One ruined Gel battery!?!

Submitted: Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:04
ThreadID: 104715 Views:4094 Replies:6 FollowUps:20
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Hi all,
I have just experienced a near melt down of one of my 100Ahr Gel batteries whilst under charge.
The story goes like this…
I returned from a month’s caravanning holiday the other day, and as I usually do – I put my Projecta 7-stage 240V intellicharger on one of the parallel-joined 100Ahr batteries, to bring them both up to float stage and then leave the charger connected as recommended. I had the batteries being charged via the car’s alternator and a Redarc BCDC 1240 on the way home, and as expected, the 240V charger when attached, soon indicated that the batteries were fully charged and it went into float stage (green light) almost straight away.
What happened a day after this when my wife went into the van to clean it, has me reeling – she was nearly bowled over by the acrid smell of a venting battery and upon inspection saw the battery attached to the charger (13 months old) blown out in size and making sizzling noises!
Now, the thing is – the other battery (different brand, but same type and size – 4 years old) was and still is perfect (has charged up to float stage by same charger) – no sign of any trouble!
I immediately called the battery supplier (the brand and seller will remain nameless) who insisted that I had over-charged the battery, and he wasn’t at all interested in finding any other possible cause. Now, in my mind, the charger only sees one large (200Ahr) battery whilst supplying a charge to two batteries in parallel – am I correct? So, if the charger had for arguments sake put in too much charge, then surely both batteries would have suffered the same fate?!?
I don’t know a whole lot about it – but I am sore about losing a considerable amount of money because I have “invalidated” my warranty due to “my” overcharging!! Can anyone shed a little light on this, or has anyone suffered the same fate as I..?
Regards, Paul.
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Reply By: Robin Miller - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:23

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:23
If I read correctly Paul - aren't you saying the charger blew up as well.

Now the charger should be immune to that wether short cuited or on permanent max charge or whatever.
So I'd concentrate first on why it went, including checking its settings if still possible.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:41

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:41
Where did he say that. It's not the way I read the story.
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Reply By: Ron N - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:35

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:35
Paul, it's not uncommon for batteries to short out internally, and this applies to almost all battery types. Even Boeing are having problems with batteries in the Dreamliner catching fire and can't get to the bottom of the problem. Their cure is to fireproof the battery box!

I've seen a bloke on the Shed forum show pics of his boat battery that caught fire just sitting in an unattended boat!
It must have developed an internal short and the entire top third of the battery was just a charred, melted mess.
He just caught it time before it set his boat on fire (it was parked in his yard).

However - with a battery that's 4 yrs old, you have little recourse to any action. You're way outside any battery warranty period, and you've achieved an average lifespan from the battery.
The longest battery warranty I know of is 36 mths, and if you get 4 years life from batteries - even any of the high-priced gel and solar batteries, you're getting an average life. I bought a Sonnenshein battery and I only got 5 yrs out of it before it died.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: SmokeyD - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:46

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:46
Hi Ron,
Thanks for your reply...
Sorry, I may not have made it clear - but the Intelli-charger didn't die, it's fine - the 13 month old Gel battery (the younger one of the two) did. Claims from the seller of 12-16 year's life from these sort of batteries have me bewhildered!!
So, the 13 month old Gel battery should be warranty covered in my mind, as for the last 13 months it had been charged by the same charger as the 4 year old one, and has only decided to die now..!
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Follow Up By: Herbal - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:57

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 20:57
12 to 16 years ????

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Follow Up By: SmokeyD - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:07

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:07
Yup!

• Superior Quality
• Non-Spillable Sealed
• Reliable High Performance
• Genuine AGM GEL Battery

****** CBG Series batteries are a Gel VRLA battery designed for both cyclic (deep cycle) and stand by applications with 12 - 16 Years design life. These genuine VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid) batteries are manufactured to comply with many Australian and International Standards including Quality Assurance Standard ISO 9001.

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Follow Up By: Ron N - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:27

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:27
Ahhh - O.K., I got the full picture now. If the faulty battery is only 13 mths old, I fail to see how the retailer/manufacturer can refuse a claim under warranty - even if it's only a pro-rata claim. This shouldn't even require inspection.

The battery failed, it's still under warranty, they should come good. It sounds like you need to speak to Consumer Affairs, or let the battery crowd know you're going to take it further.

As far as the 12-16 yr battery life claims go - they're just marketing claims that cannot be backed up by any verified testimonials, I'll wager.
The fact that 36 mths is about the best warranty on any battery currently sold, is pretty indicative of what the battery manufacturers expect as average battery life.

I personally know a number of people who are disappointed with "long-life" battery claims that don't match up with their own experience.

Surprisingly, one of the best batteries I have encountered is the Supercharge Gold series - just the regular sealed calcium-lead battery. The one in my ute is 9 yrs and 7 mths old this month, and it's still performing perfectly.
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Follow Up By: SmokeyD - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:39

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:39
Ron,
They're (the seller) not hearing a bar of it - I also spoke to the manufacturer (local Australian company), and basically got a "I'll get back to you" from one of the reception staff, and I've heard nothing since.
So, I'll make a few more enquiries, and take it further.
These batteries are deep cycle though, and are meant to be longer lasting, that's the reason I bought them. I'm not sure that you can use standard car batteries for the likes of portable fridges and general caravan and camping requirements...
Cheers, Paul.
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:53

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 21:53
Paul - Well, we used to use standard car batteries for donkeys years in our caravans when we were contracting in the 60's, 70's and 80's - long before all this "new technology" appeared! [;-)

Deep cycle batteries are definitely supposed to be superior when it comes to heavy continuous power draw and long periods without charging - but in todays world, with excellent recharging facilities by way of solar, high output alternators, plenty of powered sites with recharging abilities, and many modern items with low current draw, such as LED lights - then I can't see where the huge extra cost (and the outright BS claims about 12-16 yr deep cycle battery life, which are just plain wrong), justifies the purchase of deep cycle batteries nowadays.

Maybe if you're spending weeks in the Gibson desert, with little by way of generated power, it could be justified - but IMO, a good heavy duty car battery is possibly more economic than deep cycle batteries for average caravan use.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 22:04

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 22:04
SmokeyD

You say
"• Superior Quality
• Non-Spillable Sealed
• Reliable High Performance
• Genuine AGM GEL Battery"

I'd be very suspicious of anyone selling a "Genuine AGM GEL battery". They can be EITHER AGM or GEL, but not both. The construction of the two is different, and so are their charging requirements. AGM batteries will usually require a higher charging voltage than Gel batteries.

It would be worth checking that your two batteries are either both gel or both AGM and that they have the same charging requirements. I'd check too that the charger is correctly set to handle the deceased gel battery.

Devil's advocate - Is the survivor an AGM and the deceased a Gel, and was the charger set to match the AGM? If so, it could account for your problem.

John
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 22:11

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 22:11
Trying to get a claim out of a battery that has been overcharged is going to be near impossible, batteries don't expand for no good reason and if the battery was faulty the battery charger should of picked up on that and switched off...... Cteks do and I would say the Projecta would as well.

All sealed batteries will vent to the atmosphere but they have to be overcharged to do it, most under normal charging will regulate the gassing internally and not vent...... you said you could smell an acid type smell with means the battery has vented externally.

It may of had a faulty valve but I doubt it, chances are you have overcharged it by no fault of you own, could be a faulty charger?

As for consumer affairs, many hype of about them and say you should seek help from them, end of the day they will offer very little.

As a rule of thumb it pays to use two identical batteries in an installation if the two batteries are going to be used together.

Again batteries don't expand and vent for no reason, I would be looking at you charger.

QUOTE [Deep cycle batteries are definitely supposed to be superior when it comes to heavy continuous power draw and long periods without charging]...... this is one of the quickest way to kill a deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries are no different to any other battery...... they are the same chemistry set but just made a bit stronger to take a bit more abuse.
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Follow Up By: SmokeyD - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 23:01

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 23:01
Hi olcoolane..,

Thanks for replying.
Hear what you're saying - still doesn't explain why one battery is unscathed (the older Gel battery) and the other fritzed. The charger only sees one large battery and applies appropriate charge - so the un-damaged one got the same float charge and is quite happy.
It's easy for a company to say cart-blanche a certain problem has occured, I know what my chances are for any recompense.
These were two identical (Gel) batteries (size and type) brands should make no difference. The charger has performed flawlessly for a number of years now, I would think it highly unlikely it has a problem considering the above - and the claims of the seller have been copied and pasted from the site...
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 23:01

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 23:01
Hi John and Val,
I have a 6 year old Fullriver 100AH Gel Battery – 20 hr load tests indicate that it still has 100Ah capacity. The specs on the side of the battery state that it’s a Gel and its Cyclic Charge is 14.5 to 14.9 volts and a Float Charging 13.6 to 13.8 volts.

This totally baffles me and I emailed Fullriver sites in Australia, America and China. One response was that it was an AGM another that it was a Gel topped AGM.

It’s been a good battery, and I will probably die before it does, but I have replaced it with a Lifeline to achieve a faster charging rate.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 07:31

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 07:31
Hi Dennis,

"This totally baffles me". Me too!

The voltages seem pretty high for a gel battery, but if that's what a respected manufacturer says then I'd accept it. Especially if it's still delivering rated capacity after 6 years!

I'd be interested to see what voltages the manufacturers have written on SmokeyD's batteries - are the voltages marked on the old one like the voltages on yours, and the new one's significantly lower?


Cheers

John
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:06

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:06
The model is a Fullriver DCG100-12
12V 100AH/20HR/GEL.
For 6 years it has been charged at 14.2 volts with a float of 13.2
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Follow Up By: Member - Des Lexic - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:07

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:07
Dennis,
I recently replaced my Fullriver 100ah AGM battery at 7 years and 6 months old. It appeared to die fairly suddenly. I certainly hope that you don't die before it does. At that rate, I hope I can replace a few more batteries in my time.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 23:55

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 23:55
One thing I have learned over the last few years is that you can not generalise about batteries.

All the different manufacturers pull different tricks out of the bag to achieve their results.

Even though there are only a limited number of things you can fiddle with in lead acid batteries, those few things can produce a wide range of results.

SO generalisations about what the ideal charge voltages for certain types of batteries just are not reliable...we realy do have to consult the manufacturers specs for the specific battery.

Fullriver are an interesting company and they will manufacture pretty well the same battery as a variety of types, simply by filling it with a different type or amount of electrolite.

Some of the definitions then get a bit rubbery.

The sonnenschein gell batteries are obviously a gell battery. you can chop the side off em and the gell is so stiff it will more or less just sit there...hell the battery will probably still run.

so how much do you have to increase the viscosity of the electrolite before you classify it as a " true gell battery".

Several of the AGM battery manufacturers partly gell their electrolite to help imobilise it in the glass mat.

viewed crudely, the only difference between a " true AGM" and a flooded wet cell battery with glass mat is that the AGM has little or no free electrolite, its all contained in the glass mats.

there are several of the sealed lead acid manufacturers that make batteries that use "AGM technologies" but do not claim the battery is AGM.
Some of these batteries could be AGM.....if they contained a little less acid...but the manufacturer achieves the performance they do, by leaving a little more acid in the battery.

This AGM term is relativley new.....I don't remember it being in use when I was young and reading every electro-tech new magazine I could.
I remember the term starved electrolite.....AGM is that
Valve regulated sealed lead acid has been arround a while..AGM is that..so is gell and so are pretty well all sealed lead acid batteries.
The term " non- spillable" is possibly the most accurate, but ya don't hear it much now.
I even remember the big to do over the " Gates Cyclon" battery, that became the Optima.....bit I Don't rember it being called AGM in the day, though optima call it that now...and reasonably so.

Any battery that has all or pretty well all the electrolite absorbed in glass mat could ligitimately be called AGM.

SO..if a gelled electrolite battery also used gas mats to contain the electrolite, could it not reasonably be called both AGM and GELL......though it realy is not purely one technology or the other.

the technologies are getting merged and the definitions are getting blured.

What we realy must do is look at the manufacturers data and not rely on generalisations.

cheers
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Reply By: The Bantam - Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 22:52

Monday, Oct 14, 2013 at 22:52
There are all sorts of miss-conceptions, miss-information and outright BULL$!@t surrounding batteries.

I too am suspicious of anybody cliaming "true Gell AGM"

While some AGM manufacturers partly gell their electrolite, the AGM battery with partly gelled electrolite is not a gell battery.

Yeh as for the " Australian Manufaturer" I know of no one actually manufacturing AGM batteries in Australia and no Australian company big enough to own a factory elsewhere.

Perhaps the stickers are manufacturerd in Australia, but some how I doubt that.

Yerh and that 12 year life......oh hell.....it may be possible to have such a battery funbctioning as a battery after 12 years....but it would not be operating to specification and it would have to be treated pretty well.

There are a couple of Australian sellers who make certain claims about their very ordinary batteries that the larger more reputable battery manufacturers most certainly wont.

So treat any claims from such a "manufacturer" with suspicion.

There is no free lunch and "ya can change the laws of physics, jim"

Now as for the paralell charging....it is most unwise to paralell charge batteries of differeing types and ages in paralell long term.

ALWAYS one battery will take more charge current, and one battery will always have a higher terminal voltage.
These two batteries will never charge evenly.

Even when two identical batteries are operated in paralell, it is very common for one to work harder than the other.
It has been proven that even the wrong arrangement of the charging cables can result in shorter life in one battery of the pair.

If it is necessary to operate batteries in paralell it is wise to periodically seperate them, charge them independently and test them independently.

As for these smart chargers.....they are designed around a singular relationship between one battery and one charger.

It is reasonabe that such a charger could see the characteristic of one battery and not the other....thus the blinded battery could be over charged.


Finally it is my view that AGM in particular is very much oversold, and have little or no advantage in most application over a good quality sealed flooded battery with glass mat between the plates, some calcium in the plates and modified electrolite ( all features of and that permit AGM).

I'll give another vote for the Supercharge Seamaster Gold....best bang for bucks battery in the country perhaps challenged by the Catepillar earthmoving batteries...both sealed wet cell batteries....with glass mat between the plates, some calcium in the plates and modified electrolite.

Sorry Paul mate, you have no ligitmate claim under waranty and you need to buy a pair of batteries.


cheers
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:59

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:59
Bantam has given good advice in regard to the coupling and use of batteries of varying ages.

It's always a bad idea to couple any batteries together that have a wide disparity in age, as older batteries take charge at a vastly different rate to newer batteries.
Cells deteriorate at different rates within a battery over time, making the even charging of older battery cells more difficult.

Batteryworlds advice is that a new battery should never be coupled to another battery that has completed 50 cycles or more.

The life of a battery is more correctly measured in cycles and depth of discharge. Lots of cycling and discharging deeply will see a battery fail in as little as 2 years.

The reason why companies claim huge life spans for deep cycle batteries is because they test on cycles of 20% discharge or less, which most definitely will make a battery last a long time.

However, in real-life, batteries are regularly taken to 50% discharge and even more. The battery crowds are insistent that a discharge of more than 80% is a big no-no if you want your battery to last.


Another factor that needs to be considered, is what is the charging voltage AT THE ACTUAL BATTERY TERMINALS.
Losses in charging cables because of long lengths, inadequate cable diameter, and even poor connections, can result in substantially different charge voltage at the battery terminals, as compared to what is showing on a charger or a meter.

All lead acid batteries require very specific voltage ranges for charging and the AGM and gel batteries charging voltage requirements, are even more critical than regular flooded lead acid batteries.
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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 07:26

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 07:26
Hi Paul,

I don't want to put up information that may be misconstrued but I have also experienced a similar problem.

I have a Projecta multi-stage 15 amp charger which I used to use to charge a 75Ah Thumper and other batteries from time to time.
On one occasion I noticed the battery pack was "severely pregnant" from overcharging.
I took the Thumper to Home of 12 volt (manufacturer) and after a considerable amount of negotiation, including giving them the Projecta charger to test, they repacked the Thumper for no cost. This was a warranty issue I was claiming.

Even though the Projecta could not be faulted, I lost confidence in it and will not use it again.
I now have a 15 amp Ctek charger which I have much more confidence in.

Anyone want to buy a Projecta charger:-)



Bill


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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 21:06

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 21:06
You are not alone in having doubts about smart chargers.

don't get me wrong they are a great thing.

No other type of charger will stick more change to a battery faster and safer AND keep a battery in good condition than a good smart charger.

BUT, they can ALL be fooled ( every single one) by irregular situations and cause damage.

I have not experienced this myself, but I have heard several stories that make sence.

These smart chargers ......as I have said before are looking for a direct relationship with one healthy battery and they rely on that battery behaving as the charger expects.

If we have a matched pair of battereis that behave more or less like a single battery....that is all fine and beaut.....but as soon as one battery is not tracking the other in some way.....one of the batteries will be more stressed.....as it is more stressed it will track less like the other...meanwhile the smart charger may be looking at the easy riding battery thinking it is all fine..so it keeps pushing....and the stressed battery gets more and more stressed.

If either battery was connected on its own....the smart charger would continue to do the best by the battery and it may have a long life even though it shows its age

If both batteries where connected to an old style fixed voltage charger.....charging may be slower, and the charge level may not be as high AND one battery may work harder...AND no doubt one battery WILL fail before the other....BUT the more vunerable battery wont have charge bashed into it at a rate that does not suit it... and its failure will not be fast and dramatic.

There are also issues with batteries in failure, there have been cases...like the one posted where a battery is beginning to fail, and the smart charger continues to bash that battery trying to make it work.
This accelerates the failure or may make that failure more dramatic or perhaps dangerous.

I have read several accounts where smart chargers have pushed batteries with dropped cells and continued to push those batteries till they where sizzling hot and very dangerous indeed.
Yes similar things may happen with constant voltage chargers but not to the same extent.

I have several smart chargers and several that aren't (and one that is positively stone age) and I charge a variety of batteries continuously....I always have something charging.

BUT I am realy thinking that IF I was running a battery continuously on charge I would go to an old style constant voltage charger built from a transformer, rectifier and a good old linear regulator.

I have worked on may battery systems that remain on charge 24/7/365 year in year out that have been floated on good old analogue constant voltage chargers, and I have not seen the spactacular failures that seem to occur with these smart chargers.

Just some thaughts.

here is a bit of important advice.

REGARDLESS, you need to actively supervise your batteries.
You need to check their condition and actively decide to charge them.

Unless you are running some sort of no break power supply application like an alarm system, computer servers or life support...there is no need and no benifit to having a battery permanently on charge.
In fact having a battery permanently on charge will reduce its life.

If ya battery wont hold a reasonable amount of charge for 30 days unused in a cool place, its getting tired and it will be well down on capacity, if ya battery will not hold a reasonable amount of charge unused for 14 days....its buggered.

So, if ya not using ya battery, give it a 24 hour or 48 hour charge on a good quality charger once a month or once a fortnight.....otherwise leave the poor bugger in peace.

cheers
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Reply By: Member - LeighW - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:48

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:48
If both batteries were on charge at the time and one was spitting and the other shows no sign of overcharge then it is most likely as written in a post above that one battery has a shorted cell.

If a cell in one battery goes short circuit then other battery will discharge into the faulty one. As you have a charger connected the charger will also be trying to charge both batteries this does not lead to a happy conclusion!

Cheers
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:09

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 12:09
The experience of the OP shows the lie of salesmen claiming AGM and GEL batteries are sealed and safe. Firstly they are not sealed, they are only valve regulated lead acid batteries.

Secondly being lead acid batteries they act in a manner to the flooded type. They have the same basic chemistry, acid electrolyte in contact with lead plates. They have exactly the same chemical action as each other. They have exactly the same susceptibility to thermal run away. The only difference between the different constructions is the volume of electrolyte.

Collyn Rivers reported this some time back. He reported that the original designer of AGM batteries had gone back on his original statement regarding safety. The designer now says that AGM batteries should be treated like flooded batteries and installed in externally vented enclosures. At the time all other members of the forums he posted this on poo-pooed that idea and continued to preach the absolute safety of AGM batteries.

This experience of the OP demonstrates that AGM/GEL batteries are not completely safe. If the OP had have been in the van asleep who knows what would have happened to him. We may not have been able to receive his message.

AGM and GEL batteries really should be installed in their own properly vented compartment.

AGM and GEL batteries should really
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 13:36

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 13:36
Nomadic Navara is correct - battery engineers state there is no such thing as a totally sealed lead acid type battery. There may be major restrictions on venting in the valving design, but they all have venting of some kind to prevent battery explosions.

The electrolyte difference between Flooded, AGM and Gel is in the liquidity of the electrolyte, as well as the amount of electrolyte.

Flooded batteries use straight sulphuric acid in pure liquid form, AGM uses sulphuric acid which is totally absorbed by fibreglass woven mats (thus eliminating any spillable liquid-form acid) - and Gel batteries utilise sulphuric acid to which silica fume has been added, turning the acid into a gooey gel.

It pays to remember that charging any battery releases gases, of which the primary constituent is hydrogen. Theoretically, hydrogen should never be released under perfect charging conditions, but perfect charging conditions rarely exist.
The lower explosive level of hydrogen in the air is 0.2%!
In 99.9% of cases, normal air flow dissipates any concentration of gases that might be released.
In a caravan at night, air flow is generally very low and hydrogen gas can build up - particularly if a charger has failed and the battery is being overcharged. The danger of battery failure increases with age.

I seem to recall a couple of reported events of battery explosions in vans. There's probably a number that weren't reported. If I were ordering or constructing a new van, I'd be doing as Peter advises and ensuring a vented battery compartment was installed.
One thing you're well advised to do, is not to have a non-vented battery that's installed inside a van, on charge while you're sleeping in the van.
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Follow Up By: SmokeyD - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 20:54

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 20:54
Gents,
For all your advice... I thank you!
I have a better understanding of batteries in general and will make some changes in how they are stored etc.
Just to say that there has never been any battery charging going on overnight in the van. In fact even the load is disconnected over night (freezer turned off) - in an effort to save the battery.
I strongly believe that my Gel battery died not as a result of abuse or
neglect, but because it was defective and perhaps some other minor contributing factors, that batteries of different calibre and type just might not have bothered them...
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Follow Up By: HJ60_Jon - Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 22:18

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 at 22:18
From what I've read SLA batteries have a higher internal resistance over time, 3 years between batteries is a fair amount of time, effectively making them dissimilar.
When charging more current would flow to the battery with less internal resistance, the failed one.


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