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Thread: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

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    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    I recently purchased a backup power supply for my father, since he uses his computer for business purposes, and thus cannot afford for his computer to suddenly lose power when he is performing important work. I noticed that the unit was extremely heavy, likely due to the batteries that it contains, which I discovered are sealed lead-acid batteries, which is something that I find to be very odd, given how popular and ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries currently are.

    I know that lead-acid batteries are a proven technology that have existed for over a century and thus have had plenty of time to be perfected, but lithium-ion batteries offer numerous advantages over the older technology, most notably that they weigh less, can shaped into virtually any form factor, and are far more resistant to environmental factors, and I am certain that any differences in power capacity/energy density between the two technologies is minimal, at best. Therefore, why would manufactures still be using lead-acid batteries? Are they less expensive than lithium-ion batteries? What does everyone else say about this?
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    Anodized. Again. Konrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    Lithium rechargeables are superior to lead-acid batteries in a number of ways - higher energy density, less bulk/mass, greater number of charge-discharge cycles, lower maintenance.

    Both battery types have safety hazards, google will spit out all sorts of reports about how either kind of battery can dramatically overheat and ignite or something, all sorts of people advocate the safety of either battery type while condemning the other. I'd say both technologies are "safe" and mature - millions and millions of these batteries have been used for decades and normal people aren't especially worried about their cellphone or car spontaneously exploding.

    Both battery types are nasty environmental hazards. Both can be recycled, doing so is costly on small scale and can be profitable on huge scales. Unfortunately, mobile device makers are always deliberately changing up their battery designs a little for no reason other than planned obscolescence - they want people to buy more branded batteries off them, they don't want people to buy no-names or clones or universal batteries.

    One overwhelming advantage lead acid batteries have is cost. Your UPS would be about half the size but cost more than ten times as much if it ran lithiums.
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    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    Quote Originally Posted by Konrad View Post
    One overwhelming advantage lead acid batteries have is cost. Your UPS would be about half the size but cost more than ten times as much if it ran lithiums.
    That is what I suspected, but it still is very displeasing; is a higher cost really that much of a drawback compared to smaller size and greater resistance to the environment?

    Quote Originally Posted by Konrad View Post
    Unfortunately, mobile device makers are always deliberately changing up their battery designs a little for no reason other than planned obscolescence - they want people to buy more branded batteries off them, they don't want people to buy no-names or clones or universal batteries.
    That is horrible; how can companies get away with such an underhanded practice that oppresses the consumer? Why are there not laws or regulations to prevent companies from doing that?
    "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -Thomas Jefferson.

    "Those who would trade their freedoms for security will have neither." -Benjamin Franklin

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    Undead Pirate d_stilgar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    Lead-acid batteries are also very good at holding a charge for a long time. Ni-Cad, Lithium-ion, and many other batteries don't like to be charged and never used. A backup battery is just that, a backup. You don't ever plan on using the batteries, but you need to know that they'll work when the time comes. Lead-acid is really the best for that. Combined with lower price it's really no contest. A UPS is insurance and lead-acid batteries are the cheapest insurance policy.

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    A.B. normal msmrx57's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    Quote Originally Posted by DemonDragonJ View Post
    That is horrible; how can companies get away with such an underhanded practice that oppresses the consumer? Why are there not laws or regulations to prevent companies from doing that?
    Because the corporations own the government. It's been that way for decades. Car companies invent new fasteners so only dealerships can work on them. Small appliances are designed not to last any more.
    Quote Originally Posted by SXRguyinMA View Post
    Now, off to the basement to do some fiddling with the rods and such.
    so far left of center i'm in right field

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    Anodized. Again. Konrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    Quote Originally Posted by DemonDragonJ View Post
    That is what I suspected, but it still is very displeasing; is a higher cost really that much of a drawback compared to smaller size and greater resistance to the environment?
    Superior, efficient, and eco-friendly batteries, backup power supplies, and energy sources have always been available. For a premium. Technology and manufacturing markets are overwhelmingly controlled first by price, then by quality and performance and reliability and compatibility, then (after everything else) by "green" sustainability. Don't blame the manufacturers, blame yourself and any other consumers who choose to spend $100 instead of $1000 for a functioning UPS.

    Quote Originally Posted by DemonDragonJ View Post
    That is horrible; how can companies get away with such an underhanded practice that oppresses the consumer? Why are there not laws or regulations to prevent companies from doing that?
    Consumers are hardly oppressed. Mass produced consumer goods (ranging from laptops and smartphones to cars and lightbulbs) are designed and built with planned obsolescence. Welcome to real economy, where "superior engineering" doesn't mean superior product, it means superior price - far more engineering goes into the manufacturing process than the manufactured product, competitive companies are willing to spend millions devising solutions which will save them pennies per unit.
    My mind says Technic, but my body says Duplo.

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    Undead Pirate d_stilgar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    Part of planned obsolescence is knowing the speed of innovation. It's knowing the reality that in about 2 years the battery in your phone is going to tank, and that in two years phones are going to be that much better.

    So who is ever going to change out the battery in their smart phone? The batteries are made to last all day with typical use. If you're a heavy user you'll likely be close to power to charge the phone. Letting users mess with their batteries almost certainly leads to more tech support/returns.

    Finally, if you want a phone with a battery you can swap as you please you can buy one. It's not going to be an iPhone, but even for that you could get an external battery, or 10 battery cases. You still have options.

    Sadly it's also consumers that lead the charge on the reduced quality of small appliances and electronics, but even there it's hard to say that things have gotten worse. We only think they have. Small appliances are subject to trends in fashion like anything else. Go look up anything made in the 70s/80s. TVs, record players, and lots of other stuff is made either out of wood, or covered with a laminate that looks like wood. Or you get beige plastic. Or that weird yellowish enamel that looked good with all the fake wood in your house.

    So at some point manufacturers know that you're probably going to replace all the appliances in your kitchen based on fashion alone (for most people it's every 15-20 years) and so they design the appliances with that life span in mind. So when your 15 year old mixer or oven or dishwasher breaks it's not because it sucks, it's because that was its intended life span, and manufacturers design for that lifespan, maximizing quality and minimizing cost around it.

    If a bearing lasts 25 years and there's one that's cheaper and lasts 20, they'll go with that. They'll get a rubber coating that will fail at 25 years, but if there's one that's the same price that lasts 30+ years they'll go with that one, etc.

    I was just looking up 1980s prices for things and everything is really expensive. Color TVs were $500+. Adjust for inflation and we're looking at $1500 for what we would think of as tiny, low res screens today. Dishwashers were ~$250, or $750 in 2015. On home depot there were 25 dish washers that were $750 or cheaper, and today they're nearly silent, have stainless steel fronts, and hidden controls.

    If anything has gotten (truly) more expensive from the past to now it's because it's been surpassed by another technology. Tubes for amps, radios, and TVs are more expensive now, but that's only because they've been replaced by transistors which are cheaper now than ever.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Why Do Backup Power Supplies Still Use Lead-Acid Batteries?

    To provide higher energy density in hospitals and power systems.

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