Buyer Beware - Barden UK and Rolls Deep Cycle Marine Batteries.
I have recently had four Rolls T12 250 series 4000 200Ah batteries fail in less than 10 months of service. The batteries are supposedly covered by a 7 year Warranty but after extensive test readings and a long email string with the European Distributor – Barden UK, an explanation or even a theory as to the cause of failure was not received. Without entering into a lot of detail, the voltages and SG readings were perfect but the Ah capacity of all four batteries had reduced to approx 30Ah!! What was even more interesting was the fact that I also had a parallel bank comprising of 3 old Swedish 105Ah AGM batteries that had been subject to the same charging regime(s) as the Rolls batteries (I know - the charging voltages were probably too high at times for AGM’s) but they are still giving good service and are now over 5 years old!
To add insult to injury because of the physical dimensions of the Rolls batteries I had to replace them with more Rolls batteries but this time I went for AGM.
My complaint and warning is regarding the Warranty support from the Manufacturer and the Distributor. As most of you are probably aware it is difficult, if not impossible for an individual to transport Wet Lead Acid Batteries across borders in Europe as they are classed (quite correctly) as extremely hazardous. The terms of most warranties are that failed batteries are returned for confirmation of failure. I sent numerous emails to Barden offering to return at least one battery via their Athens Distributor (when he delivered my replacements) I even offered to have a battery cut open in a workshop, video the operation and bring any “bits and pieces” (suitably cleaned of acid) back to the UK for testing. Barden did not respond to any of these emails (spanning 2nd April to 12th May!) so when I had to leave my winter berth I had to leave the failed batteries for recycling.
Now that I have the time and a good internet connection, I have re-visited the Warranty issue with Barden who have responded such: “I am aware you offered to return one battery to our Greek distributor and that I didn’t respond to your last email but as you are claiming all four batteries we would have required all four to come back to us to provide conclusive evidence. Unfortunately as you have disposed of them without consent, we have no recourse with the factory. I’m afraid in this case we cannot therefore issue a warranty without assessing the batteries.”
The only conclusion that I can draw from this problem is that there was a manufacturing defect that probably caused a percentage of the plates to become detached thus turning a 200Ah battery into a 30Ah battery and the manufacturers/Distributor were aware of the problem which is why they were not interested in replying to my options of return. All four batteries were from the same manufacturing batch.
I never really expected a 100% contribution for the warranty but an additional discount against the cost of replacement would have been welcome. Instead I didn’t receive any real technical support from Barden and was subjected to a number of delaying tactics so that I was forced to dispose of the failed batteries thus enabling them to hide behind the terms of the warranty.
So Buyer Beware if dealing with Barden UK and Rolls Batteries
Thank you for reading, I hope it will help other Liveaboards with the decision process of selecting a Battery Manufacturer/Distributor
I think this comment supports my opinion that the "best" choice for replacement batteries are the cheapest local flooded batteries you can find.
At least, if they fail prematurely, there is no angst about warranty, no need to raise a bank-loan to purchase and none of those blood-pressure-provoking problems, costs and time wasted on trying to persuade amoral suppliers to honour their obligations.
Originally Posted by charles_reed
What a poor conclusion and costly outcome to your problem. I and may be others would be interested with more detail if you could please find the time to elaborate to your testing.
Originally Posted by philip17
If Barden had an agent in Athens why could they not deal with your warranty issues or is it just a case of apathy from Bardens.
I only ask because our domestic bank are Rolls.
I am tending to agree with other posters that to fit cheap local batteries may have it's merits.
I got a Lucas AGM battery from a local battery shop. 200ah for about £180, if I remember correctly. They were battery experts, although obviously focussed on the automotive industry, and I got great service. Told them what it was for, and how much capacity I wanted it to have, and the dimensions it needed to be, and off they went and found one.
Originally Posted by charles_reed
That was 2010, and it's still absolutely fine. As a liveaboard, it gets used lots. For the last year I've had no mains charger, so it gets cycled on the PV panels very often.
agree entirely, so +2
Originally Posted by OldBawley
Here is a copy of my initial email to Barden:
Originally Posted by grumpygit
I am presently cruising in the Far East on a friend’s boat and will not return to my boat (and the batteries) until the end of March so I am unable at this stage to give you detailed SG readings from each battery.
However I can advise the charging sources. The batteries were charged from four sources:
1. Solar Panels fitted with Morningstar MPPT Regulators making them 4-stage chargers - set to open lead acid charge regime.
2. Sterling 160A Alternator to Battery Charger – 4 Stage charger set to open lead acid charging regime.
3. Waeco 40A – 4 Stage charger set to open lead acid charging regime.
4. Sterling 70A - – 4 Stage charger set to open lead acid charging regime.
The maximum voltage that I ever witnessed was 14.7V with the exception of the Equalising Voltage applied by the Sterling 70A charger which was 15.3V.
The 800Ah Rolls Battery Bank could be linked with a 315Ah AGM Battery Bank via a main 1,2,BOTH, switch giving a house bank of 1135Ah potential. I have an Ah counter and the maximum discharge during the season was 436Ah. Normally the Bank was not allowed to discharge below 300-380Ah.
The batteries are fitted with Watermizer caps and levels were checked regularly. Over the 8-9 month period a total of 4 litres of Distilled water was added to the batteries and only 1 cell on 1 battery seemed to need more than the others.
The Batteries have been float charged on shore power since the end of October 2010 and when I turned the Charger off a few weeks ago to carry out a load test It was then that I realised they were not holding a charge; SG readings then varied from cell to cell. I then individually commenced an Equalizing/De-Sulphation charge- 15.3 volts. On completion the SG readings were reasonably constant – indicating 100% charged – resting voltage after 6 hours 12.7V. The cell that had used slightly more water was showing a slight undercharge in SG reading. I then left the Battery(s) on charge overnight.
I then commenced a load test on each battery fixing a current draw of 9-11AH. The battery voltage slowly reduced from 12.7V to 12.3V during the first 1.5 hours (15Ah draw) however once the current draw reached 17Ah the voltage quickly dropped to 11.7 and then rapidly to 11.1 at which point I discontinued the test.
After 4-5 hours the resting voltage of the battery had returned to 12.55V. I repeated the test on each battery over a period of days and basically returned the same results. SG reading at that time indicated that the battery was only 40% discharged??? I then proceeded to charge each battery individually but with a 24 hour charge I could not get the battery(s) to absorb more than 20Ah (each).
When I checked out the first battery I suspected that I may have had a bad cell(s) which would obviously have affected the charge/discharge characteristics of the whole bank. I was most surprised and disappointed to find that all of the batteries had in fact failed.
As a footnote the three 105Ah AGM batteries that are at least 4 years old, have been charged under a lead-acid charging regime, have spent at least 18 months float charged on shore power, are still holding up magnificently and an individual load test on them have revealed that they are still capable of delivering about 90-95Ah.
I hope I have given you enough background information to enable you to draw some conclusions as to why these batteries have deteriorated so quickly, as stated previously I will not be able to take SG readings until the end of March. My confidence in Lead Acid batteries has been severely dented due to my experience hence my switch to replace them with AGM. Unfortunately I have also lost a bit of confidence with Rolls as manufacturer but due to the particular dimensions of these batteries I am now very limited in my selection of a replacement manufacturer.
If there is some way that I could have brought about this early deterioration then I obviously need to know so that I do not damage their replacements; However with 4 separate charging sources –all smart 4-stage chargers, I am at a loss to explain the problem unless of course it was a batch manufacturer’s problem.
Here is a copy of the email detailing the SG readings taken:
The battery Bank had been left on charge from my Solar Panels (all 550W of them) while I was away for 2 months so the batteries must have absorbed every single Amp possible during that period as only the Bilge pumps were left on.
I carried out a slow load drawdown test (approx 7AH)on the whole 800AH Battery Bank thru’ Saturday. The Bank held up well at 12.5 to 12.6V for the first 60AH draw then voltage fell to 12.4V until 73AH draw was reached at which the voltage rapidly fell to 11.4V at which stage I switched off the load; Voltage then recovered to 12.1V.
I recharged the Bank by Solar Panels and Battery Charger for 30 hours; switched the Bank out of the circuit, left for 3 hours then took the following SG readings:
Battery 1 –cell readings left to right from Positive Terminal: 1260;1270;1300;1275;1255;1280
Battery 2 –cell readings left to right from Positive Terminal: 1280;1280;1250;1280;1280;1290
Battery 3 –cell readings left to right from Positive Terminal: 1280;1275;1270;1270;1270;1275
Battery 4 –cell readings left to right from Positive Terminal: 1260;1310;1300;1290;1270;1285
Please let me know if these readings throw anymore light onto the cause of the failure. I am on the point of ordering some more Rolls batteries so I do not want to throw anymore money away until we can discover what the problem is.
From your last email it would appear that the factory are just not interested in diagnosing the cause of failure so with that in mind surely I must have a claim on the 5-year Manufacturer’s Warranty stated on your website.
Whilst I agree in principle it does not always work out. When in Cartagena I spent some time getting prices a set of local semi traction type batteries. It was cheaper to buy from Bardens and pay them £125 for delivery on a pallet. To add insult to injury Tudor batteries are made in spain.
If buying cheap battery’s from a not so busy chandler, some prudence is needed.
I have been selling battery’s for ten years, so I know what I am speaking of.
Almost everywhere battery’s are been put in the shop on ??? do not know the English word. The shopkeeper only pays when the battery is sold. Since they do not have to pay them, they keep a big stock. Lots of chandlers have no sales in winter, boat owners find the dead batt in spring. So going shopping for “new” battery’s in spring means you buy old ones. Not many chandlers keep the batts they have in stock well loaded. They forget, have other things to do.
Now if I go shopping, the first thing I do is mark the batts in the shop. Those are a no for me. Then I order, and insist that the batts are delivered empty, that means without the acid inside. The acid is delivered extra at no cost. I fill myself. That way I am ( a bit ) shore to have “new batts.
The self-discharging rate of unused batts is higher as estimated and some shops keep not so current battery’s for two years. Mistreated, old.
Some more : 10 % of outfall is normal in the batt business.
In Holland, the profit for the chandler on batts is 100 %. Easy money.
Thanks for offering and sharing your further information. A few things that stand out for me is, 1) some of the S.G. readings are well out of tolerance to each other especially battery 4 which a top reading of 1310 leads me to doubt the hydrometer used or specific gravity of the acid at there initial fill. 2) 4 litres of water does seem excessive for new and healthy batteries that are fitted with miser caps. 3) I just can't see there to have been 4 faulty batteries all at the same time. I have been around batteries most of my working life and I've never had 4 batteries fail on one installation without outside problems.
Originally Posted by philip17
I don't think Rolls was my best purchase ( 4 x 6 volt @ 450ah) but it's the one I made at the time, it's just that I went from 5hr rate to 20hr rate purely for the sake of great difference in price, =£2k+.
As a matter of interest, what amperes are you pumping in to your batteries, say with a base voltage of 12.3v at start.