An expansion battery system is an excellent backup power source by itself as well as a great way to increase the energy capacity of your existing solar power station or generator. Their compact and lightweight design make them easy to carry and store, making them the perfect energy solution for homes of all sizes.
However, like all systems, an expansion battery will also degrade over time, losing its performance and efficiency. In this article, we will discuss how do you extend the life of a battery so that you can enjoy your battery backup system for as long as possible.
What Is an Expansion Battery?
An expansion battery system can be considered as a relatively lower-capacity portable power station but with much more compactness and portability. This makes these devices ideal for powering your absolute daily essentials, such as laptops and smartphones, when at home or on the go.
A High-end Bluetti expansion battery system can provide you with several hours of battery backup on a single charge. You can further extend this backup time by connecting the system to portable solar panels and recharge them as you’re using them using the natural sunlight. In addition, you can pair this home battery backup system with an existing portable solar power station or generator and increase the net capacity of the system.
What Is an Expansion Battery Made Up Of?
At its core, an expansion battery system comprises a sizable battery pack geared to a charge controller and an inverter. The purpose and functioning of the charge controller and inverter are a topic for another day, in this article; we will focus entirely on the battery aspect of the system.
When it comes to batteries, there are numerous being manufactured and sold in the market today, all with their own unique quirks and features. However, expansion battery systems, in general, usually employ Lithium ion (LiFePO4) battery types for a variety of reasons.
For starters, lithium ion, or lithium iron phosphate, batteries boast a longer lifespan than the alternatives. As a matter of fact, it was stated in a study that Lithium ion batteries can last up to three times longer than lead-acid batteries.
Another reason for choosing Lithium batteries is that they are extremely lightweight and require no maintenance. This allows manufacturers to produce lighter and more compact backup systems. Additionally, these batteries have a very low self-discharge allowing you to store them for long periods of time without worrying about them going flat.
In addition to all this, Lithium ion batteries offer better efficiency, excellent fast charging capabilities, better resilience to low temperatures, deeper discharges, and are safer than other battery types on the market.
Why Do Expansion Batteries Age?
Before we discuss how to prolong battery lifespan, it is important for you to first understand what causes battery aging in the first place. As the name suggests, Lithium ion batteries generate electrical energy using the movement of lithium ions between electrodes.
Generally, lithium ions (Li-ions) sit between the layers of the cathode which itself is made from a material that is rich in lithium. On the other hand, the anode that receives the ions, is also a layered material usually made from graphite. The lithium ions from the electrodes get dissolved into a conductive solution called the electrolyte which creates a conductive medium for the ions to flow back and forth between the two electrodes.
For instance, when you charge the battery, the lithium ions move from the cathode towards the anode, storing electrical energy while doing so. Conversely, when you’re using the battery to power a device, the battery discharges and the ions flow in the reverse direction through the electrolyte i.e., from anode to cathode.
One complete battery cycle lapses when you fully discharge and then recharge the battery, or vice versa. The greater the number of charge cycles a battery has completed, the more it will degrade and the lower will be its remaining lifespan.
But why do batteries degrade in the first place you ask? This is because of the side reactions that occur in between every complete charge cycle. These side reactions, in the presence of the electrolyte, transform the delocalized lithium ions into different compounds thereby progressively lowering the overall number of free moving lithium ions in the battery. With the constantly declining concentration of lithium ions, the battery gradually loses its capacity to produce energy as well as its efficiency.
Another factor behind the aging of batteries in an expansion battery unit is the degradation of the electrode structures. As the lithium ions continuously move in and out of the electrodes in each cycle, the structure of the electrodes gets damaged, leading to a loss of efficiency and capacity since it can reduce the number of ions each electrode can accept.
Overheating of the battery is another detrimental factor that can accelerate the natural aging process of the battery. This is because at a high temperature, the side reactions begin to speed up, lowering the number of lithium ions at a faster rate. In addition, the electrolyte also begins breaking down, preventing the transmission of ions between the two electrodes.
Improving Your Expansion Battery Lifespan: How Do You Extend the Life of a Battery?
You should keep in mind that battery aging, also referred to as calendar aging is a natural phenomenon and cannot be completely mitigated. However, there are some measures you can take to reduce the degradation rate of your battery and make sure that it lasts as long as possible. So without further ado, let’s get into them:
Be Mindful of Your Battery Temperature
One of the best preventative measures you can take to slow down the aging of your expansion battery is to remain mindful of the temperature of your battery when using or charging it. As we discussed above, a high temperature can break down the electrolyte thereby preventing the shuttling of the ions between the cathode and anode.
Ensuring that your battery remains at a healthy temperature can help you avoid such a situation and prevent rapid aging of the battery. One of the best ways to do this is to avoid storing your battery backup systems in areas that have poor ventilation or have some kind of hot equipment or machinery placed near them.
Knowing this, Bluetti has paid special attention to their expansion battery system designs. Every bluetti battery expansion unit is carefully designed for improved heat dissipation in order to keep the system cool and under an operable temperature.
Prevent Overcharging or Over-Discharging Your Battery
Overcharging the battery essentially means that you are trying to add more ions to the electrode than it has the capacity to accommodate. This leads to a rise of temperature of the battery as well as deterioration of the electrode structure.
Both of these factors result in a loss of battery capacity and efficiency as we have seen before. In addition, over discharging the battery means draining the energy in the battery below a certain lower level. Doing so can lead to an increased resistance making it difficult to recharge the battery and also increasing its temperature.
Fortunately, modern expansion battery systems, such as the Bluetti B300, come with a battery management system and charge controller. These systems work to regulate the voltage and current flowing into and out of the battery, and in doing so, prevent the battery from overcharging and over-discharging.
Use the Battery on a Regular Basis
While it is true that the more often you use your battery, i.e., higher charge cycles, the faster it tends to degrade and age, this does not, by any means, imply that leaving your battery system idle and unused will help improve the lifespan of your system.
The chemicals and materials used inside batteries are prone to degrading and breaking down regardless of whether they are used or not. This means that the lithium ions and the electrodes will eventually react to form other compounds or lose their reactivity owing to side reactions causing them to lose their efficiency and capacity to store and discharge electricity.
Don’t Use Excessively High Voltage and Current to Charge Your Expansion Battery System
Some people have the misconception that charging their expansion battery systems with a very high voltage will recharge the system faster. While there may be some truth to this claim, these people fail to notice that using a voltage and current much higher than the recommended value can also damage their system and may even lead to an electrical fire.
This is because the internal circuitry of the system has been designed according to a certain voltage and current value, which is usually higher than the recommended value. However, when you use a charger that supplies a voltage much higher than this value, the current in the circuitry exceeds the safe allowable value. The extremely high current, due to the resistance, causes electrical heating within the battery, thereby damaging the internals and potentially leading to an electrical fire.
Protect from the Elements
While this may seem like a very obvious measure, many homeowners fail to identify the dangers posed to their energy back systems from natural elements such as rain and hail. While expansion battery systems are well-built and sealed to prevent moisture, dirt, and debris from the air getting inside the system, the body of the expansion battery system will not hold up against heavy rainfall and hail storms.
Keeping this in mind, it is absolutely necessary that you place your system in a well-guarded place where it is protected from the natural elements. If you plan to take the system out on a camping trip or a long road trip in your RV, try to expose the system to the elements as little as possible.
This, however, does not mean that you cannot take it out of your vehicle; just make sure that you don’t place the system anywhere where it can get splashed with water, such as near a pond or lake.
The degradation and aging of a battery is a natural phenomenon, and it cannot be stopped completely. However, there are various factors such as overcharging the battery or high temperatures that can accelerate this degradation. Fortunately, there are various preventative measures you can take to tackle these factors and prevent the rapid aging of your battery and prolong its life.
Modern expansion battery systems such as Bluetti expansion battery units, come with built-in features that also help maintain the health of the system by preventing overcharging, over-discharging, and other factors that can impact battery health.