There are many things that you can DIY on your boat, including the battery system. Don’t make the mistake of cutting corners when it comes to securing the batteries you use. They need to be protected and vented so that they can operate safely.
Yes. Whether you are using flooded wet-cell, gel, or AGM batteries, they should be safely secured in a battery box with a vent to prevent poisonous and potentially explosive gas build-ups.
When I was considering battery systems for my 28ft Pearson Triton, I immediately gravitated to the cheapest option – 12V lead-acid batteries that I planned on stowing underneath the settee that would double as my bed while at port. I figured I would keep them upright by bracing them against some other loose gear.
When I mentioned this online, I realized what a bad idea it was. Thankfully, I was stopped before I made a dangerous mistake that I still see other people making.
Lead-acid batteries can leak acid if they are turned onto their side – something that is bound to happen if they are left loose in a sailboat. Marine deep-cycle batteries also give off hydrogen gas while charging, or if they are overcharged, which can become explosive at concentrations greater than 4%. This hydrogen can also react and produce hydrogen sulfides, which are flammable and poisonous if inhaled.
My DIY battery project could have cost me my life.
Storing your batteries in the same place you breathe, eat, and sleep is a terrible idea and I think more boat owners should be aware of this. For larger yachts, there are safety requirements that strictly govern the placement of batteries and the ventilation they require, but for smaller, pleasure craft like sailboats, even experienced sailors and surveyors will turn a blind eye to batteries that put off dangerous fumes in enclosed spaces.
Why must a battery box be vented?
A battery box needs to be vented so that the hydrogen gas can be safely released into the atmosphere outside the boat.
All deep-cycle batteries put off hydrogen gas as they charge. A battery box can keep this hydrogen gas from diffusing into the air in your living quarters, or potentially sparking an explosion in the engine room. However, unless a battery box is properly vented, it is only worsening the problem by concentrating hydrogen in a closed box.
How Does A Solar Panel System Work?
Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for figuring this out, but you get to learn the secret for free!
When a beam of sunlight passes through the surface panel and hits a solar cell, it pushes out an electron. This is called the photoelectric effect. As a semiconductor, Silicon is just acting as a medium that lets the energy of light break electron bonds so they can freely flow down a wire.
This is why energy producing solar panels are called photovoltaic, while panels dedicated to converting sunlight directly to heat are called solar thermal.
For more information, read How Does the Solar System Work.