With technological advancements, there is a trend shift from traditional to solar batteries. These alternatives are popping up due to depleting fossil fuels and increasing climate change. So for the sake of the future, solar batteries are our best renewable option right now. These batteries can store energy when not needed and provide that stored energy when there is a power outage or if portable power is needed. There are instances where batteries are damaged or installed incorrectly, which can cause a condition known as thermal runaway.
There are several ways to prevent this as manufacturers install a battery management system (BMS) which ensures the normal temperature, voltage, charging, and discharging of the battery. However, you do not need to worry because the chances of thermal runaway are extremely low. But it is wise to be on the safe side and know all the precautions and steps regarding thermal runaway.
What’s Thermal Runaway?
Thermal runaway is a process in energy storage systems utilizing lithium-ion technologies. This process will take place more in industrial-scale applications with large storage capacity installations.
Its cause is pretty simple to understand. When a battery is working, and it produces a higher rate of heat inside than the amount of heat it is expelling, things become dangerous and problematic. This is called overheating, and if it is not fixed quickly, then the heat produced internally will rise to such an extent that a fire can erupt, causing damage to the solar battery or anyone and anything in its vicinity.
Thermal runaways are dangerous and require a lot of money to fix. Spotting warning signs early can go a long way in helping you save up on capital that might otherwise go towards battery replacements.
The Causes of Thermal Runaway
Thermal runaway is caused by three main culprits, namely, electrical, thermal, and mechanical abuse.
Mechanical abuse is caused by physical harm to the battery, which can cause its contents to spill out or cause the solar battery to heat uncontrollably, emitting dangerous gases into the environment. The best way to avoid it is to check, maintain, and install batteries properly.
Thermal abuse is caused by the absence of air conditioning or improper airflow, which restricts the battery from cooling down. This can increase internal temperature and cause a fire. Batteries should be placed in an environment with controlled temperatures to prevent this from happening.
Electric abuse is caused by improper current flow to the battery, which can shorten battery life and damage the battery. An example includes undercharging and overcharging. Keep a constant flow of electricity, one that is appropriate for the battery.
How Thermal Runaway Happens
Thermal runaway takes place due to huge towering temperatures and changing currents. Increased charging currents can cause overcharging, melting, and breakage of the outermost covering of the battery. Solar batteries perform optimally at 25° C.
The major steps in thermal runaway are as follows:
- Battery temperature increases with an increase in current.
- Increased battery temperature reduces internal resistance.
- The reduced internal resistance allows more internal current to generate more heat.
- If the temperature is not maintained, a heating cycle will occur damaging the battery.
- The battery heats up, emitting toxic gases, melting its casing, and can cause a fire.
- Other batteries close to this battery may experience a chain reaction to this process.
Warning Signs of Thermal Runaway in a Solar Battery
Even if you do not hire a licensed professional to check your batteries, you can check some signs by yourself with an easy inspection to know if your solar battery is damaged. Some signs are:
- Charging current changes constantly.
- Your battery stinks like rotten eggs.
- Overheating of the battery.
If you have attended a chemistry class you would know that hydrogen sulfide has the smell of rotten eggs and that is exactly what your battery releases when it is damaged. In such a case, quickly and safely remove the battery and let a professional take care of it.
Constantly changing current and overheated batteries pose serious risks as they can lead to thermal runaway. You can easily reverse the damage if you spot the signs early. As more time passes, it gets more difficult to fix your battery. The last stage is thermal runaway. After this, there is no hope, you just have to change your battery.
Preventing Thermal Runaway
The best thing you can do for your solar battery is to have it installed by a certified professional company. However, there are steps that you can take yourself to prevent thermal runaways.
- Try to spot an overheating battery and immediately separate it from the rest of the pack while unplugging its power supply.
- Try to perform regular maintenance check-ups on your battery to ensure it is running safely, and check out for any warning signs that might tell you or give you a clue about any damage.
- Your battery temperature should be controlled, so monitor it as much as possible so that the battery is safe and free from any damage.
- Ensure your battery’s constant internal and external temperature so it never overheats and poses any risk.
Thermal Runaway and LifePO4 Battery
The reasons for thermal runaway include mechanical or physical abuse and thermal and electrochemical abuse. Ensure safe installation of your batteries and spend a little extra on installation by a professional and certified person so that you do not regret compromising on safety later on. Keep regular maintenance and replace damaged parts or batteries so that you never experience thermal runaway.
Lithium-ion batteries experience thermal runaway even though it is rare; it poses quite a risk to batteries. With the rise of solar batteries and energy storage industries, homeowners are also increasing their power demand. This is why we must find solutions and preventions to the problems of batteries like a thermal runaway.
A simpler yet effective solution to thermal runaway is getting a LifePO4 battery. They are very safe, almost non-combustible, and less toxic. And if you get a LifePO4 battery from Melasta, you don’t have to worry about any issues. We use the safest chemistry and a LifePO4 battery doesn’t need maintenance. These batteries have smart BMS with active balance function that can prevent thermal runaway and inform the battery status through a mobile app.