CHEAP System LiFePo4 Battery and TV ,Spotlights ,etc With Solar Charging.

About: Too much free time!

This instructable is dedicated to my beautiful Daughter Kristian.

First things first . The battery

The battery i have made here is a Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4)or also known as (LFP) chemistry type and each cell has a nominal voltage of 3.2 Volts because its charge / discharge curve is very flat at that voltage so it puts out current for a long time at about 3.2 Volts, it also holds its voltage stable at high discharge loads so no voltage sag. At the end of its discharge when the Battery Management System (BMS) decides it has reached the low point it does not want the cells to go below (2.5 volts per cell) it will switch the battery off to protect it.Stay out of the knees and you will be pleased!

LFP batteries can be discharged down to very low states of charge so to replace Lead Acid types only about a third of the Lead Acid's capacity is needed . If you have a 300 Amp Hour L/A battery you only need a 100 Amp Hour LFP battery to replace it. People considering switching often get that wrong when pricing them.

Another plus for them is on boats . There is no gassing to worry about if you keep them cool but importantly with a 3Kw inverter and Induction Cooktop you can dispense with the gas LPG system with its inherent dangers of explosion and suffocation too.

Take note it is not Lithium Ion(Li-Ion) It is Lithium Iron

The completed battery with compression sides ,BMS and stainless rods was 13.5 Kilos. See pic.

Note that I decided to remove the plywood sides and bottom to assist heat transfer not that I have noticed any but heat is any battery's enemy during charging . It boils the very little electrolyte that's in the plastic separators and that turns to gas occupying ten times the volume so pressure goes up and the cells suffer. I started running two 250 watt cells for charging at 66 volts through the MPPT charger means the panel output of 8 amps is doubled to 15 amps at about 35 Volts coming in. Charges the pack back up quickly in the morning though.

Step 1: Typical Charge and Discharge Curves

I had my cells air freighted from China . 8 cells at 3.2V is 25.6
nominal. Each cell must be charged to 3.55 Volts firstly for my batteries .Some manufacturers suggest higher voltages but all of these refer only to the first charge and balance.

This is called "top balancing" .If you look at the graph at the point where the curve rises quickly it can be seen as a good indication that the battery is full. If your cells were all showing 3.2V you would not know whether each cell was a quarter full A , a half full B, 3 quarters full C or nearly full D!

There are a couple of methods of doing this. The one I chose was to charge each cell to 3.55V and then connect them all in parallel for a day so they all settle at the same voltage pressure.

By getting them all to that point you have "equalised " your cells and as current is drawn out they should all deliver a similar amount of energy before one cell gets too low and it all switches off. When recharged a similar amount of energy should go back into each cell and they should all fill up at the same time. In practice this seems to stay pretty close for LiFePo4.

This is where I got my cells . "" ....Chen. Tell him I sent you.

He sold me sample cells for USD $25 each to help me test his cells and I will be going back for more soon.

50 Amp hour rectangular vented aluminum cases with connectors came all packed in a protective dense foam inside a heavy cardboard box. From payment date to arrival was only two weeks. Cost AUD $250 plus AUD300 Air Freight. Very good service but air freight is expensive.

I painted some more red on the positive terminals . Its a bit hard to see from the factory for these old eyes.

Video on construction

There is an easier way to do the connections that they supply too.I did my connectors as shown because when dealing with the terminal nuts I can favour the side which the connector joins so I don't spark the terminals with associated metal thread damage . I have big clumsy hands .

Australia has just imposed an extra 10% GST on items below $1000 so they will be that much higher now .

Each cell weighs 1.35 Kilos and this is important because there are frauds in the battery market and weight is the only indicator you have that the cells will be genuine fully filled cells. For all Lithium cells you need some sort of compression to stop the anode cathode and plastic separator disengaging from each other. Difficult to do with foil type packs but simple with the rectangular packs as above .


There are ply pieces around the bottom and sides . That is a mistake I realise now. I think I should allow the sides air flow to cool. I am updating that instructible like a blog to add on information and experience as I learn.

Step 2: The Battery Management System BMS

This is what I have ended up using but check around prices can vary from$20 to $30.

Step 3: Get a Couple of Old Solar Cells and a Controller.

I bought some cheap second hand 250 watt solar cells that had been taken down by someone who was installing a leased system. AUD $20 each with all the fittings and a main switch. Ten of them .They have a built in diode which stops any current flow in the opposite direction.

Solar connectors are cheap from ebay ,buy 30 or so its just cheaper.

Solar connectors

Those panels put out 30 Volts max and 8.5 amps approx. (30V x 8.5A=250 watts near enough.)

I bought a 12/24 Volt automatic solar charge controller to attach to them for about AUD $236 . It has MPPT which simply drops the input voltage to match the battery voltage at a point where the maximum amps flow into your battery. See the pic , the unit works well and i can change the high and low points and the charging voltages to suit me and LiFePo4.

Ebay site for solar controller I bought

I noticed there are many many more on the market now and a much cheaper version will do the job as long as you can set up the top charge voltage points .

This instructible below would let you build your own cheaply based on an Arduino Processor chip read of battery voltage and switch off precisely Arduino Solar Charger

Old lead acid systems do not work here neither do the controller settings .

It needed at least 50 volts or so in to function so a single panel would not do . I put two panels in series giving an output of 60 volts max which works it well and still gives me 8.5 amps max from the panels. These panels are pretty safe and you can supposedly keep putting them in series increasing the voltage to a maximum of about 1000 volts nowadays.

That said its legal in Australia to connect and play with voltages up to 90 Volts DC . Above that it starts to get dangerous so I just don't go there . Arc Welders put out 50 to 70 odd volts DC thats why they are safe to use. The higher the voltage the lower the current so higher end voltage means thinner wire can be used .

Step 4: Buy a 24 Volt 500 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter

I bought mine from ebay. Cost me AUD $115 and it has a plug on it that fits a lot of different countries plugs.

Ebay site for 24V/240V inverter

Step 5: Wire It All Up and Turn on Your TV

There is wiring from the panels to the controller .

Wiring from the controller to the battery

Wiring from the controller to the load ,which in this case is my Inverter/Tv and my LED spotlights . Once you are this far you can test the inverter and TV are working off the battery.

Left like that i was able to run the 170 watt LCD Plasma 55 inch TV for about 10 hours before the inverter's cut off stopped everything due to low voltage. I intentionally did not have the solar panels connected at that point to see how long the battery would last. Run through the day with solar connected I guess it would run 24/7 if the solar input was sufficient.

Wiring of the BMS

Solar recharged it all up again quick smart .

Step 6: LED Spotlights , Movement and Darkness Sensors.

I bought 4 of 20 watt LED lights for AUD $20 each some years back . They need 24 volts and have the circuitry to up this to about 32 volts in the lights to get super brightness. None of the silly little things . These draw about 3/4 of an amp at 24 Volts so two use one and a half amps from my battery.

LED Light example These are 24 Volt but I could not find the ones I have so look around .

Additionally I bought a heap of ebay AUD $4 street lighting darkness sensors , one only needed here, and a heap of movement sensors for AUD $4 each ,two here,which I suspended from just below the light on a bent piece of aluminium.

Light Sensors 24V ebay example

Movement Sensors 24v ebay example

They must be 24 Volt to work on this battery. Because these are run by battery the movement sensors I got had to be altered to make the delay shorter or my battery would drain some. I replaced a resistor with a lower value to do this successfully . See the pictures above .

i messed about with it for some time and I think I settled on the picture at the end with R14 removed and replaced with a normal resistor to the bottom of the variable pot that controls delay . The resistor was 2.2 KilOhms . See a discussion here

You will also find the capacitors used in these are 25Volt . I get trouble from time to time and I think the caps need to be changed to 40 Volt or so.

Thats about it . Its taken a long time to perfect but changing to Lithium Iron Phosphate was the big plus .

Step 7: Other Useful Stuff

EWT LiFePo4 50AH 12V Review Teardown & Load Test

This video is worth a watch because he cuts right into it to show you what is inside these types of Batteries . About USD $389 each

EWT LiFePo4 50AH 24 volt alternative

Wiki on LFP

Cut down Prismatic cell showing the plates etc

An expensive BMS system

A cheap PCM Protection Circuit Module (PCM)- This board connects across Positive and Negative of a cell and shunts excess voltage (over whatever the chosen limit inside the IC) through the resistors as heat.

A cheap PCM

An 8s 25 amp for AUD $41 80 Amp AUD $67 But postage on this kills it to me

Suitable one on Ali-Express Up to 60 amp with all the right cutoff values. This is presently running my system $31 AUD 60 amp charge and discharge

Boating Group using them

Here are 240 Amphour cells cheap

This is a load test on some similar cylindrical cells and is why you should watch how you work around the terminals !

This is an Australian Supplier of cells direct to you

Step 8: This Is Some Info Added on About Using Aluminium Can Type Containers Around the Cell As Opposed to Plastics

Quote.... Aluminum Encased Batteries Have TWICE the Life of Plastic Encased Batteries

Measuring the life expectancy of a lithium battery is difficult to pinpoint. So we thought that we would like to expound on the subject to help an anticipated lithium user understand the issue and conclude how to get the maximum life from their battery pack. Understanding Charge Cycle Life – Lithium vs. Lead Acid

Typically the life of any battery is measured in the number of charges the battery has before it deteriorates to a point where it can only hold 80% of its capacity when it was new. This number is called the batteries ‘Charge Cycle Life’. As a comparison I would like to start with a lead acid battery. Lead acid batteries have a charge cycle life of between 350 charges all the way up past 600 charges. With the lower charge cycle life usually found in car starter batteries and the higher charge cycle life found in laboratory or solar storage applications. But here is where things can become a little misleading. The honest way of measuring a battery’s life can be manipulated. Because of the Peukert effect which exists on all lead acid batteries you cannot discharge more than about 55% of the batteries new 20 hour capacity rating. A 100 Amp Hour ‘Ah lead acid battery will only yield about 55 Ah before it is considered fully discharged. Lithium batteries are not affected by Peukert’s Law to the extent that lead acid batteries are so you can discharge a lithium battery down to 20% of its full State of Charge ‘SOC’ before the battery is considered discharged. With many lithium batteries if the discharge is more that 80% DOD it will not hurt the batteries life but is generally accepted that the lithium battery is fully discharged at 80% DOD. To run honest tests to determine the exact life of a lithium battery the battery must be fully charged and then fully discharged to 80% DOD. Charging and discharging thousands of times takes a lot of time therefore most companies will do it for a number of complete cycles and then extrapolate the remaining life expectancy based upon some typical known curves for the chemistry of the battery. Lithium Titanium Cells and Polymer Battery Drawbacks

Lithium Titanium cells have the longest life. But they are 3 to 5 times more expensive than the common Lithium Iron Phosphate ‘LiFePO4’ battery. Lithium Nickel Cobalt Magnesium (also called a polymer battery) or NCM batteries exhibit about half the life of the LiFePO4 cells. NCM batteries are lighter in weight and lower in cost and are often seen in electric vehicle applications where cost and weight are paramount. How Companies Cheat on Charge Cycles

Some companies cheat and they say that their LiFePO4 batteries will last over some ridiculous number - like 8000 charge cycles. Those numbers are not realistic if they fully discharge the battery down to 80% DOD, which they do not. However, there are several other factors that play into the battery life scenario. One of them is the case of the battery. When batteries charge or discharge they create heat. Heat that is trapped inside the battery will cause the battery life to go down. A plastic encased battery of a given Ah rating will have a shorter life than a metal encased cell. That is because the plastic is a poor thermal conductor. The smaller the Ah rating of the battery the easier it is for the battery stack to dissipate the heat away from the core of the stack and therefore will have a longer life. Honest manufactures of LiFePO4 plastic encased batteries which I call a prismatic cell will normally claim that their cells will have more than 2000 charge cycles. A prismatic plastic encased battery is illustrated in the graph that is in this dissertation. Why Aluminum Encased Lithium Batteries Perform Better

A typical aluminum encased battery that has better heat dissipation will start out higher. Dependent upon the cell of the size of the cell the expectant charger cycle life of a smaller LifePO4 cell can be as much as 4000 charge cycles and follow the same trajectory of the plastic prismatic cell shown below. The simple fact is that if you have an application where you want a long life, like for solar storage, and you do not discharge the cells below their nominal 3.2 voltage you will have a cell that will probably outlive you. Depth of discharge has a very profound effect on a lithium battery’s life.

What is the Life Expectancy of the Aluminum Cased Batteries?

- Factor 1: Depth of Discharge…Percentage of Capacity Used Per Cycle.

- DOD, short for the Depth of Discharge, is used to describe how deeply the battery is discharged. If we say a battery is 100% fully charged, it means the DOD of this battery is 0%, If we say the battery have delivered 30% of its energy, here are 70% energy reserved, we say the DOD of this battery is 30%.

-Factor 2: Discharge Rate, The AMPS Divided by the Capacity - To Read the Chart Above, Here are Some Examples

A. All Numbers are at a 1C Discharge Rate, Which is Aggressive…

B. At a 90% Depth of Discharge, Your Batteries Will Provide 2400 Cycle to 80% State-of-Original-Capacity (SOIC)

C. At a 10% Depth of Discharge (Say, Engine Starting) Your Batteries Will Provide 35,000 Cycles Until 80% SOIC. Beyond 35,000 Cycles the Battery is Still Functioning But Gradually Losing Capacity, but not Performance

D. Conclusion: By recharging a lithium ion battery more frequently, thus reducing the DOD (depth of discharge), the battery cycle life is Increased. Solar is very often a beneficial method to reduce DOD and increase life!



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    2 Discussions


    4 months ago on Step 1

    Dear Ty Tower,

    The connection wires can be also used as below picture shown.