Going solar is all the rage right now, particularly in Zimbabwe, where incessant power shortages have largely disrupted people’s lives. I, as an example, am a freelancer. I work on the internet and need a constant supply of power to keep going. However, over the past few years, I have been finding it difficult to carry on. The fact that the neighborhood has no power throughout the day means that I am unable to work. As a result of this challenge, I have been forced to do my work in the dead of the night, which can be quite draining. I am now seriously thinking about moving to South Africa, but that is another story. Anyway, I have recently been carrying out research with the idea of installing an off-grid system at my home. That would save me the trouble of having to do my wake at odd hours. One of the things that I discovered while carrying out research was that there are several types of solar battery available for home solar systems. These include lithium, flooded lead acid, Gel and AGM batteries. In this article, I am going to look at Gel Batteries and why you should probably stay away from them.
What are Gel Batteries?
Gel batteries are actually a type of lead acid battery. However, instead of using a liquid electrolyte, they use a type of gel that has specifically been designed for the purpose. The major advantage of this is that Gel batteries can be manhandled without fear of spilling the electrolyte. What’s more, Gel batteries are sealed, which makes them maintenance free. The same cannot be said of flooded lead acid batteries, as an example, where the level of the electrolyte constantly needs to be monitored.
The disadvantage of Gel Batteries
Understand here that this information is based on research done online. I have never actually owned a Gel battery. Indeed, I got into an interesting argument with one of the guys at a Solar shop in the Harare CBD who insisted on giving me a quote for a Gel battery even though I was adamant that I didn’t want one. It appears Gel batteries are the main type of battery that can be found in 2-bit solar shops around town. So, why do I say people should stay away from Gel batteries?
Gel batteries need careful charging
The once major disadvantage for Gel batteries is that they are extremely sensitive to overcharging. If you overcharge them, they become irreparably damaged. You, therefore, need to make sure that your battery is charged at just the right pace and to just the right level. Otherwise you will soon have a dead battery on your hands. In order to get the most out of this type of battery, you actually need to have a smart invertor.
Inverters are hardly smart in Zimbabwe
Now, most of the invertors that are sold around Harare appear to have been roughly put together from spare parts. If you want to get a smart inverter, you will be better off buying one from a reputable hardware, such as Electro Sales. And these cost an arm and a leg. So, you are probably going to end with a damaged gel battery in a short space of time.
Go for AGM or sealed lead acid batteries instead
These are the best alternatives to Gel batteries, in my view. They are not that sensitive to overcharging, and do not need to be constantly watched as is the case with flooded lead acid batteries. Well, this article is, again, based on third party information. If you have had a different experience with a Gel battery, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.