living off our LiFePO4 batteries with only our solar panels providing charge since mid December 2018. We have not needed to start our generator at all. • We can draw long periods of high amperage from these batteries. Our batteries can sustain a continuous 200A draw. I’ve observed the toaster draw 75A for several minutes. One day, my wife was using a heat gun to strip some teak. It drew 150A continuously. 

We are not shy about using our battery energy. We use our toaster for many breakfasts, and a microwave whenever the need arises. In addition, we routinely recharge our electronics, watch tv, use a vacuum cleaner, and recharge our power tools. 

We are very pleased and satisfied with our LiFePO4 purchase and with the pre-sales and post-sales support we have received from Jim Delane and his AMPS company. We recommend him highly! 

 

Fred & Karen Rybczynski SV Otter II 7 March 2019 

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