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LiFEPo4 Battery sitting outside for several months NOT hooked up = me freaking out about self discharge and a possible 800lb. expensive brick!

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Hello all,

I am hoping I can get some info./assistance/guidance from some of you kind and knowledgeable folks... I do realize this is an RV forum, but I know you can still give me good advice.

THE SHORT:

BALQON = NO USER MANUAL or USER GUIDE = NO COMMUNICATION = MY 27kwh LiFEPo4 Battery pack sitting outside for several months NOT hooked up = me freaking out about self discharge (which I didn't even know existed) and a possible 800lb. expensive brick!!!

THE LONG:

This past summer (2015) my wife and I refinanced our house, took out loans, and spent our life savings to pursue our mutual life-long dream of a full turnkey Solar scenario.

The goal was to get all the components in and then hire a local professional to put it all together and guide us through it all, including the use and maintenance.

After doing some comparisons of battery options I decided to go with LiFEPo4. I contacted Balqon, and Samra (CEO?) spent well over an hour on the phone with me and convinced me that was the route to go and that his company was the way to go.

We went through a Solar company to get 24 panels, mounts, a Schneider/Midnight Classic all-in-one wall of electronics and a 27kwh battery bank in an external enclosure, from Balqon.

Balqon took tons longer to ship than promised, after awful communication. Then, despite calls and emails DAILY from myself as well as from the company I bought it through, we still have yet to get a response. And all we were trying to do was get a User Manual or User Guide for the 27kwh battery pack. You know, "This is how you hook it up, Do this, Don't do this, This button does this, This is how to actually open it up, etc..."

Well, then there had been ridiculous and extensive problems and delays in getting the mounting in. (FedEx Freight basically ran over everything with a fork lift, then I get sent the wrong stuff, then they won't send the right stuff, then they want me to pay for the right stuff cause it's not what they were told to send, etc...)

So, as of today I now have all the components in. (Except any of the information I needed from Balqon, that is.)

While online last week doing some research I ran across people talking about self-discharge (which, again, nobody ever told me was even a thing) and how it could brick your battery. (I am aware of the BMS and it's self cut-off to prevent it getting too low, etc.) Well now I am FREAKING OUT!!! Due to all the calamity of errors and delays, the battery has been sitting outside untouched for several months! I don't know how much charge it came with, how to hook it up, nor how to operate it (because I never got a manual, nor did I have everything in to begin an install)

From the looks of things it will probably be this Spring until the panels are mounted and we are ready to actually hook up to it.

So, please, tell me, what do I do??? Assuming I hit the "On" button and it isn't dead, how on earth can I put a charge into it without all the solar panels hooked up to get it to last till the spring without bricking? Can I hook jumper cables up to it from my car for countless hours? Is there a way to hook up a generator directly to it without the wall of electronics? Can I plug into it from my house? I mean, I don't need to fill it up and worry about an over charge, I just need to keep it from dying.

Then, If I go to push the "On" button and nothing happens, or it is totally dead what options do I have?

Quite Sincerely,

Recent Newb

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Hi, I will get things started but I am not familiar with the Balqon prepackaged cells as I purchased individual cells and assembled the batteries myself.

 

First, yes they do self discharge but not terribly fast so you may be okay. liFeP04 like to sit at half charge and are often shipped that way. What jumped out at me ost is you said they were outside. Cold will expedite self discharge and extreme heat and moisture are bad.

 

You don't need the solar stuff right now, you only need a battery charger for now. You will also want to pick up a multimeter so you can measure the batteries actual charge. Is this supposed to be set up as a 12 volt nominal battery? The reason I ask is the individual cells are 3.6 volt nominal and then when they prepackage them they can wire them together to be 12 volt, 24 volt, 48 volt etc. This is important as theyneed to be charged to the correct voltage. You can ruin them if you overcharge them.

 

Assuming you have a 12 volt package I would not get anything expensive just something like a battery tender. If they are low, than charge them up and then recheck them every once in a while. In other words don't just let them sit on the charger.

 

There will be people that come by more familiar with your package and able to provide more precise advice. But, yes they do self discharge. You are hopefully okay but you need to get on this now. You need away to measure the charge, a multi meter and a battery charger will work but we need to make sure you will be using a charger with the correct voltage. If you have a link to what you bought that would be helpful. Dave

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The drawing pacjage from the solar supplier will help answer some of the questions I have about your project. I think this is in a residential install, not RV, so the battery bank is likely higher than 12 volts. The solar package will help to confirm this. Once the bank voltage is confirmed, a "simple" plug-in charger is the next step. The quotation marks were intentional, depending on bank voltage. Let us know.

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Thanks Daveh,

 

It is a 27kwh 48Volt bank in an EXTERNAL Enclosure. The company has updated their products and the original product page but it would fall under this current page's category: www.balqon.com/residential-energy-storage-ess-r24/

 

Mine is in an enclosure similar to this one:

 

< http://www.balqon.com/online-store/#!/Commercial-Energy-Storage-50-kWhr/p/48565112/category=12286450 >

 

But mine does not have the fancy display. Just a simple one that will show a general "% charge led". So I could push the on button and probably see what it says, but I don't want to until I get a Battery Charger, as you suggest, and am immediately ready to hook it up.

 

The enclosure itself has two connector points on the side that in theory I believe I just stick the leads in and tighten the knobs around it.

 

recent newb

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My Balqon battery pack sat uncharged for 3 months without significant self discharge. Hook a volt meter to it and see what you have. If it came with a BMS like my 12v 9kWh batery pack did, you probably can't overcharge if you tried. That said, I would be careful using a charger designed for lead acid. It won't hurt it not to fully charge it and may store better half charged. There won't be much difference in voltage, if any, between 20% and 80% SOC. You will probably see about 3.2v per cell throughout that range if they are the same cells

 

Balqon manuals have been available for smaller battery packs on their website.

 

Jim

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I just checked, and it was shipped almost exactly 6 months ago. Sigh...

 

@ Cathy & Jim, I grabbed that manual, but they don't have anything for the large size I got with two internal banks, and the external enclosure either...

 

Why would a battery charger meant for lead acid be bad? Any ideas of where I could go in person to get what I would need? Walmart, Harbor Freight, Advance Auto, etc...

 

recent newb

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48 volt chargers are a little harder to come by and you have a very large bank. It looks like chargers for the 48 volt golf cart batteries are 300-400 dollars. For less money you could get something like this and http://www.walmart.com/ip/13221809?wmlspartner=wlpa&adid=22222222227008244068&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=75904836154&wl4=&wl5=pla&wl6=56989859945&veh=sem and just start getting a charge into it.

 

Pressing that button to see the charge % is not going to hurt the battery. What is done is done. It takes virtually no charge to check the level. Since you already bought the solar stuff I would not be inclined to spend the bucks on an expensive charger unless you believe you will be using it in your final set up and then I would get a really good charger intended for lithium.

 

As Jim said it is better to have a battery charger set up for LiFePo4 specifically because lead acid chargers tend to charge at a higher voltage than what lithium needs and they hold that charge. Lead Acids like the to be charged up and then for that charge to be held with a trickle charge. LiFePO4 like to get charged up and then stop. That is one reason your batteries may be okay even at 6 months. Lithium do not need to be at full charge to be satisfied in life.

 

So to make a long story short go to any of the stores you mentioned or Amazon just make sure you get a 48 Volt charger. Hook it up as instructed positive to positive...negative to negative and let it charge. If you don't get an expensive charger it could take a long time but you will have current going in. You do not need to worry about the lead acid charger concern as long as you just don't leave the charger on them once they are charged.

 

I would also consider getting a multimeter. An expensive one like a Fluke is something you may want long term but even one like this is going to give you a much better idea of what is going on http://www.walmart.com/ip/49312722?wmlspartner=wlpa&adid=22222222227036860873&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=83295203554&wl4=&wl5=pla&wl6=186623067634&veh=sem. You just put the red prong on positive and black on neg and you will know the voltage of your battery with much more accuracy than the built in balqon meter.

 

See what the actual charge is. That will be very helpful to us in knowing what is going on. I am not familiar with charging a 48 volt back but I think for a LiFePo4 would be about 55 volts at full charge. 48 volts would be low and 44 volts is dangerously low.(These numbers assue your battery has 16 cells rather than 15)

 

Also, when you do charge them they will not go up in nice linear line. They will hold and seem to be hardly charging at all and then they will jump as they near top. So you have to stay on top of it while charging. Dave

Edited by Daveh

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Unfortunately the wall of invertor and charge controller stuff is in storage.

 

I looked at some chargers on amazon and found some 48v ones.

 

After I can check the battery with a meter this Sunday afternoon ill prolly order one of them.

 

It looks like there a few from like $100-$300. From 1Amp up to 50Amp.

 

So, just to let y'all know. I posted on a couple other forums. I hope this doesn't offend anyone or make them think this is spam. I was just freaking out and desperate to get some answers.

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I thought cross posting was reason for termination of membership or at least taking away your birthday. There are intelligent people on other forums too. Post away.

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Hey guys,

I switched on the enclosure today and I'll list the exact results below. The display has 2 buttons side by side that each cycle through a top or bottom row of basic info. Without a manual, I assume they reflect the top and bottom level of batteries inside??? Or maybe they both represent the whole so you can check two different numbers at once. Cause both rows said the exact same thing as I cycled through both buttons.

" 0 A "
" 0 W "
" 52.4 V "
" 66F Tmp "
" 1.0 Ah "
" 52 Wh "
" E F "
" 0% Fuel "
" 0% SoC "
" 0 A "

I'll also attempt to upload the pictures I took. A couple of things I noticed immediately was:

A) condensation on all the cross bars bridging cells. (stupid question, but how do I wipe them off without shorting anything out or electrocuting myself???)

B ) the black squares on every 3 cells (8 on each level = 16 total) (the BMS Sensors???) were all blinking, even though I had the battery bank turned off.

C) the top row and the bottom row had 24 cells each. So the whole bank has a total of 48 cells. (Is that 1 cell for each of the 48V that the system is?)


I went by Home Depot and got a $99 Klein Multi Meter. - Depending on your advice I'll try to check the cells tomorrow. From the looks of the inside of the enclosure I'm not sure how many of the bottom row I can actually reach.

I'm still trying to figure out where I can actually go buy a 48v charger in person instead of having to order one online and wait. Even if I have to drive an hour away to get one. But if this thing is "dead" would there be any special instructions or specific charger to trying to revive it before officially pronouncing it a lost cause?

Thanks

Edited by recent newb

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I am guessing you are good. At 52.4 volts you would be at 3.275 per cell which is right where you want to be. These batteries spend most of their time in the 3.2 volt range so you are still at mid range. It makes sense to me the SoC, percent and fuel show 0 since those need to be set first to show anything. To confirm you are at about 52.4 use your multimeter to measure the voltage at your main terminals as shown in your picture 1385. You have Calb cells (which is what I have and they are good). Each grey cube is a cell. I would not worry about measuring each individual cell for right now. If your voltage actually is at 52.4 or there abouts that tells me you do not have a dead cell. If you are at 52.4 you also do not have a charging emergency.

Edited by Daveh

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So you have 16 cells at an average of 3.275 per cell. The concern is that the cells may be out of balance but that is a bigger project. From what I see here there is no emergency.

Edited by Daveh

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I thought having the cells connected and sitting for extended amount of time was one way to balance the cells. I may be wrong though.

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That is correct Ron but for the cells to balance the cells need to be connected in parallell. These are 16 cells connected in series which is why it is a 48 volt pack.

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I think they easily could be in balance. The concern is that the buitl in balance and monitoring system drains some cells more than others. I am not familiar with the monitoring system so I do not know.

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Recent Newb,

 

It looks like the electronic hardware connected to your system was made by Cleanpower. Here is a link to the display hardware. There are links to documentation that may help you on that page. You will also see links to cell monitors that appear to be the same as used on your batteries. I would guess if you opened the black plastic box labeled "Master Control Box" you would find Cleanpower's "Housepower BMS" unit. Because Balqon probably potted the components, you won't see Cleanpower's name on the components. Dimitri from Cleanpower told me that Balqon bought BMS hardware from them. If I were you, I would download all the files and hang onto them in case Cleanpower goes belly up. Having one cell monitor go bad, I bought an extra one to keep as a spare.

 

Jim

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If I were you, I would download all the files and hang onto them in case Cleanpower goes belly up. Having one cell monitor go bad, I bought an extra one to keep as a spare.

 

Jim

REALLY good plan, Jim. You were wise to buy extra components - these guys in this "new" business sometimes do not last long.

 

You are becoming quite the expert on this stuff :)

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I guess I will buy a spare also even though I still need to install the original. Good suggestion Jim

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it sure does look like my Display stuff. I'll look into the black box today. I would think it is probably their BMS as well.

I downloaded all their info stuff. Good call.

 

once all the dust settles I may be grabbing a back up cell, or two, or 17 also!

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Hey Guys,

attached are some close up pix of the BMS from inside the black box, the sensors, and the silver box with holes in it.

 

https://pix.sfly.com/pq1yNC

attached is also the map of readings. The organized blocks looking one is the bottom level, and the jigsaw puzzle looking one is the top level.

my multimeter read the bank total as 52.4v.

Listed out the readings are:

Top:
3.278
3.283
3.277
3.276
3.280
3.276
3.281
3.278

Bottom:
3.274
3.277
3.276
3.275
3.277
3.277
3.275
3.278

thanks.

Edited by recent newb

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Looks good. How long before you install? I am not sure I would bother with a charger depending on your plans.

 

Those meaurements are obviously very promising as to balance. To precisely determine balance you need to measure them at full or near empty charge. As discussed earlier the LiFePo4 voltages do not reflect the charge of the battery with precision (as youcould expect with lead acids) when they are not nearly full or nearly empty. Look at the charge curve for this Calb (This is not yours but is close and gives youthe idea). http://www.thunderstruck-ev.com/Manuals/CA%20Series.pdf As you can see battery cells reflecting a voltage like yours can be anywhere from 95% charged to 30% charged. The only way you would know for sure would be to bring them up to 3.4 or 3.45, let them settle a while and then measure how close they are.

 

Having siad that, based on the fact you have been sold this as a package unit, that they are within .01 of each other and based on my personal experience with my own Calbs and measuring them as they are charging, I think you are looking at a half full, balanced set off batteries. You are in good shape. Dave

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