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Home Forums General Discussion Nickel Iron vs. Lead Acid — Off-Grid Battery Showdown

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    Iron Edison

    Hi everyone,

    Wondering if anyone has experience using Nickel Iron (Ni-Fe) batteries? The biggest problem with Lead-Acid (VRLA) batteries is that they deteriorate in just a few years. We are starting up a company that is going to offer an alternative to Lead Acid, which have a useful life of over 20 years. This is because the plates inside the battery NEVER deteriorate. Why do people keep throwing away their money using Lead-Acid??? Check this out:

    Because the structural component of the plate is steel, the plates are not gradually weakened by repeated cycling, which gives the Nickel-Iron batteries an exceptionally good cycle life. Because the alkaline electrolyte inside the cell doesn’t react with steel, this means that the supporting structure of the Iron Edison batteries stay intact and unchanged during their while life. Since there is no corrosion, there is no risk of sudden failure.

    In a Lead-Acid battery, the structure and the active material of the lead plate begin to corrode, or sulfate, of the positive plate material. This will lead to the inevitable structural collapse within a lead acid battery.

    Please consider using a battery that can last a lifetime. Check us out at or send me and email at .


    Sounds interesting, are you up and running yet? I checked your site and there isn’t much info there. How about telling us about sizes, wattage, voltage, price… do you ship? How much is that? How do these compare to deep cycle batteries? Do these require maintenance such as filling with water? If you aren’t up and running yet, what is the ETA on getting that way?




    Great news! I have been seaching for a NiFe battery supplier for over a year.

    The only other potentiala supplier told ne four months ago that they were starting a test program they expected to last six months before any sort of useful data would be available. My only experience with NiFe cells date back to 1962 – 1964 and at that time I was only a student beginning to learn. Rumor has it NiFe are less effecient compared to lead acid but exactly by how much is not clear. In cases of surplus generating capacity running 24/7 such as with micro hydro this may not even become an issue.

    For storage what is the self discharge rate? When these batteries are discharged what is the chemical by product comparable to lead sulphate in lead acid batteries. How does this chemical reaction behave if not immediately reversed?

    Iron Edison

    I would love to share more, but do not want to blatantly self-promote.

    Let me just answer your questions, simply because I want people to know more about the technology.

    ELNAV – I am really interested to hear about your micro-hydro application. I helped design a system for a gentleman in NC, but he never installed. He couldn’t get the permit for a holding pond (or didn’t care to pursue it).

    Either way, efficiency is something that everyone is asking about. It is true that you have to put a little more in to charge the system, but listen; You never have to buy batteries ever again. Personally, I feel strongly about the environmental benefits of not having to toss out your batteries every 5-7 years.

    What kind of modules do you have? What is the output voltage? You can charge these batts at 17 V or more – can your charge controller even get to that voltage? Would love to hear more about your water source / expected output.


    I had a friend who helped with my system who had good 25 year old L-16s! I have been off grid for 12.5 years and have changed my batteries once, mainly because I had given the responsibility of refilling the batteries and checking them to my son, who lied and only did one out of 24 cells! The fluid level got too low. They were 350 Ah each and I replaced them with 410 Ah ones in 2005. I also added Infinitum battery desulfators. I found that keeping them up above 75% charge by using my generator a little more often, vastly increases lead acid battery life. That is how his batteries lasted so long, he had 50 of them and charged them with generators often. I added a 12VDC system of 4 L-16Ss when I did my addition/garage. Now that my son has moved out, that system was not used enough. I now run my house heater and sometimes this computer with a cord from the addition. That system also has two Infinitum desulfators. My Earthship has 4 golf cart 220 Ah batteries. I wouldn’t mind changing one of these systems over to nickel-iron, if the price is right and they would fit. I see they come in 1.2 volt units which would need a lot of connections for 12 or 24 volts. Dimensions and maintenance requirements would be nice to know, along with cost and shipping.

    I remember from Real Goods that the sodium batteries were in 2VDC sections, expensive, large, and lasted 25+ years.

    My 4WD Mariner Hybrid has a substantial nickel metal hydride battery (about 10″ x 40″ x 50″ under the back floor) and the usual 12VDC battery. We use NiMH rechargeables for household batteries for flashlights and other devices.

    When I turned in my L-16s, they were recycled. You needed the old batteries to get a good deal on the new ones. Infinitum advertises that their battery desulfators increase battery life up to three times.


    Iron Edison, it’s OK to talk about your technology here, we are asking questions and are interested in the answers, I only ask that no one post replies to multiple (read-lots) of messages saying “go to my site”, especially if it’s unrelated to the thread, that goes for anyone here.

    Your site doesn’t have much info, it would be greatly appreciated if you would explain more about your batteries. :)

    moguitar, do you have a link for the Infinitum site? Thanks!



    Here is the Infinitum battery desulfator store;

    I got a price list for 20 1.2VDC nickel iron batteries for my 24VDC system;

    300Ah is $5,100 before the cost of heavy wire connections and before the 40% Federal Tax Credit–if you qualify in income.(I don’t qualify)

    The price goes to $14,000 before wires for a 700 Ah total set for 24VDC.

    My 8 L-16S with two desulfators for two banks of 24VDC, 820Ah total. For a lower discharge figure (max discharge 30%) this is equivalent to the nickel iron 300 AH @ 85% discharge.

    Total for my battery change with new desulfators was $2K, using the old cables. So if the desulfators double my battery life to 16 years, I am coming out well ahead of nickel iron with lead acid. Plus, I remember my book on lead acid batteries, that if I limit discharge to 20%, it triples battery life, too. Something to consider when designing systems is keeping the discharge at 20% instead of 50% as usual with system sizing for lead acid. And of course, the desulfators and equalization once a month and keeping distilled water fluid level well above the plates and near full all the time.

    The nickel iron is advantageous if you qualify for the 40% tax write off, and if they are lower maintenance.


    The advantage of Nickel-Iron batteries come from the stability of their electrodes. It is also their only drawback – but it may be a very minor one, depending on your needs.

    A Nickel-Iron battery has lower energy density and lower specific power compared to lead-acid batteries, but they can be discharged much, much more than a lead-acid battery can. Otherwise you would be killing the lead-acid battery in a very short time. This compensates for the lower energy density – you can actually use all that energy when you need it, instead of sipping off just the 20% or 50%, at maximum, off the top of lead-acids. Assuming you can afford the high number of cells to bunch up 1.2 volt Ni-Fe cells, this basically leaves only the poor specific power as a drawback. Their ability to supply sudden large power spikes is lower than with lead-acids so plan for those too.

    Before seeing this thread I was aware of only one Ni-Fe supplier; I’ll link it here:

    So basically if you needed, say, 120 Wh of power daily (be it 10 Ah from a 12 V system or 5 Ah from a 24 V system, and so on), you could either use a Ni-Fe battery bank with something like 150 Wh capacity and run it down to 20%. For lead-acid this wouldn’t do! You’d need at least 240 Wh or more for a lead-acid to avoid running them lower than 50%.

    In short, for any given energy capacity you can buy a large bank of Ni-Fe batteries and actually use most of their capacity, or get an even bigger lead-acid battery bank while only being able to use them more cautiously. You’d be getting a better capacity for supporting sudden load spikes though. I don’t know if you could combine them though – how would a Ni-Fe energy storage with a very small lead-acid bank as a buffer for sudden demand sound?


    In my latest contact with them, I finally got all the info on size requirements in Ah, and footprint and height, along with pricing. For a system to adequately replace my 8 L16Ss would require about 40% more room than I’ve got for them. The cost is over double two sets of L16S w/desulfators that would last at least as long or more. If you qualify for the tax break and have room, then they are only around 20% more than the two sets of L16S w/desulfators.

    The closest in actual performance to my 8 – 410Ah L16Ss in 2 banks is 20 RE500s, but in my fixed space only 20 RE200s will fit, and they just aren’t big enough in Ah for a minimum of 3 days without sun.

    If they are a lot lower maintenance and you have the room and tax break, then they would be competitive.


    Dustoffer are you taking into your calculations the fact you can safely discharge the NiFe much more deeply? this has the effect of reducing the amp hour capacity compared to lead Acid for same power consumption reserve of 3 days. I also got a package of data with curves and I concluded ther were some benefits and the cost was not twice as expensive but maybe 25% greater.

    ind you O was expecting to be pushing these batteries hard with high charging since they can apparently stand up to it.

    In that respect they are like AGM where you can charge them at 50% of the A-H ratinmg.

    If I only need 100 a-H consumption per 24 hour period I really only need a total of 300 A-H capacity to last me since I can normally discharge past the 80% DoD every day. With lead acid I would need 600 amp hours to have 3 days reserve while maintaining the 50% DoD limits.


    2400 W-hr/day @ 24VDC=100AH. 3 days=41% discharge from 2 banks of 410 AH (720 Ah). 82% of max repeated discharge of 50%. Re500; 300/500=60%, or ~71% of max repeated discharge of 85%. RE400; 300/400=75%, or 88% of max repeated discharge.

    So the closest without going under (in performance) is the RE500x20 for 24VDC.

    Cost of 8-L16S w/desulfators and exchange is ~$2,100 using existing connectors. 2 sets, with new connectors and price increase= ~ $4,600 for roughly 32 years total or more. Bought in town 36 miles away and self transported.

    Cost of RE500 system w/ connectors and shpg. $9,251 (or double+), and with 30% tax write-off for those with taxable income, $6,475.70 (or 71% more).

    Footprint for 8-L16S= <2.5′ X <2′ X 18″ high. Footprint for 20 RE500s in 5 X 4 = 3.622′ X 2.264′ X 19″ high.

    Iron Edison

    Treasure – thank you for the guidance. It is a constructive discussion I am seeking, and I appreciate you letting this happen.

    Moguitar – You have lived off-grid for 12.5 years and only changed your batteries once. Would this not put the average life of your batteries at 6.25 yrs? With the nickel iron batteries you do not have to replace them after 6 yrs. Does it concern you that you will have disposed of two complete sets of batteries when you get your next set?

    Dustoffer – It is great to see your comments and calculations. Unfortunately the size of the batteries did not fit your setup, but this is something we must take into consideration when designing any system. Since many of my clients are designing from scratch, they are able to incorporate the batteries without a problem!

    Nickel Iron is a different technology than Lead Acid. You are going to have different requirements, and my goal is to help educate everyone. Below is a link to the Nickel Iron Wiki. This is not my site, I am not affiliated, etc, but it is very informative. Please take a look…


    To all:

    The key to making ANY battery technology last longer than its “useful” life is how much you discharge your battery bank on a daily basis and how often you bring that battery bank to full charge at the end of the day.

    If I understand Iron Edison correctly they claim that their batteries can be consistently discharged to 85% and last 20 years. It will not happen. The original nickel iron batteries invented by Thomas Edison cannot even do that. I guess IRON EDISON has found a miracle nickel iron battery. Thomas Edison and all new nickel iron cells are rated at a C/5 rate which means in layman terms that one can charge and discharge at a C/5 rate. That would mean if you had a 100 AH battery bank that you could consistently take out 20 Amp (100 divided by 5 = 20 amps where the discharge rate is at 5 hour rate) or 20% of its battery capacity on a daily basis. However, one can discharge it at a higher C rate on occasion, but not daily. Using IE logic one could remove 85 Ah every day from that battery bank and make it last 20 years. If you where to use IRON EDISON recommendations I believe then you will the same fate as using a flooded lead acid battery and be screwed.

    No wonder IR gives you only a 2 year battery warranty and NO battery capacity warranty when BeUtilityFree (link found in GRIDBOUND post above) gives you a 15/10 year warranty on M & W and a 10 year on battery capacity.

    Moguitar- The only reason your friends L16’s lasted 25 years was because he was able to remove only 25% out of them and charge them up every day. I would guess that 90% of people who live off grid cannot do that on daily basis so that is why the TYPICAL L16 battery lasts about 6-7 years like yours did.

    Dustoffer – Are you not Iron Edison but under a different name? You have posted elsewhere to call you at the phone number of Iron Edison. Do you work for IE?

    Key Master – IRON EDISON’s gaol is to promote himself not “educate everyone” and promote his company as anyone can see reading his posts through this forum. To me that so unethical you should strip out his posts that blatantly have his link in them otherwise I think you are not doing your job IMO.


    I was moguitar but lost my password and had to resubscribe as Dustoffer. Then had the account reduced to just Dustoffer.

    Since the previous posts. Iron Edison has come out with larger capacity batteries. The Infinitum desulfators actually caused internal shorts in 8 batteries, according to the battery tech at American Battery in Co Spgs.

    So instead of the advertized doubling of L-16 lifespan, they shortened the lifespan 20%.

    It is unfortunate that in 1998, I had to design for L-16, which were the best at the price for that time. The inside footprint of the custom shed is 29″ wide x 24″ x 18″ high for the batteries which are 28 3/4 x 24 x 17. I could modify the shed up 6 1/2″ but I am stuck with the width unless I tear out the 2×4 walls with log siding and make them 2×2 with foam and 5/8 T-111 siding. This would give 34 3/4″ x 24″ x 23 1/2″, but not match the front part of the hybrid log/frame/Earthship design. This would only solve the height problem in switching to NiFe. I could switch inverters to a single that would put out 220VAC split, if there even is one, but would also have to change my charge controller. Building a low cabinet inside across the 2 x 6 wall means I would have to move my phone outlet and a power outlet and lose that footage where a 2 drawer cab now sits.

    Definitely design the NiFe in. The main thing is don’t always believe salesmen either. I am sure Infinitum will not pay for the lost battery life, especially seeing they are in Singapore. The battery tech said sulfation is not really a problem with batteries that are charged nearly every day and equalized monthly.


    2400 W-hr/day @ 24VDC=100AH. 3 days=41% discharge from 2 banks of 410 AH (720 Ah). 82% of max repeated discharge of 50%. Re500; 300/500=60%, or ~71% of max repeated discharge of 85%. RE400; 300/400=75%, or 88% of max repeated discharge.

    >>So the closest without going under (in performance) is the RE500x20 for 24VDC.

    Cost of 8-L16S w/desulfators and exchange is ~$2,100 using existing connectors. 3 sets, with new connectors and price increase= ~ $6,600+ for roughly 21 years total or more. Bought in town 36 miles away and self transported (back breaking labor).

    Cost of RE500 system w/ connectors and shpg. $9,251, and with 30% tax write-off for those with taxable income, $6,475.70.

    Footprint for 8-L16S= ~2.5′ X ~2′ X ~18″ high. Footprint for 20 RE500s in 5 X 4 = 3.622′ X 2.264′ X 19″ high.

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