Richard Perez

In 1970, we moved to the Mountains. The only desirable property we could afford was in the outback. Everything was many miles down a rough dirt road, far from civilized conveniences like electricity. We conquered the bad roads with a 4WD truck and countless hours of mechanical maintenance. The electrical power problem was not so easy to solve. We had to content ourselves with kerosene lighting and using hand tools. The best solution the marketplace could then offer was an engine driven generator. This required constant operation in order to supply power, in other words, expensive. It seemed that in America one either had power or one didn't.

We needed inexpensive home power. And we needed it to be there 24 hours a day without constantly running a noisy, gasoline eating, engine. At that time, NASA was about the only folks who could afford PVs. We started using lead-acid batteries to store the electricity produced by a small gas engine/generator. We'd withdraw energy from the batteries until they were empty and then refill them by running a lawnmower engine and car alternator. Since we stored enough energy to last about 4 days, we discharged and recharged the batteries about 100 times a year. Over years of this type service, we have learned much about lead-acid batteries-- how they work and how to best use them. The following info has been hard won; we've made many expensive mistakes. We've also discovered how to efficiently and effectively coexist with the batteries that store our energy. Batteries are like many things in Life, mysterious until understood.

Before we can effectively communicate about batteries, we must share a common set of terms. Batteries and electricity, like many technical subjects, have their own particular jargon. Understanding these electrical terms is the first step to understanding your batteries.

Electrical Terms


Voltage is electronic pressure. Electricity is electrons in motion. Voltage is the amount of pressure behind these electrons. Voltage is very similar to pressure in a water system. Consider a water hose. Water pressure forces the water through the hose. This situation is the same for an electron moving through a wire. A car uses 12 Volts, from a battery for starting. Commercial household power has a voltage of 120 volts. Batteries for renewable energy are usually assembled into packs of 12, 24, 32, or 48 volts.


Current is the flow of electrons. The unit of electron flow in relation to time is called the Ampere. Consider the water hose analogy once again. If voltage is like water pressure, then current is like FLOW. Flow in water systems is measured in gallons per minute, while electron flow is measured in Amperes. A car tail light bulb consumes about 1 to 2 Amperes of electrical current. The headlights on a car consume about 8 Amperes each. The starter uses about 200 to 300 Amperes. Electrical current comes in two forms-- direct current (DC) and alternating current (ac). In DC circuits the electrons flow in one direction ONLY. In ac circuits the electrons can flow in both directions. Regular household power is ac. Batteries store electrical power as direct current (DC). Power

Power is the amount of energy that is being used or generated. The unit of power is the Watt. In the water hose analogy, power is can be compared to the total gallons of water transferred by the hose. Mathematically, power is the product of Voltage and Current. To find Power simply multiply Volts times Amperes. The amounts of power being used and generated determine the amount of energy that the battery must store.

Battery Terms

A Cell

The cell is the basic building block of all electrochemical batteries. The cell contains two active materials which react chemically to release free electrons (electrical energy). These active materials are usually solid and immersed in a liquid called the "electrolyte". The electrolyte is an electrically conductive liquid which acts as an electron transfer medium. In a lead acid cell, one of the active materials is lead dioxide (PbO2) and forms the Positive pole (Anode) of the cell. The other active material is lead and forms the Negative pole (Cathode) of the cell. The lead acid cell uses an electrolyte composed of sulphuric acid (H2SO4).

During discharge, the cell's active materials undergo chemical reactions which release free electrons. These free electrons are available for our use at the cells electrical terminals or "poles". During discharge the actual chemical compositions of the active materials change. When all the active materials have undergone reaction, then the cell will produce no more free electrons. The cell is now completely discharged or in battery lingo, "dead".

Some cells, like the lead-acid cell, are rechargeable. This means that we can reverse the discharge chemical reaction by forcing electrons backwards through the cell. During the recharging process the active materials are gradually restored to their original, fully charged, chemical composition.

The voltage of an electrochemical cell is determined by the active materials used in its construction. The lead-acid cell develops a voltage of around 2 Volts DC. The voltage of a cell has no relationship to its physical size. All lead acid cells produce about 2 VDC regardless of size.

In the lead acid cell, the sulphuric acid electrolyte actually participates in the cell's electrochemical reaction. In most other battery technologies, like the nickel-cadmium cells, the electrolyte merely transfers electrons and does not change chemically as the cell discharges. In the lead-acid system, however, the electrolyte participates in the cell's reaction and the H2SO4 content of the electrolyte changes as the cell is discharged or charged. Typically the electrolyte in a fully charged cell is about 25% sulphuric acid with the remaining 75% being water. In the fully discharged lead-acid cell, the electrolyte is composed of less than 5% sulphuric acid with the remaining 95% being water. This happy fact allows us to determine how much energy a lead-acid cell contains by measuring the amount of acid remaining in its electrolyte. Figure 1 illustrates the electrochemical workings of a lead acid cell.

A Battery

A battery is a group of electrochemical cells. Individual cells are collected into batteries to either increase the voltage or the electrical capacity of the resulting battery pack. For example, an


Lead Dioxide


DIY Battery Repair

DIY Battery Repair

You can now recondition your old batteries at home and bring them back to 100 percent of their working condition. This guide will enable you to revive All NiCd batteries regardless of brand and battery volt. It will give you the required information on how to re-energize and revive your NiCd batteries through the RVD process, charging method and charging guidelines.

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