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Actually Activating NiFe batteries?

 
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So I bought Nickle Iron batteries direct from a manufacturer in China about 3 years ago.  They arrived in Duluth MN and sat in storage and were moved from place to place a couple of times, sat out in the MN Winter, and a few of them may have been dropped in transit.  Now I am finally getting the chance to plug them in, and the manufacturer is trying to help me get them activated after storage.  They are 400 amp hour batteries, 1.2V, 10 in series.  Three of them seem to always measure a lower voltage than the rest, and it makes me nervous because that's probably about how many times one was dropped.  Anyway, the manufacturer says:

"charge 12 hours first, discharge to 1.0 V, and then continue several cycles, until the discharge time can reach 5 hours.

Regarding the charging voltage, please use 0.2C charging for 12 hours, and then measure the battery's voltage, make a note will be ok. Please kindly note that our charging methods is constant current 80A for 400AH.

Discharge method also takes 0.2C discharge, discharge for 5 hours, measure if the voltage is 1.0v,"

So I am trying to figure out several things.

And how am I going to get my solar controller to slam a full 400AH into these batteries?  It's an mppt controller, a a Tracer4215BN from Epever with an MT50 interface.  It seems like the batteries come up to full voltage really fast and my controller thinks they are full and stops charging.  I have it set as a 400AH battery, but the controller thinks they are lead acid.  It always seems to stop charging halfway through the day and I can't figure out why.  Just keep pumping out the amps lil controller!  I don't know why you wanna quit while the sun is still shining!  I've realized the voltage just responds differently on the NiFe batteries, and the Tracer thinks the battery is full.  I'm fairly certain there is no way, no setting that will work with my mppt.

Furthermore, I am broke as I've ever been...  So I really can't afford even a $100 controller.  I am thinking maybe a buck converter, like this one?  1500W 30A DC-DC Boost Converter, Aideepen 10-60V to 12-90V 30A Step Up Power Supply Module Constant Current LED Driver Voltage Converter Power Converter https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TX51XQG/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_RAmsDb8N9B8TM  I have a 900W solar array, . . .  3, 300W panels in parallel. But I've never seen them put out more than 20 Amps on my charger, so I'm not concerned about over-charging these NiFe, but it might on be on the edge for the buck converter. I have them in parallel currently. Maybe beef up it's heat-sink a little, or add a fan?  I'm thinking this thing could receive the ~36V from my panels, and put out the 16.5 Volts I hear the NiFe batteries like.  (Wondering if my inverter will still work if I get these things charged up all the way. . .  ?)  

But I don't know if it will work...  Any thoughts?  I would really love to prove that these NiFe batteries win the Sustainability Challenge against this new Lithium craze (even for home solar....  Yuck!  I guess mass production beats best application.).

Can you help me get these things activated?  I'm pretty sure they are currently float charging around roughly 5% state of charge since the controller will never put more than 20AH on them!  

Please forgive my babbling.  Looking forward to learning with you~
 
pollinator
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I don't have any experience with NiFe batts, but my Tracer based controller was a POS.

Specifically, it skipped absorb, jumping from bulk straight to float. I found reports from others of the same issue.

It also lacked a manual equalize option. Dumb.

The cheapo 'deep cycle' batteries I used with that controller did not fare well. An identical battery purchased at the same time which was used solo with a much cheaper PWM controller is in much better shape...
 
pollinator
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You may need to use an industrial charger to get the procedure complete. This couldninvolve breaking the battery into halves or quarters to a voltage the charger can do.

Second you will likely need a generator or grid power. Not that you couldnt do it with pv, but 80a constant.... you do not have. Likewise you could break the battery down to a doable capacity for your pv.
 
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Hi,

I had a quick look at you Tracer manual here:
https://myshop.s3-xternal-3.amazonaws.com/shop4072000.images.Epsolar-MPPT-Solar-Charge-controller-New-Tracer-BN-Series.pdf

Is it possible that you can select "User battery" from the remote?  (page 5)

Then you can select from 9 to 17V
which is an excellent range for charging nickel iron batteries.

For first charge, you can set it in the 16,5V region.
Later, you can set it to 15,5-15,6V region to get less water consumption. Absorb time is around 2 hrs
You can check. Float voltage around 14,3V

If you cannot get all the amps in one day (like having not enough solar panels), then is okay to charge them over
a time span of multiple days.

How much lower voltage are the dropped batteries?


 
Meni Menindorf
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Thanks for your feedback everyone.  

Interesting to hear you've had trouble with your Tracer.  I may be able to support your POS claim!  I had a new lead-acid battery go bad after 3 years with this controller (about 50% of expected life?).

Steven I was having trouble getting your link to load. . .  but yes, there is a User setting, but I have found it will not let me adjust the Voltage in the ranges you mention.  (might not be the exact same Tracer model?)  I concluded the same thing, that I might take many days to add 400AH to the batteries, but eventually they will charge up (assuming we use less power than we generate!  lol)  

I am still strongly thinking about trying something like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TX51XQG/?coliid=I1M85YKJD1EWMR&colid=911ZE8P1JL7Y&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it
I am not very worried about over-charging the batteries.  Would this buck-converter be a totally stupid idea?  

Also I am happy to report I am no longer measuring lower voltages on certain batteries.  They seem to have normalized, so I have increased hope for this activation process!  I think I just need to get some Amp Hours into these babies~
 
Steven Di Maira
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Hi!

- Buck converter, I would not call it stupid. However there a caveat on this.

With this DC/DC converter you can set the output voltage (good), but you cannot alter the maximum output current.
The load (batteries) can take whatever current they want.
The risk is that you can overrun the max current the DC/DC converter can supply. (can be seen in some of the reviews )

It would require manipulating the charge voltage very carefully, in order to avoid overload/damage of the converter.

A bench power supply, something like this has the advantage that you can both set a limit to the voltage and the current.

https://www.amazon.com/Yescom-Precision-Variable-Digital-Adjustable/dp/B00SWK6M0M/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=power+supply&qid=1566072117&s=electronics&sr=1-3

A quick search on amazon gave this.
It's "only" 10 amps. But it would be more safe.
You might find a more powerfull one, with more research?

https://www.amazon.com/Yescom-Precision-Variable-Digital-Adjustable/dp/B00SWK6M0M/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=power+supply&qid=1566072117&s=electronics&sr=1-3


 
frank li
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One thing i failed to notice earlier, your array at 900w should be close to 50a charging near absorb voltage if all is well.

Another, that your battery is only 12v thought it was higher. In a guide for ukranian made edison batteries, they mention using one less cell if your gear cannot be set the the higher voltage. That cell could be cycled in periodicaly or left out until you get another controller.

In full sun.ypur array has higher power available than the control can pass. Its another great excuse for an upgrade controller!
 
Steven Di Maira
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@frank li

About solar capacity: good point!

If you respect the cable sizes, it is possible to wire a solar panel directly to the NiFe batteries.
I would not recommend to do this permanently. But if you just want to get the amps in (a one time pass)
it will work.

The battery will pull the voltage of the solar panel to it's own level (constant current charging).

Do keep an eye on the charge voltage and quit when needed. (at around 17,5- 18,5V)
They NiFe cells will boil the excessive charge as hydrogen. (don't use an airtight container for the batteries)
Check water levels.


 
Meni Menindorf
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Thank you all for your continued help!  

I found this buck converter which I think might handle the load from my solar array?  
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TWN44SZ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_6EhwDbH9SCXJF

Thing is. . .  according to my Tracer Controller read-out, my panels never put out more than 20A (at 14.4V) anyway. . .  I'm not sure if this is because the Controller is limiting the charge, but it is supposed to be a 30A charger.  It is for this reason I was thinking the 30A buck converter might suffice. . .  but I'm certainly more confident in the above listed 50A one.  It's $60, which is still cheaper than a controller.  They are older used panels, so I'm really not sure what they are putting out these days~

Believe me Steven, I've thought about wiring the panels direct to the batteries!  My fear is . . . .  the panels put out 36V.  Is this voltage way too high to charge the NiFe? Will it damage the batteries, or create too much Hydrogen for it to escape in time from the tiny vent hole?  (I could unscrew the caps if necessary. . .  but will it be a boiling situation?)  Definitely feeling itchy to try this now that you mention my inner yearning!  lol~

About that Hydrogen that is produced from over-charging these . . . .  anyone ever put that hydrogen into a pressurized system for use as a cooking gas?  Or is this . . . .  dangerous and laughable>?  Buuaahaaha!  
 
frank li
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Test
 
frank li
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Thing is, i would not quite trust the tracer read out......
someting is goofy with only 20a from 900w at 12v nominal, its 280ish watts depending on actual voltage at the time. In bulk mode you should have 60 or more amps available until after the early portion of absorbtion charge.

 
frank li
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As he said it will not be damaging at all unless you expose plates. Allow proper ventilation amd keep an eye on voltage. When you hit absorb voltage re-connect your controller.

This is exactly what a pv charge control does. In bulk mode your panels are directly connected to the battery. As long as array voltage is not over equalize voltage or more correct, when connected voltage is not higher than absorb it should never be an issue. With a low battery your array will drag down plenty from 36v better to bee in the 20v range if you cannot keep a close eye.

Tracers are suspect of not being an actual mppt control, so step down is likely provided by the battery being connected in bulk mode anyway, like a pwm control.

Nicole Alderman found the issue. Here is the original with a hyphen to make it post.

Thing is, i would not quite trust the tracer read out......
someting is goofy with only 20a from 900w at 12v nominal, its 280ish watts depending on actual voltage at the time. In bulk mode you should have 60 or more amps available until after the early portion of absorbtion charge.

Steve has you on track for ww2 U-boat style re-route of power to bypass the control (in question of proper operation wiring or electronics...) in order to connect to ample charging current.

As he said it will not be damaging at all unless you expose plates. Allow proper ventilation amd keep an eye on voltage. When you hit absorb voltage re-connect your controller.

This is exactly what a pv charge control does. In bulk mode your panels are directly connected to the battery. As long as array voltage is not over equalize voltage or more correct, when connected voltage is not higher than absorb it should never be an issue. With a low battery your array will drag down plenty from 36v better to bee in the 20v range if you cannot keep a close eye.

Tracers are suspect of not being an actual mppt control, so step down is likely provided by the battery being connected in bulk mode anyway, like a pwm control.

Hydrogen from your bank is mixed with air containing oxygen and so it is explosive (bang not flare!) In mixtures from 1%H to 90 plus percent H........ it means it is volatile and dangerously explosive unless its quite pure. By contrast gasoline and most fuels have a very narrow range where fuel air mixture could produce an explosion.
 
Steven Di Maira
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Hi all,

@Frank Li: Correct! PWM solar chargers etc.

One thing to add:
Do not allow a directly connected solar panel at night on your battery:
Reason:  When used this way, normally one adds a series diode.
This is to avoid discharging the battery trough the solar panel at night. (there is no voltage on the panel then...)

No need to unscrew the caps on the battery. The little hole will be adequate.
In fact to avoid any elektrolyte splatter (?), I would not unscrew them during heavy charging.
(they will bubble at that point, you will hear them )

Greetings,
Steven.



 
pollinator
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Hi Meni,
Having used a few tracers on small trailer systems I'm wondering if they are capable of doing the NiFe properly. They are a bare bones charger and I would not be surprised if they have built in algorithms for how a battery "should" act. I know when we have installed them on flooded lead the voltage never goes quite high enough for a good absorb cycle and would default to float too early. Their default seems to be a conservative agm type of voltage. Their flooded settings are low for surrettes and they would not even do that... NiFe has more internal resistance so you will need to push supplemental voltage into them. I know it's more money for a good controller but you have already made a significant investment in the batteries. An outback fm80 would make those puppies fly. Next would be the array size. Is it a 4 ×225 panel array? The tracer is rated at 560 watts max is it correct you have 900? That could make it do wonky things as well. If you could cut it to within specs so 2 panels and try that to see how it responds... that won't cost you money at all. My gut instinct says the tracer won't cut it no matter what. The buck boost... I've used small ones never one like that. Who knows.
Best regards,   David Baillie
 
frank li
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Good thing Dave! I did not want to keep hammering for a control upfit. People are not a good substitute for a controller..... short attention spans and that whole other things to do thing....

But you quite layed it out "like it is". Tracers are hard to pass up for the 15-20$ they cost, bit this is the 10th or so tracer botchery ive seen or heard of.

The only one ive installed or handled directly has the same issue and is about to kybosh a set of 4 perfectly good golf car batteries for a friend who couldnt justify budget on a reliable control. The same guy also didnt see the need to attatch modules.... to anything, too expensive.
He picks them up and patches the wires every now and then though..... two storeys! Hasnt broke one yet, so maybe im a flashing and rail snob ;)

In this case however she says it is not affordable to do, a totally different situation. Not the same as trading a 500 dollar investment in battery to get that sweet deal on a 20 dollar controller.

I have learned a similar lesson the hard way also. Harbor freight panels..... they work ok, but cost a pile for nota lota watts, $250 for 45 whole watts of solar madness! nuff said.
 
David Baillie
pollinator
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Hey Frank, how much does a tracer cost? I believe the model we used was in the 200-300 canadian range.  They would probably do ok charging a pair of golf cart agm batteries which given their trailer feel makes sense. I dont have the gear to analyze it but it sure as hell acts like a pwm charger not a true mppt.
Cheers,  David
 
frank li
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A low budget install with a missouri wind generator and unfastened modules!

This photo was taken mid install and the tracer is top left.
20171203_181603.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20171203_181603.jpg]
 
David Baillie
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Ugh... I'm supposed to go to one like that thursday.
I think its more like this one here: So that makes sense why there is a price difference. Now I can sleep.
David
http://hespv.ca/hesproductspecs/HES/EPS-mppt-10-20-30-40.pdf

 
frank li
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Yes, totally different control.

Hey, you know youve got the good stuff when it has the "auto work" feature!
You guys are probably fine. Its a different beast.

The OP is having trouble with settings or had cell voltage dis-association that was short cycling the charge modes.

It will be interesting to find out. Those 20$ "tracers" are definitely not great and the one in the photo is already bypassed onto the harborfreight controller in the image, taken a year or more ago.

 
Steven Di Maira
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Meni Menindorf wrote:Thank you all for your continued help!  

About that Hydrogen that is produced from over-charging these . . . .  anyone ever put that hydrogen into a pressurized system for use as a cooking gas?  Or is this . . . .  dangerous and laughable>?  Buuaahaaha!  



That's actually something that is under development at TU Delft (The Netherlands)

Here:
https://www.technischweekblad.nl/nieuws/battolyser-stap-dichter-bij-demonstratiemodel/item11387



 
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