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Experiences with Starlight Solar, also their Lithium Batteries


Al F

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How have your experiences with Starlight Solar been? Specifically I am thinking of buying their 400AH Lithium Battery package.

 

I previously started a topic about Balqon Lithium batteries and got lots of excellent replies so though I would ask about Starlight Solar.

 

I do see that Jack Mayer has a positive view of Starlight Solar on his website.

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Any solar installer is going to have some unhappy customers - for various reasons - like any other business. In general Starlight does a good job. I don't have specific knowledge of their LFP batteries, though. Just as I don't have specific knowledge of AM Solar's LFP batteries. But both of these outfits generally do a very good job, and both held off on "Lithium" batteries for quite some time until they could get a good handle on them, before they offered them.

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X2

 

I also can't comment on their LFMP's, but they are a reputable outfit and Larry knows his stuff. They've been in the game quite awhile and can't imagine they would offer an LFMP package if they weren't confident in it. Worst case.. they do a good job supporting the gear they sell. I wouldn't have any concerns about buying from them.

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Friends put in the Starlight 400AH LFMP pack and are happy with it. They spent the summer in the Atlantic Provinces and dry camped many nights. They have a Country Coach and installed the batteries in an interior compartment, so the batteries are protected from freezing weather.

The batteries used for their installation were Elite Power ones with the full battery management system. AM Solar has moved to another brand, since they found Elite Power was putting more and more restrictions on the installation.

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Call me old fashion (I still have lead acid until its life ends), but I'm NOT quite ready to go the Lithium route. I've heard too many horror stories about fires and charging so prefer to wait and let the technology and the dust "settle". I enjoy reading about the Tesla battery technology. I had a personal tour of Technomadia's setup once at a Bus Nuts Rally and was impressed at how much energy they can store in X space weighing X pounds, but I prefer to wait a few more years before I consider it. Ive always been more of a Ford or Chevy kinda guy then Cadillac lol

 

PS For articles regarding Lithium Battery Fire Hazards, browse here, however there's so much literature out there and some conflicting, good luck in figuring it all out lol

 

Yall keep safe now and do your own homework, its your life and safety at risk, so study and make wise informed decisions

 

 

http://www.bing.com/search?q=lithium+battery+fire+hazard&form=PRUSEN&pc=EUPP_U358&mkt=en-us&refig=610e810a81a0461ea023b55a7db3eda5&qs=AS&pq=lithium+battery+fire+hazard&sc=2-27&sp=1&cvid=610e810a81a0461ea023b55a7db3eda5

 

 

John T

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If I had the room to install 400AH lead acid batteries, I would go that route instead of Lithium. The big issue would be the price of the lithium batteries. It is not that we couldn't afford the Lithium, it is more that I feel it is that the Lithium is not mainstream yet.

 

I currently have a pair of golf cart batteries and they work pretty well. However about 30%-40% of the time we are boondocking we take the batteries down to about 50%, and have to conserve more than I want to bother with to keep within the 50% SOC. I have thought about installing the 360AH (or about that capacity) batteries which could fit in the same footprint, but being much taller, I would have to lower the battery storage compartment and don't particularly want to do that. As in many Class A gas MH's the battery storage is under the entrance steps. Just not a lot of room to play with there.

 

Anyways the above rambling paragraph kind justifying to myself that I want to jump into the lithium energy setup.

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Hey there Al, you state "It is not that we couldn't afford the Lithium, it is more that I feel it is that the Lithium is not mainstream yet."

 

FWIW I agree, most outlets and dealers are familiar with and can supply Lead Acid or AGM energy storage systems, while there aren't near as many who are proficient in lithium technology. I have only looked at a few of the articles regarding Lithium fire safety and for the time being I am also holding off before considering them (like you maybe wait until they are more in the mainstream). This is a copy of the URL Link above where you can find more articles (some of which are in conflict) then you want to read lol Of course, ones safety and any risk they are willing to undertake (even if slight) is a strictly personal choice, but as an old engineer I'm just perhaps over cautious BUT STILL ALIVE SO FAR LOL. As always, to each their own. If a person weighs the advantages and disadvantages and risks and opts to go lithium I'm happy for him. ANY battery set up Lead or AGM or Lithium have associated risks involved, pay your money and take your chances.

 

Yall keep safe now

 

http://www.bing.com/search?q=lithium+battery+fire+hazard&form=PRUSEN&pc=EUPP_U358&mkt=en-us&refig=610e810a81a0461ea023b55a7db3eda5&qs=AS&pq=lithium+battery+fire+hazard&sc=2-27&sp=1&cvid=610e810a81a0461ea023b55a7db3eda5

 

John T

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Can't help with your battery questions but I bought all my solar equipment from Starlight Solar. I did my own install but any questions I had, Larry and Debbie couldn't have been better. Been back since the initial install for several things. And don't forget any solar products are sales tax free in Arizona. Also some places have a situation with the state of Arizona that if you are using batteries for a solar system they are also sales tax free.

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Hey there Al, you state "It is not that we couldn't afford the Lithium, it is more that I feel it is that the Lithium is not mainstream yet."

 

FWIW I agree, most outlets and dealers are familiar with and can supply Lead Acid or AGM energy storage systems, while there aren't near as many who are proficient in lithium technology. I have only looked at a few of the articles regarding lithium fire safety and for the time being I am also holding off before considering them. This is a copy of the URL Link above where you can find more articles (some of which are in conflict) then you want to read lol Of course, ones safety and any risk they are willing to undertake (even if slight) is a strictly personal choice, but as an old engineer I'm just perhaps over cautious BUT STILL ALIVE SO FAR LOL.

 

Yall keep safe now

 

http://www.bing.com/search?q=lithium+battery+fire+hazard&form=PRUSEN&pc=EUPP_U358&mkt=en-us&refig=610e810a81a0461ea023b55a7db3eda5&qs=AS&pq=lithium+battery+fire+hazard&sc=2-27&sp=1&cvid=610e810a81a0461ea023b55a7db3eda5

 

John T

Thanks for the link. However I'm not seeing anything specific about the LiFePO4 batteries used in RV and marine installations. So I don't see that the articles relate to my planned use of LiFePO4 batteries.

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Hey again Al, You state, "Thanks for the link. However I'm not seeing anything specific about the LiFePO4 batteries used in RV and marine installations. So I don't see that the articles relate to my planned use of LiFePO4 batteries."

 

You're most welcome.

 

There are countless articles (THAT BING SEARCH FOUND 171,000 !!!!) relating to lithium batteries in general and associated fire hazards (for improper charging or whatever causes) and I sure haven't looked at them all lol, so I have no idea if your particular RV/Marine LiFePO4 batteries are totally exempt from fire hazards or not???? Heck for all I know that RV/Marine application unit may have absolutely NO fire hazard potential whatsoever (if so BUY THEM) Where life safety is concerned its just pays to do your homework to see what brands/models/types are safest and which may be exempt from the fire hazards some lithium batteries shown by the link above have exhibited. Still, I think I will follow your approach and wait until they are more "in the mainstream" (Plus stop hearing about all those fires) maybe we can say "great minds think alike" lol

 

Best wishes Al, fun chattin with you, keep safe now

 

John T

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John,

 

The articles returned reference fires associated with the general class of Lithium Ion batteries. There are multiple chemistries used in this class of batteries.

 

Those batteries created with a chemical composition of lithium cobalt oxide as used in the Dreamliner do have a high risk of fires. However, the lithium batteries being discussed and used for electric vehicles, boats and now RVs are alternate chemistries including those being considered here, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4) batteries. These batteries do not have the same risks as those used in the infamous Boeing fires and cannot be considered in the same way. The chemistry is simply different. To put it in very blunt and simple terms, it's like saying that water has hydrogen in it and hydrogen is flammable, therefore water is flammable. Just because the two battery chemistries all have lithium in them and some chemical formulas including lithium are flammable, it is not logical to conclude that all chemical compositions containing lithium are flammable.

 

I've spent a considerable amount of time on this topic in recent months as we are considering them for our new RV.

 

There are many extensive and in depth analyses of this topic.

 

One clear straightforward cite comparing lithium batteries is below.

 

http://qz.com/45381/boeings-787-dreamliner-uses-the-most-flammable-battery-on-the-market/

 

If you are looking for in depth discussions of the LFP technology use, check out the discussion here in the cruisers forum. They are way ahead of the RV market at this point.

 

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f14/lifepo4-batteries-okay-tear-me-apart-36530.html

 

And our local favorites would be the Technomads, who have been experimenting with the technology for more than three years now. Their trailblazing experience is helping the rest of us understand the advantages and limitations of LFPs.

 

http://www.technomadia.com/lithium/

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If I am reading the Starlight FAQ correctly, these batteries cannot be stored below 32F. Although Litium has many benefits that is a no go for me.

 

I wonder how the car companies get around this limitation.

 

Mike

They cannot be charged below 32F. You can let them get much colder without harm, I heard -20F, but have to let them warm to 32 or above to charge them up.

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If I am reading the Starlight FAQ correctly, these batteries cannot be stored below 32F. Although Litium has many benefits that is a no go for me.

 

A lot of good articles linked so far so I won't add much other than to comment that the specific densities are very different than standard lithium ion's (more along the lines of a NiMH). As such.. the chance of thermal runaway is pretty much non existent and more on par with AGM's when it comes to stability. IMO

 

I wouldn't let the temperature limitations scare me off LFP's. It's certainly a consideration, and requires a bit of planning, but it's certainly nothing insurmountable. Just like with standard wet cells.. some applications will require more planning and varying levels of measures taken to ensure adequate ventilation, some LFP applications might require additional insulation and/or supplemental heating options (not unlike your holding tanks in the same low temperatures). I think it's been more than proven that they are viable and considered by many as the next generation cell for RV use. I agree.

 

Prices will continue to drop, but even now.. cost to available ah's over the course of the life of the cells is pretty much equal to lead cells. IOW... if you were to use your LFP bank to the extent of it's usable life, it won't cost you any more than lead cells would have cost you. To me, the biggest advantage would be the available ah's "on tap" on a day to day basis. That alone would more than justify the jump (not even considering the weight, size, charge/discharge rate advantages).. but then again.. I already have the peripheral equipment needed to charge and maintain LFP's. For someone that didn't, the extra cost to upgrade supporting equipment might make it more prohibitive.

 

I depend on my electrical suite 24/7/365, so I am the cautious type.. and LFP's may not be "mainstream", but the tech is viable 'today' and for those that can take advantage of them, the cost to "life" is fully justifiable. If I hadn't just installed a new AGM bank a bit over 3 years ago, I would have jumped already.

 

For those that rely on their battery banks, let's face it.. we're packing a LOT of dead weight in our lead cells that get's harder and harder to live with when you consider the alternative. As a daily standard.. what do I have "on tap".. 10-20% dod?! To put that into real numbers for me.. 80ah's between charge cycles vs. over 300ah's. Mighty attractive, that!

 

I could almost stop plugging into John's rig at night for my daily ice ration! :o:P

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NJ Troy, GREAT INFORMATION, Thanks for the research. Its like I said "Heck for all I know that RV/Marine application unit may have absolutely NO fire hazard potential whatsoever (if so BUY THEM)" Once they get to be more "in the mainstream" and I'm confident they are safe (I'm still holding off on that a bit however, just my old engineers cautious side lol) types like Al in Florida and myself may just go out and invest !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Yall take care now, do your research, consider the risks, make smart choices AND BE SAFE NOW

 

PS I once saw Technomads set up in person and was impressed as to how much energy they could store with such small space and weight!!

 

John T

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I guess if I was the worrying type and did internet searches for traffic accidents and especially deaths resulting from driving or even riding in a motor vehicle, I would never, ever get in one and leave my house except to walk. Of course I could get mugged walking to the store. Or a loose aggressive dog could attack me.

 

Then there would be the option to ride a bicycle to the store, but then an internet search would turn up all the people killed or injured by riding a bicycle so that is out.

 

OOPS! Then doing another internet search for house fires and people dying in them. Then there are the home invasions where someone breaks down your door, robs your house, rapes your wife and then kills you both. This happens even in "good" neighborhoods. Just do an internet search and you can find examples.

 

My goodness what are we to do!!!!!!!! No where is safe!

 

Risk is everywhere. We do need to look at the "facts" not just the number of general stories about muggings, car accidents, deaths and injuries while riding a bicycle, etc, etc, etc.

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Yarome pretty much covered my thinking in his post. Including the timing was off by about a year or so for me, as though I looked into making this mum 3 1/2 years or so ago, I elected to go with the Lifeline AGM's. Many advances, and more info now available for RV's usage. All my supporting equipment is also able to handle the shift in the future, so that is good.

 

In our coach, I believe I will mount them inside cabinet in the corner of the closet. Close access for wire feeds to where the solar controller is, as well as the inverter/charger too. I'll then portion off the chassis battery, and pick up some more usable storage where the X's 4 L16's are today - so that is a nice plus:)!

 

Also watching and waiting to watch the costs drop, before considering adding this to our S&B Home. Having solar panels installed this week, and have it set up to easily add in a battery bank in the future. Suspect the next few years will see price drops, but also more advancements in battery performance and life.

 

On Larry and Debbie - have not yet met them, will drop into their shop in the next few months to do so. But they came highly recommended from a few sources that I trust, and they provided good communication when I approached them for help on my project. Timing was off, as it was their 'travel season' - so our schedules just did not mesh. I recommend Starlight often, due to the good communication I received, the references from others I trust, and I also like how Larry helps many, many people via his forum participation on IRV2 (Batterypro)

 

Best to all,

Smitty

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  • 4 weeks later...

I read an article this week about the development of a self-heating lithium battery. The enhancement entailed enclosing the battery in a foil and passing a current from the battery to the foil to warm the battery. I do not recall the details of the amount of draw on the battery but the article stated it was minimal. The heating would occur below 32f.

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