The growing demand for lithium batteries has led to a proliferation of small battery manufacturers thanks to the widespread adoption of solar power and inverters. Many previously manufactured nickel-based batteries now produce lithium.
However, both the battery itself and the entire installation of the lithium battery can pose a risk, says Michael Rogers, managing director of Uniross Batteries. Consequently, South Africans wishing to mitigate the effects of load shedding by installing solar for their home must do so through an accredited installer or electrician to avoid insurance claims being denied.
In order for the building and household contents to be insured, a certificate of non-objection (CoC) is mandatory. Customers must ensure that the electrician is accredited. Most insurance policies state that if solar panels or batteries cause damage, they won’t be liable for defective workmanship, Rogers says.
“Once a battery has been manufactured and the final label has been applied, there is no way to tell a good battery from a bad one. Yes you can measure the open circuit voltage, you could even measure the voltage under load, or if you have the means you could even test the capacity of the battery.
“But none of this says whether the battery has been manufactured in accordance with internationally accepted practices and, more importantly, whether it will be safe after a few months of use in your equipment. Battery manufacturing is a complex process and this is more the case today than ever as most new battery powered devices are being developed using lithium-based rechargeable batteries.
“In the past, the old nickel-based batteries (Ni-Cd and NiMh) were relatively easy and safe to manufacture. Lithium-based batteries are far more complex with far less error in the manufacturing process.”
Normally that wouldn’t be a bad situation, he says. However, the vast majority of these small manufacturers do not have the facilities, equipment, or technical expertise to safely and consistently manufacture these lithium batteries. Yet they continue to do so, regardless of the consequences.
“As a result, we are beginning to see an influx of cheap and potentially dangerous lithium batteries making their way into our devices, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Uniross uses one of the safest lithium chemistries on the market today: Lithium Iron Phosphate (Li-FePO4). It withstands abuse like no other battery chemistry. Even if subjected to extreme temperatures, short circuits and even battery destruction, a Uniross lithium battery will not catch fire or explode.”
According to King Price’s customer experience partner, Wynand van Vuuren, it is homeowners’ responsibility to ensure their installation is 100% correct. He said during an interview on Cape Talk: “We saw solar panels on fire. We’ve seen lithium batteries burst into flames, but also generators that were installed incorrectly.”
According to Rogers, Uniross batteries have been tested by an independent international testing company and certified to the United Nations Transport Standard – UN38.3. During this certification process, the Uniross Lithium 12v 7Ah battery was subjected to a variety of abuse and destruction tests and passed with flying colours.
“Uniross batteries must also withstand a short circuit for at least an hour without the battery temperature exceeding 170°C. In addition, the battery must not burst or catch fire during the test within six hours after the test. Compared to an old lead-acid battery typically found in an alarm system, gate motor or electric fence, our lithium battery is far safer. A lead-acid battery would certainly present a serious safety hazard under these conditions.”