Telecom Industrial AGM Batteries (Why Not)

Rolling7s

New Member
Hello I've been reading a lot of the articles on your DIY forum and have learned quite a lot much of I had never heard of by the "Solar Experts" (LOL) your all a very bright and educated bunch of young adults so I figured I would ask for the hard earned or learned knowledge of your forums members for a problem that I was told by every single So Called Solar Expert I would have but has never occurred.

This may be quite long and rambling so I apologize in advance but answers to this question or uninformed advice has been driving me crazy and I am tired of the BS, the half baked ideas, the flat out lies or made up explanations I get from the solar equipment dealers sales people all trying to change my mind and sell me something that I think are inferior and much more expensive products in regards to AGM batteries.

You guys and gals are just smart people experimenting and learning from each others triumphs and losses but no matter what your always learning and moving forward and also none of you have anything to gain or profit from by selling me on a product I don't want or need and maybe I am wrong and my experiences are all a fluke and I realize beforehand that most of you will rightly so tell me to go Lithium or LiFPO4 or some other chemistry I don't understand but as the saying goes "you cant teach a old dog new tricks" well I am plenty old and am quite happy with my current set of tricks but please give me the benefit of your knowledge keeping in mind I'm sticking with sealed lead acid batteries till the bitter end 😉

I have been a strict Outback Power customer including their batteries for as long as I have had Off Grid Solar almost 20 years. A little over 6 years back we had a mishap while out of the country on business and sadly destroyed 2 strings of 10 each Outback 200 AH (AGM) batteries 20 in total. I had them on my trailer taking them into town to purchase new ones and a man at a gas station asked me which of the cellphone companies I worked for? After telling him none he informed me that my Outback Batteries looked exactly like the Telecom Tower batteries his brother sold for a living he told me that before I spent the $12,000 replacing my bad ones to call his brother he explained that when AT&T, Sprint or Verizon purchased batteries to save money they buy enough to fulfill what their needs will be that year and sometimes the next so I took his number and promised to call.

I called that day and his brother told me to hold off that he could and would replace all 20 batteries with "NEW" not "USED" much higher quality, longer lasting industrial ones for under half (1/2) the price that I was planning on spending.

Long story short he sent me literature on batteries that looked a lot like my Outbacks but were marked Built For or Property of Sprint Telecom the AH ratings were a little more than mine and they weighed another 15 pounds heavier so I called around to check and every solar shop told me they were useless for solar and wouldn't last 6 months, but all invited me to please come purchase theirs for much, much more money LOL

I then took a few days and did some research on my own and found out they were built almost exactly the same as the best AGM Solar batteries I could find but with much purer alloys, better fiberglass matting, stronger casings, 100 lb torque cable mounting bolts or bus bars if preferred and all models and brands were built to much stricter higher quality standards required by the Huge Telecom Giants and then best of all they had a design life of 15 to 20 years on float (Yes 15 to 20 years).

He had several brands, sizes and AH ratings to choose from and during my research I also found out they were all built by East Penn, Deka, Trojan or their owners or subsidiaries the best manufacturers I could find, everything sounded much to good to be true.

I had many questions and concerns so he did his sales pitch then he explained the reason I was getting them so cheap was the Telecom companies have strict shelf life standards and after so many months on the shelf they sell them off at a loss even though they still tested exactly as when first manufactured, I learned its very expensive and time consuming hauling and replacing 150 lb batteries out in the middle of nowhere in mostly harsh terrain and weather.

Over 6 years later I have not had one ounce of problems and that's with my almost daily rugged use and abuse.

My Off Grid Paradise is located in Northern Arizona bordering the Navajo Nation Reservation where the housing is all very remote and truly Off Grid and almost exclusively powered by solar panels and batteries.

Since my first introduction to Telecom batteries I have helped many, many Navajos haul and help replace their aging or totaly shot batteries and in addition saving them a small fortune in money that most don't have to spare.

In my 6 year experience with hundreds of batteries maybe 3 batteries out of every 100 goes south and needs replacing

Since first being introduced to these batteries I have learned many things and talked with many experts on the manufacturing side and not the sales and most just wink and smile and tell me that all their companies batteries are built to the high quality standards.

Well I've purchased and used their top of the line batteries marked as for Solar so I know this is not true but I'm hoping I'm not just a crazy old man thinking he knows more than he does LOL

Please give me any advice you feel might help me understand my experience with Telecom batteries and again I apologize for the novel I'm just far beyond curious

Thanks Again


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george65

Solar Enthusiast
I'm in Oz not the US but what you have been told by the guy with the batteries rings true with what I know and have heard.
These telcos only buy the best batteries because their priorioty is reliability first and foremost and installation cost very often. It's alwasy cheaper for them to buy the best and have no problems than to have to send work crews out to the many remote locations they have to fix things that break down before their due replacement date. For various stupid reasons they won't onsell the used batteries here now but everyone I spoke to that did have them got MANY years out of them even when the telcos replaced them. They do it like aircraft maintence, replace the things before they are even looking like they are worn out to prevent failures. I have also bought things that were "out of or short on date for a song.
Perfect condition but don't meet the requirements of the company that bought them. Loads of that in the aircraft and Mining industries.

If the batteries are good quality and you are getting the same or better capacity, you will have no problems. The things aren't that complicated and of course every solar Co will tell you anything they don't sell is no good, They are making fortunes on the things.
What a lot of people here are getting onto is Forklift battery packs. Big, heavy, need maintence, Cheap, reliable and last forever. The forklift companies are more than happy to sell them for this purpose as well. The batteries are subject to banging and vibration, lower Discharge currents and DoD generally, they setr them up with an auto watering system so maintence is often better and the things generally have an easier life so they get less warranty claims.

I looked into them seriously earlier this year and couldn't fault them. Some people talk about higher charge and discharge rates with Lipos which I don't see as such a factor of importance in a well set up system and weight and size. So you put the things in their own shed and don't touch them again for 15 Years. WTF does weight and size matter?

The best part I discovered with the Forklft packs is their scrap value. Here now they are worth a Quarter to a 3rd of their purchase price as scrap. If you hold onto the things for 10 years then replace them, They may well be worth half or more what you paid for them and that's very cheap. I also have strong suspicions here at least, disposal of Lipo types may in fact become expensive as we have no recycling facilities here and unlikley to get them either due to the toxic nature in a lot of these cells.

Sounds to me like your stop to fill up that day was very fortuitous. I'd say you are on a real winner and you have been smart and a bit lucky. I have done this sort of thing myself in other areas. You know you are on a winner but there is always that niggling doubt because it's against the grain of what you have had drummed into you.

I am a photographer by Trade and have done a lot of " Production" and event work over the years where I print thousands of inkjet Photos. Years ago I got onto the " replacement" bulk ink. Everything said it was bad and evil and would destroy my printers and don't dance with the devil etc.
I have been buying this stuff by the litre for years ( only because they don't sell it in 5L bottles) and I have bought paper by the pallet and I am YET to have a problem with it. I don't know how many tens of thousands I have saved using the stuff but If I went on a photo forum right now, there would be 10 people telling me how bad it is and what an idiot I am for using it and I'll find out the hard way. I Buy printers for $80 and literally wear them out on one job. The printers fail, the ink has never been a cause of that. I actualy think it's better than OEM ink as what I get is more realistic colors not screaming bright and over the top.

Your batteries are the same. Excellent quality marketed for a different purpose because in most situations they are too exy for your application and guaranteed overkill rather than not being up to the job. You have done well and been smart.
Don't doubt that.

BTW, I love Novels as you can probably tell. Spose like me you have been told your posts are too long but no one could ever tell you how long a post should be or what the correct length of a post is? : 0)
 

gnubie

Photon Sorcerer
A company I worked for around 25 years ago used to do maintenance for a telecomms equipment manufacturer and did battery swap outs. I snagged a few and they worked fine for quite a while. They weren't used as cyclic batteries, standby power only, so probably didn't really have that many cycles on them but were retired due to age related capacity reduction.

Most of the time I see something being marketed as a solar battery probably the best application of 'solar' would be that it is probably best being hurled into the sun. There was even a thread on the forum recently where someone appears to have been ripped off with a 'solar' battery being hugely under weight for the claimed capacity.

(also in Oz)

Off topic meandering... Part of my job at that company was fixing Canon 132 col high speed ink printers. Back then using cheapie ink was pretty much a death warrant for the print head. Sometimes they could be unclogged pumping alcohol through them but more often than not some jets just wouldn't clear so you either put up with gaps in the print, or opened the wallet and bought a new print head (not a consumable like they are today, or in the low end back then).

A pathology lab that had a bank of the things found that out the hard way. (it may have been Epson, can't be sure what they were, memory fades, but I did work on Canons too)
 
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svetz

Works in theory! Practice? That's something else
Staff member
Moderator
Energy storage is energy storage regardless of the medium and the $/Wh/life-cycle is generally king. The trick is if you can trust the datasheet (assuming there is one). Agree with @george65 telecom's are pretty careful to make cost conscious decisions, and with @gnubie that weight reveals a lot. That doesn't mean there aren't caveats with one type of storage over another (e.g., LA lose power when they get cold), but no reason for a book on it as they're discussed in the Battery FAQ.
 

Sparky

Solar Enthusiast
I agree in principle with the logic behind a given industry 'demanding' more reliability than your average consumer, but I don't see any qualification body distinguishing between who can & cannot slap the word "TELCOM" on the side of their batteries, or their ebay auction for that matter.

We're therefore dependent on someone such as yourself who is "in the know" who can get us started identifying good brands & sellers.

Then the forum is regularly tasked to identify whether a new seller is honest or supported by shills, etc. That vetting process begins and has begun.

The real adventure starts when good brands are contacted. Wholesalers whose models assume well informed buyers of batteries by the pallet, may find themselves taken off guard buy a bunch of unprepared unprofessional people trying to call them and demand answers to consumer level questions and trying to purchase consumer level quantities.

I'm not attacking you. I hope you know that. I like the idea of using industrial level equipment, especially if it keeps something out of the landfill for a few years.
 

Alfalfameister

New Member
So many cell sites in the Philippines, and they are mandated to replace the batteries every XX years.

In places where there are lots of power outages (rural), the batteries are well used. In some (urban) areas, they have been on float for pretty much their whole lives.

They actually have to dispose of them and give a certificate of destruction or something. This being the Philippines (corruption and doctoring of papers), they sometimes do not destroy them and sell them off, still with many quality years of service left in the batteries.

I'm actually waiting for some (a friend works in the telecom industry) and said every 6 months, they have a list of "for disposal" batteries.
 

Delmar

Solar Addict
Welcome Rolling7s to the forums. I too am exclusively using lead as it requires excessive finances and care for me to properly maintain a Lithium battery. Translation: I am very cheap and intellectually lazy.

Back in the 80’s I worked for Generac designing automatic transfer switches for gensets that provided backup power to remote Telcon locations. I guess this started my fasciation with battery backup systems.

The Telcon towers operated on DC power, and grid power continually kept the batteries charged. When grid power was lost the genset would auto start, warm-up and the transfer switch would send generator power to recharge the batteries.

In my opinion (nothing scientific here) the batteries operated more like a starting battery than a deep-cycle, and had to withstand constantly being operated in float. The amount of time the batteries actually powered the tower was relatively short.

My hypothesis is somewhat supported by the PowerSafe SDS advertising “Thin Plate” technology. Deep cycle batteries have thicker plates.

Telcom (and server UPS) batteries are typically replaced by date and not remaining capacity. It would be great if there was a reliable source to purchase these batteries as second-life, not unlike the rapidly growing market for second-life electric car batteries.
 
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