Can I charge the LiFePO4 with a normal charger? Explained!

Kann ich den LiFePO4 mit einem normalen Ladegerät aufladen? Erklärt!

LiFePO4 batteries, also known as lithium iron phosphate batteries, have gained popularity as a reliable and long-lasting power source for various applications. As more people use this advanced technology, more questions arise, such as: b whether it is safe to charge LiFePO4 batteries with a normal charger. In this article we go into the details and provide valuable insights into charging LiFePO4 batteries.

Understanding LiFePO4 batteries

LiFePO4 batteries have numerous advantages over traditional lead-acid batteries, including higher energy density, longer lifespan and faster charging capability. Due to their superior performance and safety characteristics, they are widely used in electric vehicles, renewable energy systems and portable electronics.

Can I charge my lithium battery with a lead-acid charger?

The question about charging LiFePO4 batteries with normal chargers is often asked by the public. It is important to know that lithium batteries, especially LiFePO4 batteries, are different from lead-acid batteries and not all battery chargers are suitable for them.

A fully charged 12V LiFePO4 battery usually has a voltage of 13.3 to 13.4V, while a lead battery has around 12.6 to 12.7V when fully charged. Even at 20% capacity, a LiFePO4 battery still maintains a higher voltage of around 13V compared to an equivalent lead-acid battery of 11.8V. This illustrates the narrow voltage window for LiFePO4 batteries, which is less than 0.5V at 80% capacity.

A special LiFePO4 charger works as a voltage limiter and is similar in some ways to the lead-acid system. However, there are significant differences due to the higher voltage per cell, tighter voltage tolerances, and the lack of trickle charging or trickle charging at full capacity. With LiFePO4 cells, the precision of the voltage switch-off is crucial as they cannot tolerate overcharging. Dishonest claims about "miracle chargers" that claim to extend battery life or provide additional capacity through pulses and gimmicks should be disregarded. LiFePO4 is an efficient system that only accepts what it can safely accept.

Lithium chargers work with a CV/CC charging algorithm (constant voltage/constant current). The charger regulates the current to a predetermined level until the battery reaches a certain voltage threshold. As the battery approaches full charge, the current gradually decreases. This charging system enables efficient, fast charging without the risk of overcharging, making it suitable for various battery types including LiFePO4 and Li-Ion. In summary, it can be said that a special LiFePO4 charger should definitely be used to charge LiFePO4 batteries. Regular chargers are not specifically designed for the unique needs of these batteries and their use can result in inefficient charging, potential damage and shortened battery life. By investing in a LiFePO4 charger with the appropriate CV/CC charging algorithm, you can ensure safe and efficient charging and maximize the performance of your LiFePO4 batteries.

Lithium battery charging principle

The voltage characteristics of lithium batteries are significantly different from those of lead-acid batteries during the charging cycle. LiFePO4 batteries exhibit a steep voltage rise towards the end of the charging cycle, which leads to a rapid drop in charging current, after which the charger switches to power supply mode.

Smart chargers for lead-acid batteries typically use special charging algorithms tailored to different battery types such as flood, AGM and gel batteries. These algorithms typically involve a three-stage loading process: bulk, absorption and float. In the bulk phase, the charger supplies the battery with the maximum current until it reaches approximately 80% of its capacity.

In the absorption phase, the charger keeps the battery at the maximum voltage and at the same time reduces the current because the battery's internal resistance prevents higher charge absorption. After the current drops to approximately ≤10% of the charger's total power, the charger enters the trickle phase. The duration of the absorption phase is also time-dependent and usually switches to maintenance charging after 4 hours. This extended absorption period can occur if the battery bank charger is undersized or if the system is running loads that prevent the current from falling below the transient threshold.

Most lead-acid chargers have an equalization mode that can be automatic and cannot be disabled. However, lithium batteries do not require equalization charging, and applying equalization charging of 15V or more to a lithium battery can irreversibly damage the cells.

Lead-acid chargers often have a voltage adjustment for returning to normal operation. For a fully charged lead-acid battery, the voltage is approximately 12.7V. In float mode, the charger maintains the battery at a preset voltage (typically between 13.3 and 13.8V, depending on battery type) while supporting all running loads. As loads increase beyond the charger's maximum power in float mode, the battery voltage begins to decrease. Once the voltage reaches the "Return to Bulk" voltage, the charger initiates a new charging cycle to recharge the battery. However, this "return to bulk" voltage setting in lead-acid chargers is too low for lithium batteries. Running a lithium battery at this voltage would mean that it is discharged to around 10-15% state of charge. Lithium charging algorithms typically set a higher flyback voltage of 13.1-13.2V. This is another reason why standard lead-acid chargers are not suitable for lithium batteries.

Some lead-acid chargers measure the voltage and resistance of the battery during startup to determine the correct phase of charging to initiate. By measuring these parameters, the charger decides how to proceed with charging the battery. However, using lead-acid chargers with lithium batteries can be problematic. Lithium batteries can hold a voltage of more than 13V, which can lead some lead-acid chargers to believe that the battery is almost full. As a result, the charger may skip the necessary charging stage and go straight into trickle mode. This is a problem because lithium batteries require special charging phases, such as: b Constant voltage (CV) and constant current (CC) phases to ensure optimal and safe charging.

Although it is technically possible to use a lead-acid charger for a lithium battery, caution is advised. In particular, you should definitely avoid using a lead-acid charger with an automatic "equalization mode" that cannot be permanently disabled. If a lead-acid charger can be set to charge no more than 14.6V, it can be used for normal charging. However, the charger must be disconnected once the battery is fully charged. It is not recommended to leave a lead-acid charger connected to service or store a lithium battery as most lead-acid chargers do not follow the correct voltage charging algorithm for lithium batteries, which can result in battery damage that is not caused by the are covered under warranty.

In summary, the best option for maximizing the performance and life of a lithium battery is to use a charger specifically designed with a dedicated lithium charging algorithm. This ensures optimal charging parameters and protects the battery from possible damage.

3 Recommended methods for charging LiFePO4 lithium batteries

Path 1. LiFePO4 battery charger

When it comes to charging LiFePO4 batteries, the use of special LiFePO4 battery chargers is highly recommended for safety and reliability reasons. These chargers are specifically designed for LiFePO4 batteries and provide the required voltage, current and charging algorithm to ensure optimal charging performance and protect the batteries from possible problems such as over- or under-charging.

LiFePO4 battery chargers are often equipped with advanced features that improve the charging process. For example, many of these chargers have built-in temperature sensors. These sensors allow the charger to monitor the temperature of the battery while charging and adjust the charging current accordingly. By adapting to the temperature of the battery, these chargers ensure that the charging process remains efficient and safe, which ultimately extends the life of the LiFePO4 batteries.

LiFePO4 battery chargers offer the added benefit of cell balancing, which is critical to maintaining the health of the battery pack. Cell balancing ensures that the individual cells within the battery pack are charged and discharged evenly, preventing individual cells from discharging faster than others. This balancing process helps minimize the risk of cell damage that can occur when cells are charged or discharged unevenly.

Each LiFePO4 battery cell has a rated voltage of 3.2V, and it is recommended to charge the cells in a voltage range of 3.50V to 3.65V. It is important to maintain this voltage range as exceeding a charging voltage of 3.65V can be harmful to the battery cell. LiFePO4 batteries are sensitive to over-voltage and over-current, and exceeding the recommended charging voltage can significantly affect their performance, cause swelling and even lead to long-term damage with shortened lifespan.

To protect against over-voltage, over-current, over-charging, over-discharging and high temperatures, lithium battery packs, including Timeusb LiFePO4 batteries, are usually equipped with an integrated battery management system (BMS). The BMS actively monitors and regulates the voltage, current and temperature of the battery, ensuring that the battery operates within safe limits and provides the necessary protection measures for longer life and reliable performance.

By using LiFePO4 battery chargers in conjunction with battery management systems, you can ensure that your LiFePO4 batteries are effectively balanced, charged and protected to maximize their longevity and maintain their optimal performance.

Way 2. Solar panel

Charging LiFePO4 batteries with solar panels has become a popular method, especially among outdoor enthusiasts and professionals, due to its convenience and environmental friendliness.

Charging LiFePO4 batteries with solar panels is a straightforward process. All you need is a solar module whose output voltage and current are compatible with the specifications of your LiFePO4 battery. Once you have found a suitable solar panel, you can connect it to your battery using a charge controller. The charge controller plays an important role in regulating the charging process and preventing overcharging and possible damage to the battery.

A notable advantage of using solar panels to charge LiFePO4 batteries is the sustainability aspect. Solar energy is clean, renewable and readily available, eliminating concerns about fuel shortages or environmental damage caused by traditional energy sources. Additionally, using solar charging can result in significant savings on energy bills, especially for regular users.

In addition, charging with a solar panel offers great convenience for people who are constantly on the go. Whether you are camping, fishing, hiking or working outdoors, you can easily take a portable solar panel with you and use it to charge your LiFePO4 solar battery. This means you no longer have to rely on power outlets or generators, which can be noisy and emit harmful fumes.

Using solar panels to charge LiFePO4 batteries gives you a sustainable, cost-effective and portable charging solution that fits in with your outdoor lifestyle while minimizing environmental impact.

Way 3. Using Generator/Alternator

Another viable method for charging LiFePO4 batteries is to use an alternator or generator, which is particularly useful on camping trips or longer journeys. While it doesn't offer the same level of specialization as a dedicated LiFePO4 battery charger, it can serve as a reliable alternative when a charger isn't on hand.

To charge a LiFePO4 battery with an alternator or generator, you need a portable generator whose output voltage and current match your battery's specifications. Additionally, a charge controller is essential to regulate and control the charging process and ensure that the battery receives the correct amount of charge.

If you use an alternator or generator to charge your LiFePO4 battery, it is important to ensure that the charging voltage and current match your battery's specifications. This ensures a safe and effective charging process without the risk of damaging the battery.

A notable advantage of using an alternator or generator to charge LiFePO4 batteries is the ability to charge the battery on the go. For example, if you're camping in a remote location and don't have access to electrical outlets, you can use an alternator or generator to charge your battery and power your devices.

If the alternator or generator has a DC output, a DC/DC charger must be connected between the battery and the generator. However, if the alternator or generator supports AC output, please follow the recommendations in the Battery Charger section above and connect an appropriate battery charger between the battery and the generator.

How to charge LiFePO4 batteries in parallel and in series?

LiFePO4 batteries in parallel charging

When charging LiFePO4 batteries in parallel, ensure that the voltage of each battery is within 0.1V before using them together. This helps minimize imbalances between batteries. The following table provides an overview of the recommended charging voltage ranges for different system voltages when charging LiFePO4 batteries in parallel:

By adhering to these voltage requirements, you can ensure safe and effective parallel charging of LiFePO4 batteries. Note that it is always important to follow the battery manufacturer's specific recommendations and use appropriate chargers designed for LiFePO4 batteries.

Both CC (Constant Current) and CC-CV (Constant Current - Constant Voltage) charging profiles should adhere to the voltage parameters mentioned in the table above. If your charger's voltage drops below the specified range, it will not damage the battery, but it will result in undercharging and the battery may not reach its full rated capacity.

However, if your charger voltage exceeds the specified range, the battery management system (BMS) may shut down the battery for protection, requiring you to remove and reconnect the load. To avoid these inconveniences and ensure proper charging, it is strongly recommended to replace your charger with a high quality LiFePO4 battery charger matched to the appropriate voltage parameters.

Investing in a dedicated LiFePO4 battery charger designed for the specific voltage requirements and charging algorithms of LiFePO4 batteries is a wise decision. Such chargers offer optimal charging performance and extend the life of your battery. It's worth putting safety first and investing in quality equipment to ensure the longevity and reliable operation of your LiFePO4 battery system.

Charge LiFePO4 batteries in series

When connecting LiFePO4 batteries in series, be sure to ensure that the voltage of each battery is within 50mV (0.05V) before using it. This step helps minimize the risk of battery imbalances. If the voltage of one battery differs by more than 50mV (0.05V) from another battery in the series, it is advisable to charge each battery individually to bring them back into balance. Regularly charging each individual battery can also help prevent imbalances from occurring.

To ensure correct cell balance, it is recommended to use a multi-bank charger specifically designed for LiFePO4 batteries when charging LiFePO4 batteries in series. This type of charger charges each battery individually, ensuring the cells remain balanced throughout the charging process. Alternatively, you can also use a 24V LiFePO4 charger or a 48V LiFePO4 charger if you want to charge the entire series as a whole.

Following these guidelines will help you maintain balance and optimal performance of your LiFePO4 battery system when charging batteries in series. Remember to prioritize safety and use chargers specifically designed for LiFePO4 batteries to ensure effective charging and longer battery life.

FAQs for charging LiFePO4 batteries

1. Should I fully charge my LiFePO4 battery?

Yes, it is generally recommended to fully charge LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) batteries for optimal performance and longevity. LiFePO4 batteries have a relatively flat discharge curve, meaning they maintain a more constant voltage throughout their discharge cycle compared to other battery types. This property allows LiFePO4 batteries to provide relatively constant performance until they are almost completely discharged.

Fully charging the LiFePO4 battery ensures you can use its maximum capacity and maximize operating time before it needs to be recharged. Charging the battery to its full capacity also helps maintain balance between cells and prevents capacity imbalances within the battery pack that can negatively impact overall performance.

2. How long does it take to charge a LiFePO4 battery?

The charging time for a LiFePO4 battery depends on various factors, e.g. b on the capacity of the battery, the output current of the charger and the state of charge of the battery before charging. In general, LiFePO4 batteries can be charged relatively quickly compared to other battery types. Let's take charging a Timeusb 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 lithium battery as an example. It is recommended to charge with a current of 20A (0.2C), so it is approx. 100AH/20A=5H takes until the battery is fully charged.

3. How to charge LiFePO4 lithium batteries in cold weather?

LiFePO4 batteries typically have a recommended charging temperature range of 0°C to 45°C (32°F to 113°F). Charging lithium batteries below 0°C will damage the battery. Therefore, batteries with low temperature charging protection like the Timeusb 12.8V 140Ah LiFePO4 Lithium Battery are very important if you live in an area with long winters. It is recommended to charge the battery indoors.