For Canadians and other countries with a cold climate, one of the most concerning issues could be choosing a battery for boats, RVs and motorhomes that performs well in harsh conditions. In Canada, winter usually lasts from mid-December to mid-March, and it's crucial to find the best battery bank which can last longer in this condition. In this article, we will review which types of batteries can be an ideal solution among the top types of batteries, such as Lead Acid, LiFePO4 and AGM Batteries.
Get to know AGM, Lead Acid and LiFePO4 Batteries.
First and foremost, let’s start with some basics about AGM Batteries. Absorbent Glass Mat or AGM Batteries, in contrast to conventional flooded batteries, include glass mats that protect the fragile lead plates. An AGM battery is made to provide robust starting amps and run for an extended period of time. AGM batteries can retain electricity for a long period of time because they include valves that control how much hydrogen and oxygen gas escapes during charging.
A Lead Acid battery utilizes lead and sulfuric acid to operate. In order to facilitate a regulated chemical reaction, the lead is soaked in sulfuric acid, and the battery generates electricity from this chemical process. Then, to recharge the battery, this reaction is reversed. Lead Acid batteries are one of the common battery types in solar power systems.
They have a fair lifespan and inexpensive cost despite having a low energy density, only modest efficiency, and high maintenance needs.
The last 25 years have seen the development of lithium-ion batteries, which are a considerably more recent invention. Lithium technologies have grown in acceptance throughout time as a result of their success in supplying power to portable electronics like laptops and cell phones. But as you may know from a number of recent news articles, lithium-ion batteries also developed a bad reputation for igniting. This was one of the primary reasons lithium wasn't frequently used to build sizable battery banks until recently.
However, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is a more recent kind of lithium solution with a little lower energy density but was by nature non-combustible. In addition to being safer than other lithium chemistries, LiFePO4 batteries have several advantages, especially for high-power applications. For more information about LiFePO4 batteries, check our previous article.
Performance Comparison in Cold Climate: AGM, Lead Acid and LiFePO4 batteries
AGM Batteries Performance in Winter Season
RV, marine, and other deep cycle batteries cannot be stored and forgotten about when not used over winter. AGM batteries can function well below freezing, although all batteries can freeze if it gets cold enough. AGM batteries need to be examined and maintained while they are stored over the winter, even though they are maintenance-free and perform well in cold conditions.
The cold cranking amps (CCAs) rating of AGM batteries is higher than that of a typical battery. Your RV or boat's AGM battery will start up more quickly in cooler weather than a regular battery. AGM batteries can withstand frigid temperatures since they have a low self-discharge rate. Additionally, compared to other batteries, AGM batteries can be stored for extended periods of time before requiring a charge.
Golden tips for AGM Battery owners in winter
The worst thing you can do is store an AGM battery without first charging it because all batteries naturally self-discharge. During winter, you have two options for keeping your batteries. Make sure your boat or RV AGM battery is fully charged before you totally disconnect the battery. Second, you can continue using the AGM battery in your boat or RV as long as you switch it to maintenance mode. By doing this, your battery won't be drained by your boat or RV.
How well do Lead Acid Batteries perform in Winter?
Understanding how temperature affects the chemistry and capacity of Lead Acid batteries can be helpful during winter for its owners. Lead-acid batteries lose capacity in normal to cold weather by about 20% and in temperatures as low as -22°F(-30C) by about 50%.
To help you better understand, let's talk about more details. Around -80°F, the electrolyte in a fully charged flooded battery will freeze (-62C). A drained battery will freeze at roughly 20°F, but you'll probably never see that (-7C). Remember that these figures refer to the electrolyte's freezing point, not necessarily the permitted operating temperatures. A battery is probably lost forever once it physically freezes.
So it is clear that by most standards, Lead Acid batteries are not performing well in cold weather. If the temperature is below 32°F, several manufacturers advise against charging these batteries at all (0C). Of course, this is a significant issue for many off-grid applications.
LiFePO4: The Winner of the Winter Battle
LiFePO4 or LFP batteries are suitable for almost all conditions(temperatures ranging from -4°F to 140°F(-20C to 60C)). Lithium batteries are an excellent alternative for continuous, dependable power for off-grid solar, RV, and Camper Van owners who live or travel in extremely cold climates. This is great news for countries that experience harsh weather conditions, such as Canada or those who want to live or travel with their motorhome during winter.
Lead-acid batteries operate at 70–80% of their rated capacity at temperatures below 32°F, significantly reducing their efficiency and useful capacity. On the other hand, Lithium batteries can function with relatively little loss at the same temperature, delivering 95–98% of their capacity.
Moreover, a lead-acid battery typically becomes weaker in colder weather the more you draw from it. Conversely, LFP batteries warm up when you use them, which reduces the battery's resistance and raises its voltage.
It is clear that cold weather can adversely impair the health and lifetime of conventional batteries in general. Even with lithium batteries, the effects of cold weather on battery life exist. However, when it comes to comparison and finding the best battery that performs well in harsh conditions, LiFePO4 performs way better than other competitors.
Recommendation From our Experts in Volts Energies
There are many LiFePO4 batteries on the market from different brands designed in different parts of the world, such as Victron Energy, Lithium Battery Solution, Relion, BattleBorn, Renogy and many more.
If you're looking for the best LiFePO4 batteries, we recommend three top-tier brands that offer high performance, quality, and value. For more detailed information about each brand, read our previous blog post about LiFePO4.
Winter is almost approaching, and it's time to ensure that your RV, Van or battery banks in your off-grid house are also ready and equipped for the snowy days.
If you are looking for new batteries or replacements for your current batteries, which can perform well in any weather, we strongly suggest Lithium batteries. Our experts in Volts Energies in Canada are more than happy to answer if you have any further questions.