Draft battery standards up for public consultation

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You may have heard some talk about the new Australian Standard for home energy storage devices (more specifically: AS/NZS 5139 Electrical Installations – Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment). There’s been quite some concern that the standard will make it too expensive, difficult, or impossible to install batteries in the home. This is because of what are widely seen as onerous and excessive safety requirements.

The ATA will be preparing a response to the draft Standard; Senior Energy Analyst Dean Lombard had this to say:

“Some of the commentary has been a bit ‘over the top': there is no requirement to install batteries in freestanding concrete bunkers, for example. On the other hand, it does seem that the draft standard is lacking some nuance in the way it classifies different types of battery according to their fire risk. It’s true that many batteries carry some fire risk because they contain volatile substances and a source of ignition in the same unit. (This is how the fire risk of batteries differs from, say, a can of petrol or a gas bottle.) But some chemistries are much safer than others, and some design features vastly improve the safety of chemistries that otherwise are higher risk.

“The main issue with the draft standard is that all Lithium-based batteries are considered equally hazardous. Classed as ‘Fire Hazard 1′ (self-sustaining – the riskiest), they then must either be housed in a free-standing fire-proof enclosure, or otherwise installed with a number of safety considerations, including:

  • Not within or beneath a dwelling
  • At least 1 m from a doorway, pathway, or boundary fence; and 0.6 m from a window
  • If against a non-fireproof wall, with a fireproof barrier between it and the wall, extending 0.6 m on each side and either 2 m higher or horizontally overhanging the battery

“If in a garage, a physical device must be placed to protect it from being crushed (by a car etc.).

“These requirements are probably appropriate for batteries that do represent a significant fire risk; but unnecessary for ones that do not.

“Another issue is inconsistency, for example disallowing a battery in a garage, even though the adjacent electric car contains a bigger battery of the same chemistry.

“This is a draft standard and it’s open for public consultation until 15 August. So there’s a great opportunity for concerned people to have their say and encourage Standards Australia to revisit the way the fire risk of different types of batteries are being classified. The ATA will be putting in a submission urging for a more nuanced approach to classifying batteries that addresses real risks without being so ‘heavy-handed’ on the safer ones.”

Readers are encouraged to make their own submissions or comments. Visit https://sapc.standards.org.au/sapc/public/listOpenCommentingPublication.action, look for AS/NZS 5139 Electrical Installations – Safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment , download the draft and send them your comments.

[Image courtesy Lindsay Edwards]

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