What happens to the battery bank capacity, and the charging and discharging characteristics, when you connect a 12-volt (V), 100 amp-hour (AH) battery and a 12 V, 200 AH battery in series? Conversely, what happens when they are connected in parallel?
Sid Baxter • Pocatello, Idaho
Connecting two battery banks of different amp-hour capacity together in series is a bad idea. The problem is that the battery charging controls will operate based on the average battery voltage and the two batteries will have very different voltages because their capacities are different. The 100 AH battery will become fully charged long before the larger one. The combined voltage will rise, but by the time the controller turns off the charging sources, the 100 AH battery will be overcharged. Meanwhile, the 200 AH battery will not get fully charged. When the bank is being discharged, the 100 AH battery will go flat and its voltage will fall well before the 200 AH battery. The inverter will eventually cut out but not before the 100 AH battery is excessively drained.
Connecting two banks with different capacities in parallel is technically fine since the batteries will be operating at the same voltage. Charge and discharge current will be shared, based on capacity. It is best if the batteries are of the same type and age. For example, avoid combining a sealed (gel or absorbed glass mat) battery with a flooded (conventional) battery because they have different charging setpoints. Broadly speaking, you can parallel batteries without problems, and the charge controller will look after them. Just make sure you give them plenty of charge. If the system tends to operate at less than a full state of charge, adding new batteries to old will probably just result in the old ones pulling the new ones down and everything getting sulphated.
Hugh Piggott • Scoraig Wind Electric