Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bottom Balancing the Pack

Having got the low Voltage disconnect protection sorted, it was time to finish the initial preparation of the battery pack.

The strategy here is to have the cells balanced closely at their bottom or empty state.  That way you can use them closer to empty while not tripping the protection.  With this method, no active balancer for controlling the top / full Voltage of the cells is required, provided that you normally under charge the cells.  Only a way to disconnect the load at the bottom of charge is needed.

So I turned off the solar charger for a couple of days and ran the house as normal on battery power to run them down (without wasting the energy).

It's incredible how efficient they are at absorbing energy.  They are always operated in the bulk part of their charge curve (ignoring the short 20 mins at the "top" constant Voltage of 28.00V).  And over the last few days have sat for quite some time soaking up all the power the chargers could throw at them - up to 76 Amps without the cells getting the slightest bit warm or even changing terminal Voltage much.

No need for the "battery protection" dump loading that I used to do with the old lead acid bank when the charge current was too high during bulk and absorption charging.  It does mean that less energy is diverted to the water tank now though.

Here you can see a trace from the Morningstar logger, showing the dramatic cliff-edge that lithium batteries fall off when nearing empty.  Click on the graphs for bigger versions.
That was the pack Voltage.  A close up of the data from the CellLog8s shows the detail of each cell at the end point.  You can see where the cells started to nose-dive and then the alarm tripped on one cell reaching 2.999V.  The pack then recovers a bit and I then start the bottom balancing, using nothing but a DVM, the CellLog8s display and a 60W 12V light bulb to hand drain each cell to the same level (3.000V plus or minus about 3mV).
Then I left the inverter off for a day with the chargers on and then another very sunny day with low inverter load, finally putting a total of 11.3kWh into the system (some went to the fridge freezer, and a bit more to the water heater, late on the second day). I counted about 7.7kWh into the battery bank itself.  You can see how it soaked it up relentlessly on the second day.
The top trace is pack Voltage, rising to 27.8V on the second day (still not quite reaching the "full" charge Voltage of 28.0V).  Middle trace is charger combined power output.  Bottom trace is solar strength % (red), TSMPPT-60 charge Amps (blue) and SSMPPT-15 charge Amps (green).  Charge current maxing out at over 70 Amps for quite a lot of the day.

One final graph shows the dramatic "hockey stick" charge curve as you get to the very full state of a cell. It was taken during logging of one of the cells during the initial charge, where I monitored the final 40 minutes of charging from 3.65V to 3.97V and then the current taper at that constant Voltage.
Charging to 4.00V is not recommended for regular charging as it is very close to saturated charge and then the cells get damaged quickly after that.  This is why I have set the target charge Voltage much lower at 3.50V per cell.  It's the start of the saturation zone.  To charge much higher than this requires an active top balancing charger but only gains you a small additional storage % of capacity.


  1. Very Interesting. :) I hope to do this within a year as well.

    1. Turns out I am. Only off by a month. Not bad! :)