If you’ve ever shopped for a battery you know 1) there’s a ton, and 2) they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Gel mat batteries are no different. Understanding the pros and cons of a gel battery is the best first step in determining if this type of battery is right for you.
What Is A Gel Battery?
Before you can determine the pros and cons of a gel battery and how they will affect you, it’s important to understand what exactly a gel battery is. A gel battery is very similar to a traditional lead-acid battery with the addition of silica to the electrolyte to create the gel like substance.
This thickening of the electrolyte means that gel batteries can be installed in a variety of positions and don’t emit as many fumes.
Pro Tip: This allows for gel batteries to be used in applications where ventilation is limited.
How Does It Work?
A gel battery (often referred to as a gel cell battery) is a lead-acid battery that is valve regulated. When the electrolyte is mixed with sulphuric acid and silica, it becomes a relatively stationary gel substance.
This gel mixture allows the battery to utilize the acid and electrolyte in the same way it would with a traditional lead-acid battery, just without the added maintenance.
– Maintenance Free: Because the batteries are comprised of gel instead of liquid, there is little to no maintenance to keep the battery working properly.
– No Leaks: Even though wet cell batteries are sealed in a plastic encasement there is still the chance that it will leak. Gel batteries are also sealed but with a valve that removes excess pressure. This means that between the gel substance and the removal of pressure, there is nowhere for the mixture to go.
– Install Them Anywhere: Gel batteries have the advantage of being able to be used in virtually any position, because they don’t leak and are generally maintenance free. This greatly increases the number of applications gel batteries can be used for.
– Minimal Risk: When damage occurs to a traditional lead-acid battery you are faced with a massive and dangerous clean up (not to mention the impact on anything the battery acid may come into contact with during the process). Gel batteries will not leak out if the casing becomes damaged, so there is a reduced risk of harm coming to the equipment and clean up hazards.
– Vibration Resistant: One of the biggest complaints with wet cell batteries is that they are very susceptible to extreme vibration and other impacts. Gel batteries absorb the impact and vibrations, making them great batteries for items such as four wheelers.
– No Fumes: Because these batteries are comprised of a gel substance there are minimal fumes created as a result of use. This means that there is a reduced need for ventilation which increases the potential applications gel batteries can be used for, as well as making them easier to charge anywhere.
– Resistant To Discharge Death: When using a wet cell battery it’s important that you don’t allow the battery to discharge too much. Otherwise, it will never recharge. Gel cell batteries aren’t that way. They are deep cycle batteries which means that they can discharge more and still be recharged like new.
– The Price: While the benefits of a gel battery are pretty hefty, so is the price tag. Many people looking to switch from wet cell to gel batteries see this as the biggest drawback.
– Charging Challenged: When charging your gel battery, you’ll want to plan on giving it extra time. Slow charging cycles are pretty common with these batteries, but you can’t walk away and leave it. Because it’s a gel instead of a liquid you’ll need to take it off the charger as soon as it’s complete. To leave it on could cause voids with the electrolyte which is irreversible damage.
– Heat Control: This is truly a drawback with most batteries and gel cell batteries are no exception. Heat is one of the fastest ways to cut the lifespan of your battery short. By controlling the batteries exposure to heat, you can lengthen the life cycle and keep your battery running like new.