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26 January 2004

1) New inverter
2) Battery care
3) Any links?
4) What no book?

1. New inverter

MDS Battery have launched a new small inverter which offers good value for money at a special offer price.

Check it out at link obsolete

2. Battery Care

The promised cold weather reminded me that this is the time of year when it's important to make sure that any batteries you have are in tip-top condition. It doesn't just apply to solar power systems, but any lead acid batteries like your car battery. Batteries that are not in use are especially vulnerable to cold weather.

Here's how to keep your batteries in the best of health:

- Give the tops a good clean. In damp weather the grime that collects on top of the battery case can become conductive and increase the rate of discharge.

- Look after the terminals. Clean the terminals well, use a wire brush if necessary but make sure that any metal dust is cleaned away afterwards. Check that the terminal bolts are nice and tight and then apply a covering of petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Do not use ordinary grease.

- Top up the electrolyte. If your batteries are the type that can be topped up, make sure that the electrolyte level is correct. If there are no marks, then it should be covering the plates but no higher than the separator bars that should be visible in the top. Use only distilled or de-ionised water, and do it before they are charged if possible.

- Give them a good charge. If your system has a way of delivering an 'equalising charge' then use this. The intention is to make sure that every cell is fully charged. A good charge from the mains or a generator through a battery charger will also do. It is particularly important that batteries that are not in use get a good cahrge at this time of year as it is possible that the electrolyte will freeze if they are allowed to discharge. If this happens then the plates will buckle and the battery will be scrap.

- Don't ask too much of them. Remember that a battery can't supply more energy than it has received. In the winter the demand from lights is greater, but the amount of power available is less. Plus, the effective capacity of a battery is reduced by low temperatures. The battery should be spending most of its time nearly fully charged, not nearly discharged. Now is the time to see if your system can cope with the demands placed upon it.

If you follow these steps you should have a battery which will survive this and future winters intact. The lead-acid battery has plenty of faults, but it's still the best thing we've got so look after it and it will pay you back.

3. Any links?

I've added a link submission script to the links page. If you have a solar-related website or know of a good one please submit it at:

Two new ones have been added already. Have a look:

4. What no book?

I know, I haven't started yet.

If you have any ideas about what should go into it, questions you'd like to see answered and that sort of thing then I'd still like to know.

All suggestions gratefully received.

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