How to Care For Lead Acid Batteries For Ham Radio?
A car battery is not the best candidate for powering a ham radio. While they can recover from deep discharge 30 to 150 times, they aren’t built for thousands of deep cycles, and their gas content makes them less than ideal for HAM radio use. They also aren’t good candidates for SIL.
Lithium-ion polymer (LiFePO4)
Lithium-ion polymer batteries have the advantage of being lighter and more durable than standard LiFePO4 batteries. They are also safer than other lithium based batteries. However, lithium batteries can spontaneously ignite if they are overcharged, subjected to short circuits, or otherwise mistreated. The heat released during these events releases oxygen, which feeds the fire. This phenomenon is known as thermal runaway.
Typically, most ham radio transceivers require a block of AA batteries with a voltage of around 12 VDC. However, removing and charging ten AA batteries can be time-consuming and inconvenient in the field. This is why a variety of other battery options are available.
One of the main advantages of using lithium batteries is their consistency in discharge voltage. Unlike conventional batteries, which begin strongly but gradually lose their voltage as they discharge, lithium batteries stay near their full capacity almost until they are completely empty. A comparison between the two main types of batteries can be seen in the graph below. LiFePO4 does not degrade significantly until about 90% of its capacity, while a typical sealed lead acid battery loses more than half its capacity during discharge.
Another advantage of LiFePO4 batteries is that they are light, with 60 percent lighter weight compared to heavy metal-based batteries. In addition, LiFePO4 batteries are also four times more energy-dense than traditional lead-based batteries. These advantages make them a great choice for ham radio batteries.
The voltage of a Li-ion polymer battery can be monitored by using a battery monitor. The battery monitor will cycle through the battery voltage, and can be set to warn you when the battery voltage falls too low. Depending on which model you have, a battery monitor is an essential tool for determining the battery’s health.
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Lead acid batteries for ham radio – Lithium-ion
Lithium-ion batteries are the superior rechargeable batteries for two-way radios. However, they need a little maintenance in order to maximize their life and performance. Lithium-ion batteries are especially useful in Icom radios. Read on to find out how to care for these rechargeable batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are more expensive than conventional batteries, but they are extremely durable and can last for 1,000 charge cycles or more. Lithium-ion batteries are generally safe and do not produce gas when discharged. They can also be recharged multiple times. LiFePO4 batteries are also lightweight compared to traditional SLA batteries.
The main difference between lead-acid and Lithium-ion batteries is the voltage. Lead acid batteries have a large voltage drop when used under heavy loads. The problem is that lead acid batteries were not built for high amperage applications. Their design was for low-ampage use and long-term storage. However, modern 100 watt radios draw as much as 15-20 amps. Lithium-ion and lithium iron-phosphate batteries are designed to have a flat voltage even when under heavy load.
Lithium-ion batteries are a perfect choice for ham radios. This type of battery is lighter and more durable than other types of batteries, and they can also be recharged faster. These batteries also offer great DIY opportunities. For instance, if you want to make your own ham radio and are handy with tools, you can create an antenna out of a small lithium-ion battery.
Unlike lead acid batteries, LiFePO4 batteries have a higher energy density than lead acid batteries. They can last up to twelve hours. However, they are expensive. This is because they are designed for advanced ham operations and are built with better specs.
When selecting an NMC lead acid battery for a ham radio, it is important to know what voltage level your equipment needs. Most transceivers operate best with a voltage level of 12 volts or more. However, if you use a lower voltage battery, it will cause your gear to behave poorly. For example, if you use an Icom KX3 ham radio, you may want to consider getting a 4-cell battery instead of a single one. The KX3 does not operate well when the voltage level is below 15 volts DC.
In addition to battery capacity, you will also need to consider the charge rate. LiFePO4 batteries have a lower capacity than NMC batteries and they can be fully cycled as many as 3000 times. Moreover, you will have a lower total cost of ownership with a LiFePO4 battery.
In case of a NMC lead acid battery, a combination of nickel and manganese is required. This combination gives a battery its capacity and power. However, these two metals are expensive and thus manufacturers are trying to reduce their content. This means a good solution is to go with a NMC battery made of nickel.
The Panasonic NMC battery comes with a battery management system (BMS). This BMS monitors each individual cell and controls the battery’s output. It also protects the battery against short circuits, over current, and over discharge. In addition, it shuts down the output when it reaches its maximum capacity, but it still has enough power to maintain its projected life of 4000 full discharges.
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A battery is also necessary for emergency power in a ham radio. A fuel-powered generator can provide power to a ham radio during a power outage, but without an emergency power source, a battery is essential for its operation. Lithium ham radio batteries are lightweight and do not contain lead plates, allowing for easy charging and discharging. Furthermore, lithium batteries are less bulky and weigh half the weight of lead-acid batteries.
A typical 12-volt lead acid battery can be recharged about 30 times and discharged about 150 times. This is sufficient for most auxiliary power needs, but amateur radio equipment does not operate at a lower voltage than 11.5 volts. However, excessive discharge and overloading can quickly deplete the battery’s capacity. Therefore, it is essential to choose a battery system appropriately sized for the expected load.
Although the lifespan of a VRLA lead acid battery is usually three to 10 years, a little care and maintenance can extend its useful life considerably. The biggest killer of VRLA batteries is over-discharge. This results in a buildup of lead hydrate on the separators. This causes multiple internal short circuits and eventually causes the cell to fail.
While it is impossible to prevent over-discharge in a flooded battery, a VRLA battery is protected by a special venting system. This prevents hydrogen concentrations from building, which is both flammable and asphyxiant. Ventilation also ensures adequate cooling of the battery. The VRLA cells are made up of two separate plates – a positive one covered with lead dioxide, and a negative one made of sponge lead. The separator acts as a barrier between the plates, allowing the electrolyte to flow through it while preventing contact with the plates. Finally, a plastic case holds all of the different components together.
The voltage of the cell should be around 2.10V at all times. This will prevent it from overcharging and will prevent thermal runaway, which is a potential danger in a lead acid battery. The battery chargers are equipped with precision temperature tracking and a voltage reference.