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Why do batteries need to be vented?

Batteries need to be vented because they release hydrogen gas when they are charging or are overcharged. This gas can build up and cause explosions, or react and become poisonous hydrogen sulfides.


There are three different kinds of marine batteries, and they all need to be stored in battery boxes with proper ventilation.


Flooded, or wet cell batteries, are the most common and cheapest option but also the least suitable for long-term maritime use. They have to be kept upright and shouldn’t be vibrated much, which makes them hard to accommodate in an engine room. In rare cases, they can leak sulfuric acid, which is one of the reasons it is recommended that you keep them in a battery box.


Gel batteries are more expensive and handle being on their side or vibrating better than wet cell batteries. They put off hydrogen gas when they are overcharged, which is why they need to be in a vented battery box.


AGM, or Absorbed Glass Mat batteries are the most expensive but last the longest, especially with a smart charger attached to regulate the charge levels. AGM is more shock and vibration resistant than either of the other kinds of batteries and is very easy to maintain. AGM batteries, like both wet cell and gel batteries, put off hydrogen when they are overcharged and should only be kept in vented battery boxes.


How must a battery be stored on a boat?

Marine batteries should be stored in protective battery boxes with vents.


There are many places you can store battery boxes on a boat, depending on the design, but not all of these are safe. Keep the following in mind when you plan your layout:


Keep any wet cell, lead-acid batteries secured and upright. No matter how stable they look, they present a danger unless they are kept in a battery box with less than 2 inches of space on all sides. If these batteries fall over when the boat is underway they could leak acid.


Do not store batteries anywhere they could be exposed to water. You can’t keep batteries in any area that could be filled with bilge water or could be flooded by impact with a wave.

Keep the terminal connectors clear of other objects, and make sure that nothing can fall or slide onto the batteries while the boat is underway.


Do not store your batteries in an enclosed space in which there could also be a spark or ignition. Do not place your batteries next to your boat’s engine.


Vent boat battery boxes upwards, since hydrogen is lighter than air, and directs the vented gases outside of any living areas.


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Tina Yu

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